20 June 2024

Christmas party rounds off year of successful friendship events

by Tim Nuttall

Attendees of Withernsea Methodist Church’s monthly Food, Friendship and Fun sessions rounded off another successful year with a well-attended Christmas party last Thursday.

The event saw the welcome return of one of the year’s most popular performers, Mike Smith. The purveyor of rhythm and rhyme was invited back at the request of the event’s regular attendees after impressing them during his debut appearance in September.

Church leadership member Gordon Beastall said: “We were delighted to welcome Mike back and we would like to thank him for his support. There was a fantastic atmosphere and it was wonderful to hear the buzz of conversation and festive singing from the 40-plus attendees who joined in with Mike’s unaccompanied singing of Christmas songs.

“We continue to be overwhelmed with the popularity of our Food, Friendship and Fun events and we remain very thankful for the support of our regular guests; the performers who offer their time and talents to entertain us, and the volunteers who work tirelessly to make each event a success. From the preparation of meals, to the delivery of food to tables, a lot of work goes into each event and we are delighted with their continuing popularity.”

Reviewing last week’s festive celebration in his own inimitable style, regular Gazette contributor and supporter of local events, Godfrey Holmes, writes: “Christmas: a time for merriment? Indeed. And it was merriment in abundance when, last Thursday lunchtime, Gordon Beastall introduced singer and performance poet Mike Smith to a goodly crowd at Withernsea Methodist Church.

“Mike told several heartwarming tales in his amusing and swiftly delivered verse: the girl who couldn’t benefit from the tooth fairy because she had no loose teeth; the eagle-eyed child who caught his mother kissing Father Christmas; and Nellie and Eleanor going on safari. Mike then led the audience carol singing with a difference – because this profuse wordsmith either made up some of the words, or introduced song lyrics in so informative a way that everyone sung them better!

“In between Mike’s gags and his swapping of hats, gifted pianist Rachel Beastall played other Bethlehem carols. Could the mood be darker? Indeed. The little town of Bethlehem faced a turbulent and very un-festive Nativity. Also, Mike Smith revised and reprised his drama of the day when, during the First World War, allied troops temporarily ceased hostilities in order to share ‘Christmas pud’ and play football with their German counterparts on the opposite side of no man’s land.

“Nor did the roasted turkey (or stuffing!) run out at the generous provision of a largely unseen, volunteer team of cooks and servers toiling nobly behind the scenes.”

Since their launch in April 2022, the monthly free-to-attend Food, Friendship and Fun events have continued to grow in popularity – helping to bring the community together by offering attendees the chance to socialise in a safe and relaxing atmosphere.

They have also provided a platform to showcase the talents of local performers, from poets and raconteurs, to singers and musicians, who freely offer their time and expertise to entertain those who frequent the events.

Looking ahead to the new year, acoustic duo Oakleas Rise will be the event’s first guests of 2024 when they take to the stage at Food, Friendship and Fun on Thursday, January 25. Comprising singer-songwriters Lesley Curtis and Stuart McLeod, the duo perform a variety of self-penned folk, country and roots music, interspersed with well-known covers of popular songs such as California Dreaming and Time After Time.

Lesley and Stuart first met as two solo performers in 2011 and gelled instantly – leading to a collaboration in songwriting for Lesley’s third solo album, Looking for the Girl. A more formal partnership followed, with the duo deciding to work together as Oakleas Rise for the release of their first album, Little White Lies, in 2019.

Since moving to Welwick in the summer of 2022, Lesley and Stuart have embraced the Holderness community – playing various events including Withstock, the Food and Folk Festival in Valley Gardens, and venues such as the Crown & Anchor pub in Kilnsea.

They met Gordon Beastall, organiser of the Food, Friendship and Fun events, through another local musical project they are involved with and were delighted when he asked them if they would perform at the church.

Lesley said: “It always feels such a privilege for us to be able to play our music and share what we do with others. When we got offered the opportunity to bring people together to promote a feeling of community through bringing together food, music and companionship, we jumped at the chance. We are so looking forward to making new friends and being of value to the wider community in which we now live and love.”

Food, Friendship and Fun sessions take place between noon and 2.30pm on the last Thursday of each month. They offer entertainment alongside a simple lunch of soup and a bread roll, followed by a selection of homemade buns. While the food is free, an opportunity to leave donations is offered if desired.

The events take place in the Community Room at Withernsea Methodist Church in Hull Road. The room is wheelchair-friendly, with the venue also featuring an accessible toilet to ensure inclusivity for all. Access to the Community Room is via the footpath at the left side of the church, which will be signposted on event days.

Meanwhile, forthcoming services at the church include a service on Christmas Eve at 10.30am, followed by a 10am family service on Christmas Day.