The Living Advent Calendar opened on Friday evening starting outside on the Town Hall steps with Sacred Heart School performing Born This Night a nativity musical with Makaton signing before the audience were invited into the Town Hall to immerse themselves in the Winter Wonderland and a dance class with Salsa dance teacher Jennifer Benavidez which started with the Twist!
Sacred Heart children’s performance of Born This Night was the perfect start to the Advent with the children enjoying singing upbeat songs that included My Name is Donkey and No Room at the Inn. The children finished their performance by inviting everyone to join in We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
Once inside Santa Jennifer with the help of her elves took the audience on journey around the world to learn dances from the Caribbean, Dominic Republic before she demonstrated a simple Salsa dance. She then invited children on to the stage to join in the Macerana and she finished with Salsa dance with her dance partner.
Miss Penna from Sacred Heart School said, “We’ve been practising for weeks. The children use Makaton signing which we use a lot in our school in our learning to make communication inclusive for everybody. We’re thrilled to be here and we feel very special to be at the first one. The children have been so excited about it.”
Jennifer, “It’s a lot of organisation and a lot of work for only 30 mins but it is worth it because it is for the community and it means a lot to me to asked to do it. It’s the first time I’ve opened the LAC, I’ve previously done it at Phyllis Court. I’ve always wanted to do it in the Town Hall. I’ve rented all these lights to make it special for the kids. I wanted people to see that dancing is easy and inclusive and its fun. It was lovely to see people joining in.”
LAC Organiser Richard Rodway said afterwards, “Really so pleased with the opener. I wanted to work with Jennifer again this year and, given that she needed to perform early in the opener, we thought an opening Friday night salsa extravaganza would be something a little different again, but I couldn’t have dreamt back in August / September how stunning the main hall would end up looking, and I dare say there were a few gasps when people entered the room. I still wanted to do something in Market Place however, as tradition does have it that we start from the Town Hall steps, so being able to involve Sacred Heart was fantastic. The kids did really well on the steps. It looked great with the Market Place and the Town Hall so well lit and presented this year, and hopefully we had a lot of excited children and proud parents that night. Again, when we’re visualising and planning nights back in the summer, it’s great to see that picture come to life.
“A really great sense of occasion and atmosphere, although we do like to make life difficult for ourselves by splitting the performances over the two sites, and transitioning between the two, and whilst there were (as ever) elements that did not go as smoothly as I would have liked, I was so pleased with the night in the round and hopefully a great fanfare and way to start the programme.”
The first night was raising money for the Royal British Legion with a raffle which probably took the longest time in the history of the LAC for the prizes to be claimed. There were big cheers when the ticket numbers were finally claimed!