This weekend seems to have revolved around drumming of one sort or another.
Mugenkyo. We've seen them twice before, once at an open air event in Leicestershire and once at a concert in Solihull, and been bowled over, and this was no exception.
The theatre is absolutely tiny, but all the more intimate for that; it only seats about 500 people and in order to get from the entrance door to the seats you have to walk across the performance area. In this case, that meant walking straight past the drums, and being able to see and even touch them close up. And this seems to have set the tone for the entire performance. In Solihull it was much more formal. Here, the group alternated the drum pieces with chat; fascinating historical information about the instruments, the music and taiko in general; and even a bit of slapstick. The last thing you expect is for one of the drummers to appear on stage strumming 'When I'm Cleaning Windows' on a banjo, for instance. It was all great fun and added to our appreciation of their skill on their chosen instruments.
On Saturday afternoon we made our way to Windermere station for the start of the Christmas lights switch-on ceremony. Because the town is only small (okay, tiny) we half expected this to be a bit of a damp squib, with half a dozen kids and somebody's dog along for the ride. In fact, it was amazing. The lights themselves aren't the most elaborate, but that doesn't matter. What was so lovely was the level of support, and the sheer warm-hearted enjoyment brought by everyone there.
The event began with a procession of at least a couple of thousand people (including us!) which wound its way down through the streets behind a fire engine decorated with tinsel, a couple of real reindeer, Santa on his sled, and a marching carnival drum band. Yes, those drums again. In the town centre we all stopped while Santa made a speech (sadly inaudible), then there was a count-down and the lights popped on. After that, the procession carried on along the back streets to the local park, where another few thousand people had already gathered, and we were treated to a short but surprisingly good free firework display.
We'd been promising ourselves we'd go to the event for the last 3 or 4 years but never made it. This year, we're delighted we made the effort. It may be a small town, the lights may only be bulbs on bits of string, but this is the most Christmas spirit I've seen in years.