A priest once told me that their suggestions for the Harvest Festival service they had been asked to lead (in a church without their own priest) had been dismissed out of hand with the phrase, “No, we have always done this.” He had then gently reminded the parish that the thing they had “always done” was something he had introduced there only three years earlier! It’s true that traditions take remarkably little time to develop, and that development tends to be accompanied with a fast-growing reluctance to change. Many people tend to live by the motto “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” but this fails to accept that further improvement might be possible.

This year’s Harvest Supper perhaps illustrates this well. The event has been part of Widford’s social calendar for years and has seen little change; its tried and tested format has proven very successful in terms of gathering and entertaining a crowd and raising funds for the church. However, this year, the event underwent a thorough examination and by separating the critical ingredients from the detail, new possibilities presented themselves. The undisputed requirements were good food, the opportunity for conversation and the provision of some kind of entertainment. The details – what food should be served and what kind of entertainment should be put on – were carefully reviewed. And some changes were made.

And what a good night was had by all. There was still a raffle (many thanks to all those who had contributed gifts) and the singing of parts of the traditional Harvest Hymns, but the menu included pulled pork and corn on the cob for the first time. In another first, the seating arrangements were also modified so that the side room was used for tables – largely to facilitate conversation (which can be harder in the large main hall because of the noise) – and the main hall set out with a wide open space for dancing.

Food, glorious food!

A barn dance had been advertised, but in the end, the provider recommended that line dancing would suit our event better (it’s more inclusive for singles and those whose partners don’t like to dance). It was loads of fun. We learned three dances and a whole load of new terminology (most of which I’ve now forgotten). It was a little bit like dipping our toes in the shallows of what is the deep and wide lake of line dancing – we were all very grateful that our instructor didn’t play the fastest music she kept threatening!

Line Dancing in progress

Thanks go to all who played their part in rethinking the event and producing such a wonderful evening for the village. If you didn’t come this year, do make a plan to come next. It won’t be the same, but you can guarantee that the essential ingredients will be in place – the best of the traditional core with a flexible fringe so that it remains fresh and continues to help build up the common life of our changing community.

Do keep an eye out for other events on the calendar like the new “Widford Talks” and our upcoming Community Lunch – you can sign up for news updates here.

Images from Facebook posts, incl. stills from videos – thanks to those who shared.

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