Concertina group based in Maidstone, Kent, UK
We were invited back to the Millbrook Garden Centre at Staplehurst for a second year to provide seasonal festive music for their annual charity fundraising open evening. This year, the nominated charity was the Guide Dogs For The Blind association.
For a change, Kettle Bridge Concertinas was not the most adorable and cute attraction of the evening, as the charity had brought along some puppies who were starting their training. Obviously the puppies were not quite ready to be subjected to a cacophony of noise, so they were kept well away from the band! There was still the opportunity to go and see the puppies before the concert began.
Most of us had to drive to the garden centre from the direction of Linton and the temporary traffic lights at the main Linton crossroads delayed several of the musicians, but we managed to start just about on time.
Last year, the staff had cleared a large area to accommodate us but on this occasion, as there were more Christmas goods on display, we were seated by the door which led to the outside section. Thankfully, the door was shut and there were no draughts. However, this meant that we were within arm's length of a large display of sweets and chocolates — but we managed to resist all temptation!
Although not crowded, there did seem to be more customers in the shop than there had been last year. Several people stopped to listen to our repertoire of Christmas carols and other popular seasonal tunes and we even played a request or two.
As usual, the highlight for us was the refreshment break! There was no mulled wine this year — perhaps just as well as most had driven there — but coffee and cake was very kindly provided. This fortified us for the second half of our performance.
By 8:25pm, the event was winding down so we played our traditional closing piece, namely "We Wish You A Merry Christmas", and packed up our instruments. Thankfully, the traffic jams at Linton had abated so we all had a good trip home.
A big "thank you" goes to Millbrook for inviting us and looking after us, and to all those customers who came along to support such a worthwhile cause — and to listen to us, of course! Here's to next year.