Observing Battle through the eyes of a newcomer - its people, its social life, its idiosyncrasies.

Cast of the Mikado - BLOG performance in November 2015 SUS-151117-100926001
Cast of the Mikado - BLOG performance in November 2015 SUS-151117-100926001

The midwinter solstice celebrations (otherwise known as Christmas) are regarded by many as a way to offset the short, dark, cold, windy and wet days of December. From November through to February we welcome any opportunity to lift our spirits with music, song, dance and humour.

Battle has its own exponents of singing away the recent winter blues, including Battle Light Opera Group (BLOG) and Battle Community Singers. Both groups provide the ordinary public with a chance to become involved in performing, regardless of their talent. I’ve been looking for an outlet for my dubious talent, ever since I moved to Battle 3 years ago, and thankfully both groups took me in.

The recent Mikado production by BLOG was probably the best since Drowsy Chaperone 2 years ago and the only one since then not to incorporate my “dubious talent”. Ah well. They did let me paint the scenery (not the glorious backcloth picture of Fujiyama, but the white emulsion undercoat on the side flats - which were later overpainted with light blue!). As ever, the star of the show was enthusiasm. Talent was there as well, but ‘Amdram’ has to be mostly about enthusiastic community involvement, be it on-stage, backstage, front-of-house, the audience, or just people painting the undercoat on the light blue side flats.

I have to confess that watching a well performed and enthusiastic BLOG production can be even more enjoyable than being in it. Certainly much easier. This time the show was a fast moving update to Gilbert and Sullivan’s original, being a bazaar mix of Japanese history and geography, but with English characterisation. Even the light blue side flats were beautifully undercoated.

Battle Community Singers is a quite different approach to community involvement. For the last 6 weeks, twenty or so of us have been singing our hearts out to master a collection of ‘Christmas Favourites’ such as White Christmas, Guadete and Come all Ye Faithful. The 30 minute performance on 10th December at Battle Gala Late Night Shopping, hopefully brought a few rays of sunshine into the frozen winter hearts of pre-Christmas shoppers.

A few shoppers paused to listen to three community choirs brave enough to sing under Battle’s swaying Noble Fir, as the bracing winter wind clinked the wassailing balls and threatened to fuse the Christmas tree lights. But it was our moment in the limelight and no-one was going to take it away from us.

It could well be that the performances of both these wonderful local singing groups will stimulate a few more ‘Battle hardened’ souls to have a go themselves and reap the benefits of community involvement. Failing this, why not make a date to patronise future performances.

As in that well-known Japanese saying “Even undercoat painters have a role - when it comes to lightening the winter blues”.