Posted by: puebloman | May 1, 2009

An English “Fiesta”

Last week in England I was pleased to be able to attend an English village fiesta at Eversley Village Hall, similar in some respects to the fiestas of Spanish white villages, and perhaps of all villages everywhere. As in Spain the event involved eating, singing and dancing. Most of the audience were performing and those who weren’t had song sheets so everyone could join in. The programme was somewhat ad lib and the timing spontaneous, as in Spain. Unlike Spain there was an admisson price of £10, though I remember feeling obliged to pay 20€ in Cutar for a scabby bag of supermarket veg at the Fruit and Veg fiesta (see below). While the English event was in aid of charity, the Spanish “take” usually goes towards the cost of the next party.

We started much earlier than in Spain, at seven. Villagers bought raffle tickets. We were asked to sit at tables in parties of six because that was how the food had been organised. Each table was decorated with a flower on a table centrepiece with a lit candle. There was a bottle of wine. The food was portioned and on trays. On each tray a scattering of iceberg lettuce, twelve cherry tomatoes (2 each), six slabs of pate, six of cheese, six slices of Wiltshire ham. This accompanied by a basket of bread. None of your Spanish pushing and shoving.

The show began with a risque sketch involving a woman, a park attendant and a duck. The applause had hardly died away when the entire female staff of the village primary school in stretch black outfits launched into an ABBA tribute medly. Their hot refrain:

“Gimme Gimme Gimme a man after midnight”

Set running the juices of those of us who still had juice to run. For others there were song sheets.

The event progressed with a rollercoaster of music hall, variety, talent spots and alternative comedy. No sooner did the spoof Fandango by an elderly Spanish dancer with a bad back come to its comic climax, than we were transported into the Edwardian sitting room where a husband and wife duet played and sang:

“I’ll walk beside you through the world today

While dreams and songs and flowers bless your way

I’ll look into your eyes and hold your hand

I’ll walk beside you through the golden land”

The singer had complete mastery of her range but not quite the confidence to maintain her tone of voice. This produced a vulnerable naked soprano that was very moving, bourne up by the careful pace of her husband’s piano. It created a unique moment in this English village setting.

The show came to a rousing conclusion with a sing-along medley and a vote of thanks, three and a half hours later. Everyone agreed that it had been both a fundraising and a social success.

The English village events programme, like the Spanish, combines “Fiestas” (traditional parties sometimes with a religious theme) and “Fieras” (more modern occasions with a market and trading theme). In Spain all Fieras and Fiestas are holidays. Obviously this isn’t possible in England because the economy would collapse. Nevertheless the programme of celebration is as follows:

June

Village School Summer Fair (Fiera)

Free Family Fun day (church event – Fiesta)

Village School Summer Ball (Fiesta)

July

Village Hall 50 year birthday celebration (Fiesta)

St Mary’s Summer Fete at the church Rectory (Fiesta)

August

Lamb Roast on the Lower common (Fiera)

September

Village Produce show at theVillage Hall (Fiera)

Village Church Patronal Festival. Bell ringing, church tours, cream teas, childrens’ events (Fiesta)

Harvest supper with theatre event (Fiesta)

December

Candlelit Carols with mince pies and mulled wine (Fiesta)

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