The riverside at Castlefields

The riverside at Castlefields

Saturday, 12 May 2012

A Splendid Night Out With My Mother-in-Law

An article I wrote for the Shrewsbury Chronicle ....

When my mother-in-law (and we shall call her Betty because that is her name) expressed an interest in attending the Mayor’s Charity Concert, I decided I might like to pop along too.
“Oh, I really don’t think it’ll be your cup of tea,” she said, no doubt thinking about that noisy devil’s music I seem to be listening to whenever she comes round.
“Really?” I said. “Choirs, a brass band – and all in the beautiful setting of St Chad’s Church. What’s not to like?”
Besides, it would mean she would be chauffeur-driven there and back, as well as having the pleasure of my company!
Needless to say, Betty was finally convinced.
Well stocked up with fruit pastilles and chocolate buttons (yes, I know, I’m a big kid), I picked her up just after six o’clock and we headed off in the direction of the Georgian gem that is St Chad’s.
Thinking (correctly, as it turned out) that all the parking spaces around the church would be taken by choristers, musicians and organisers, I parked on the Shrewsbury School side of the river and we then walked over the majestic Kingsland Bridge, trying our best to ignore the biting wind.
We grabbed ourselves a pew right close up to where the brass band would be positioned and sampled our first fruit pastille of the evening.
Already, Betty was enjoying herself – and the music had not even begun.
Since moving to Shrewsbury last year, she has been positively lapping up life in the county town, taking in the architecture and the history, savouring quiet moments in tearooms and coffee shops, visiting Rowley’s House and the castle, going to the cinema, joining various groups. There’s no stopping her.
And now, with the daylight illuminating the stained glass windows fading, she was eagerly anticipating the concert, entitled “100 Brass and Voices” and featuring The Friday Singers, the fantastic soaring voices of the Shropshire Girls Choir, Shrewsbury Male Voice Choir, and the truly stupendous Shrewsbury Brass Band.
All four groups were excellent, providing an evening that embraced film themes, emotional negro spirituals, Irish folk music, opera, fifties rock ’n’ roll, musical theatre, a Salvation Army-type romp, and mainstream pop.
A great deal of the music was decidedly upbeat and, frequently as I looked around the audience, there were broad smiles to be seen.
Shrewsbury Brass Band (formerly the Sabrina Brass Band) blew us away with rousing, full-blooded swing while the charming ladies of the Friday Singers enchanted us with gentler melodies – a Maori tune, a calypso, a slice of Jesus Christ Superstar.
The Shropshire Girls Choir – really quite magnificent – brought us a stunning version of Over The Rainbow, Labi Siffre’s Something Inside So Strong, and a heart-melting Hushabye Mountain from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The Shrewsbury Male Voice Choir – a fine body of men – won a round of applause when they dedicated Swing Low Sweet Chariot to the victorious Shrewsbury Town Football Club who, that very afternoon, had won promotion to League One.
And the choir also delivered a real crowd-pleaser in the form of the Tony Christie hit, Amarillo.
The evening was in aid of the Mayor’s Charity Fund (Small Grants for Small Groups) and the St Chad’s restoration campaign. And it was good to know that our money was going to such worthy causes.
On our way back to the car afterwards, the chilly wind still blowing, we strolled over Kingsland Bridge, lights reflected in the river.
“Oh, it’s a grand town, this,” said my mother-in-law.
I smiled. “Welcome to Shrewsbury, Betty.”

Shrewsbury Town's promotion to League One

I frequently write the leader column for the Shrewsbury Chronicle and I thought this one might find an additional audience with the readers of Underneath The Sideboard In The Front Room.

Scunthorpe souls in search of a scattercushion, Preston people pining for a pretzel, and Colchester kids keen on coleslaw could all be spending their money in Shrewsbury next season.
At least, that could be the case if football fans from far and wide decide to hang around the county town before and after watching their favourite team clash with Shrewsbury Town – and especially if those fans bring their families with them and make it a real day out.
That’s the thinking now of leading business figures who are looking forward to the benefits of the boys in blue and amber having been promoted to League One.
Statistics show that League One games attract far more away fans than League Two matches.
And that could translate into more cash being spent in the town.
Peter Bettis, president of the Shrewsbury Business Chamber, said promotion was “great news” for pubs and restaurants in the town.
And he added that the town could most certainly benefit from away fans bringing their families to Shrewsbury for a day out shopping while they go to the games.
Mr Bettis said the fact Shrewsbury have been outside of the third tier of English football for more than a decade could play a part in this, as many supporters and their families of League One clubs may not have visited the town before.
Families might very well fancy a day in a beautiful town while the football-crazy member of their entourage is absorbed in the match.
“There is more incentive as it is something new,” said Mr Bettis.
“It is not just the town centre, it is supporting the local economy. Shrewsbury has got a lot to offer for people who have never been here.”
The statistics are intriguing.
According to the latest Football League figures, the average number of visiting supporters in League One games in the 2010/11 season was 630 – that’s 75 per cent higher than the 360 figure recorded in League Two last year.
Now, if these figures were to be repeated over the course of next season, promotion for Town will mean almost 15,000 away fans will come to Shrewsbury for the 23 home games at the Meadow next year – that’s an increase of about 6,000 people.
So if all goes to plan, Shrewsbury’s shops could be selling bread bins to Brentford and hats to Hartlepool.
Daft as it sounds, it will do no harm at all to Shrewsbury’s economy.