This Christmas online gathering was planned to enjoy some festive time together and to raise awareness of the Big Give Christmas challenge fundraiser by one of our chosen charities, AFRIL (Action for Refugees in Lewisham).
The morning was attended by 27 people via zoom and a very pleasant, warm atmosphere was created despite the disadvantages of online participation. The readings were varied, from comic to deeply moving, and all presented strongly and with conviction. The items are listed below. Everyone enjoyed the hour together and it certainly put us all in a festive mood, in this most un-festive of years!
It was felt that this would be a good event to do again next year, both in real life and online for those that can’t make it physically. And – best of all – we heard from AFRIL that there was a real boost to the campaign donations straight after the coffee morning, giving them a great end to their fundraising week.
Hester Brown, whose idea the morning was, introduced the session and gave introductions between the items.
’12 days of Christmas’ by John Julius Norwich, a witty and amusing correspondence between a women and her lover who is sending her the items in the poem each day with disastrous consequences, started us off in splendid style, wonderfully read by Alison Cattermole.
Phil Walder, dressed in suitable period clothing and sat by a cosy fire, treated us to a section from Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ and then ‘The Pickwick Papers’.
The poem ‘A brave and startling truth’, written for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations by Maya Anjelou, was most movingly read by Barbara Chandler.
Katie Commons, the Director of AFRIL, talked about the work of AFRIL this winter.
Susan Rae was unavailable but Hester Brown stepped in to read ‘Grace of Christmas’ by Jean Sprackland.
Tony Brewer, in a splendid Christmas jumper and suitably festive background with a wonderfully decorated tree, treated us to a comedy musical item, singing ‘The Carol Singers’.
Corinne Jordan-Gough read the short, inspirational story ’The Gold Wrapping Paper’.
Trevor Moore read his own short story ‘The turkey that refused to vote for Christmas’.
Carrie Thomas read the 6 December extract from Dara McAnulty’s ‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’, an interesting and inspiring young man who seems quite humanist in his views.
Audrey Simmons changed the mood with her passionate reading of Benjamin Zephaniah’s ‘Christmas has been shot’, a poem reflecting on the real situation in some places at Christmas time, full of war and violence.
The last reading was ‘The Bee Carol’ by Carol Ann Duffy, read by Hester Brown
Finally we joined in with a hilarious singalong of ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’. It didn’t work with the time lag on Zoom but we had fun trying!
Review by Sam Becker