23 May 2011

Back online!

Greetings from your Webmistress - and apologies for this site having been moribund for such a long time. My excuses include pressure of work, moving house and office and, more recently, the lack of a resident babysitter on Thursday nights, so I haven't been down to the Coast Inn to enjoy the music for months and months. 

(Whatever excuses your Session attending Webmaster might muster for not having left the odd post here during my absence remain to be seen . . . but he too has been busy at work and moving house, not to mention writing a regular column in Coast Road's esteemed free magazine, Mersea Life , editing the newsletter of a sailing club the name of which is best not so much as whispered on this island, as well as helping to organise Mersea Week  . . . so we'd better let him off, I guess.)

Attendance on Thursday nights has been thin at times in recent months, but nil desperandum - it's not the only local session to experience a bit of a dropping off of late, and some are putting this down to the recession, others to winter blues, yet others to the fact that one simply has to keep reinventing and re-publicising these things on a regular basis in order to keep people's interest from waning.

So let's look forward, not back, and get on with imparting some news of upcoming events:


If you haven't been to the Food, Drink and Leisure Festival before, then do put the dates in your diary and go along next weekend - it offers two really great family days out, and a celebration of the best of our island life. In addition to showcasing local food and drink producers, there's a wealth of stalls, displays and demonstrations covering every aspect of Mersea's rich past and present. You can see the full range of attractions on the Festival's website.

A major part of the weekend's enjoyment is provided by the singers, musicians and dancers who perform throughout event on both days. Many Session regulars will be appearing on the main stage (see below for listings) - indeed if you live on Mersea you will probably have noticed (how could you avoid it?!) the delightful visages of our very own beloved Ian, Tom and Greg gracing every telegraph pole and shop window.

This year, in addition to the music on the main stage on the top lawn, on the Sunday there will be an 'Acoustic Tent' on the lower lawn. All musicians are invited to come along and play/sing for as long as they wish - just as on a normal Thursday night at the Coast Inn. So whether you're a Session regular or not, if you plan to visit the Festival on the Sunday, then do take along your instrument (or voice) and give the Acoustic Tent a whirl. It may be that the event attracts audience and musicians who haven't experienced the Mersea Session before and will be inspired to come along on a Thursday night.  For more information about the Acoustic Tent, speak to John Leyland, or contact the organiser of the Festival, Bev Perkins, on info@mersea-fdl-festival.com or 07912 582030.

Here's the list of who's playing what on the main stage (all times are approximate):

Saturday 28th
11.00-14.00  Blackwaterside, Moondance, Arran, Josh Wilson and Guests
14.00-14.30  Mersea Dance (30 mins)
14.30-15.30  John Leyland (30 mins) and Guests (30 mins)
15.30-15.50  Alimah Dance (20 mins)
15.50-17.00  Al and Tony

Sunday 29th

11.00-14.00  Blackwaterside, Moondance, Lantern Band and Guests
14.00-14.30  Zumba, Carol Irvine (30 mins)
14.30-14.50  Hymns Singalong (with Greg on midi accordion) (20 mins)
14.50-15.30  Paul Kiff (40 mins)
15.30-16.00  Ellie Scrivener (30 mins)
16.00-16.20  Alimah Dance (20 mins)
16.20-17.00  VerĂ£o (40 mins)


The beautiful, historic Church of St Peter and St Paul has stood in the West Mersea village centre for many centuries and is a well-loved landmark for the local community and visitors. The cost in both time and money to preserve, maintain and develop this ancient Grade1 Listed Building is high and it is no longer possible for the congregation alone to fund.

The Friends of West Mersea Parish Church  is a group of interested people from the wider community - from all denominations and none - who wish to support and maintain this wonderful, ancient Mersea building.
FWMPC are holding a Launch Event on Saturday 18th June which starts at 2.30 in the afternoon and carries on into the evening. Admission to all parts of the day is free - details on their website  and on the poster here . John Leyland and Greg are among those taking part in the 'Entertainment' at 7.30, which also includes some Morris Dancing and a talk on the history of shanty singing.


