Tonight I played as part of a nine piece band at an event in a Methodist Church. I'm not sure what to call the evening, it wasn't exactly a service, it wasn't exactly a singalong, but that was part of its charm.
It followed the format of a typical Carol Service - a song and then a reading, but very few of the readings came from the bible. Nearly all were light hearted poems or excerpts from books or little passages written by the congregation themselves.
This was my favourite gig this Christmas. It was about half way through the evening before I figured out why. Quite simply, every one there was enjoying themselves. The performers, the audience, everyone had just come along to enjoy the evening.
I don't know how many little churches and social clubs I've played at over the years. The tea and mince pies, the practically undrinkable Fair Trade Coffee, the homemade watercolours that hang on the walls, the fact that everyone keeps their coat on until it warms up, the two or three people who keep everything running... These are what the venues have in common. What distinguishes them is how seriously the patrons take them. You want to have a good night out, you have to invest in it. Some people think that means buying a ticket or a new outfit. Those people are wrong. Investing in an evening means participating. Singing along, making the tea, getting up on stage to read out a poem you've found on the internet or just standing at the door and collecting tickets. People always seem to have a better time at little venues.
At the end of the evening the organiser happened to mention how the same readings came up again and again at these services. Okay, I thought, there are nine days to Christmas. I'll accept the challenge. I'll see if I can write something each night for the next nine nights.
Keep watching this space...