Last year's Shanty Night at the Coast Inn  happened on a wing and a prayer, and was held indoors owing to weather too inclement and draughty to allow for al fresco musicmaking.  It attracted far more people than we'd ever anticipated and as a result, despite being jolly lively, highly memorable and ultimately quite exhausting, it was at times too much of a squish for musicians and audience alike, and there were  moments when general rowdiness and a clash of interests between musicians and drinkers threatened to get a little bit out of hand. Luckily it was on balance considered a great success, but lessons were learned and plans for big improvements this year are under way.

These plans include a marquee for performers and dedicated music-loving audience and an outdoor bar (leaving the indoor bar free for dedicated musically indifferent drinkers); more amplification for performers; audience song-sheets with the words of popular shanties and sea-songs; and using the event as a fundraiser for the RNLI, those stalwart volunteers from the Mersea community on whom so many rely.

Updates on all details and plans will be posted here as soon as finalised. But please be reassured - if your playing was drowned out last year, if you wanted to join in but didn't know the words, if you didn't have enough room to breathe, or if, indeed, you couldn't get into the Coast Inn at all . . . . then don't despair! It will all be better organised this year and better geared to the needs of all those attending.

So stand by for an evening of nautically-themed music making to remember!


Last year's Regatta Song and Dance was in many ways experimental - there had been those who said 'it'll never work' and those who said it would prove unpopular or even a health-and-safety hazard, and those who simply weren't at all keen on the idea of a non-boaty event at the Regatta for people who don't wish to, or are unable to, join in with the sailing and watersports that are central to the day. But, in the face of at times seemingly insurmountable setbacks - some almost at the last minute - Commodore Chrissie made it happen- and, as the photos prove , it was a rip-roaring success enjoyed by all who took part.

Post-match analysis by a group of those involved in the organisation and production of the event revealed that a steep learning curve had already been scaled but that our collective experiences, together with feedback from others who took part and watched (both locals and visitors from afar) highlighted some areas which needed improving for 2011 and others which were so successful that they needed expanding and enhancing for Song and Dance's second year.

Because the Watersports are the central waterfront attraction of the afternoon and include some entertaining (and often quite noisy) amplified commentary, the main musical events - children's dancing display, the ceilidh and the set by Blackwaterside - can't officially kick off until the Greasy Pole Competition - the grand finale of the Watersports - has finished, which will be at around 5 o'clock.

However, from noon onward, the car park on Coast Road will be full of interesting stalls, refreshments and attractions (this year with a very much more local flavour - featuring island charities, organisations, craftspeople, traders and purveyors of delicious food and drink) and the stage will be set up, so it's been decided that acoustic musicians should be invited to 'busk' on the stage to entertain those whose attention is not turned towards what's happening on the water. 

This will have to be on strictly acoustic basis (or very nearly so), as it must not interfere with or override the Watersports commentary (otherwise we'll be in trouble with the Powers That Be on the Regatta Committee Boat).  Obviously this does not offer 100% ideal conditions for music-making, but Ellie Scrivener played in the afternoon on an informal basis last year, which went down very well, so if you're interested but unsure, do speak to her about it. We do think it could work well for the right kind of performers, or we wouldn't be suggesting it!

This year, although it will be nice to give the appearance that everything is very casual and informal, we're taking bookings for half-hour slots between 1 and 4 pm. So that's seven half-hour slots up for grabs. All kinds of music welcome - it doesn't have to be nautically themed at all, although if it is, then it will make the intriguing Mermaid on Stilts  feel at home!  If you're interested, please drop me a line to discuss and/or book a time to play. 

And it goes without saying that the more people of all ages who turn out to support Regatta Song & Dance, the merrier.  It really is a terrific afternoon's fun. 

The children of MIYPs will be showing off their hornpipe-dancing skills to some well-known maritime tunes, as well as performing a routine to music from 'Pirates of the Caribbean'.  The popular Eighteenth Century Pirates will be gathered once more, joining in with the Ceilidh and generally lending a bit of nautical 'heritage' to the proceedings. 'Blackwaterside' will be rounding off the early evening with all our favourite tunes from the Session - from Rolling in My Sweet Baby's Arms to Wild Rover.

And then after the prizegiving for the day's sailing races and watersports, there will of course be the traditional and very spectacular firework display.


I think that's everything for now. Please get in touch if there's anything you'd like to publicise here and I'll do my very best to oblige.

Visit again soon for updates on all the above - and more.

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