Saturday, 16 April 2011

Chocolate heaven?

This weekend sees the Brighton Chocolate Festival, part of the Brighton and Hove Food and Drink Festival come to New Road, behind the Pavilion.

I imagine the exhibitors today were quite relieved that it's not as hot as it was last weekend - I'm guessing 23 degrees would have led to some rather alarming meltage!

Conditions were perfect - light cloud, about 15 degrees, no chance of rain. The combination of that and the idea of free chocolate served to bring rather a lot of people to the event - it was rammed!

It's crammed into a fairly small space meaning that each stand can have a rather offputting crowd to fight your way through. However, if you can be bothered to wait (or elbow your way in) you're rewarded with some delicious goodies. Most of the stands are from local, small companies although there was one from a London company who currently supply Selfridges. There were delights on offer from Chocoholly, Artisan du Chocolat, Cocoapod, Philip Maes and many others.

There was a huge variety of types of chocolate on display - milk, plain, white, raw, 99% cocoa, flavoured, as well as some interesting shapes: fish, bunnies, owls, chickens, pods, lollipops, sausage rolls and Yorkshire puddings (!) as well as the classic bars, discs and eggs.

Almost every stand had plates of tasters out - I thought the ones that chose not to had missed a real marketing opportunity. A lot of the products weren't cheap and I certainly wouldn't spend upwards of a fiver on a bar of chocolate without tasting it first. It was clear that the stalls with tasters were more popular too. That surely serves to prove the value of freebies and the insatiable appetite of the general public for chocolate!

If you're now salivating, then pop down to Brighton tomorrow between 10am and 6pm for day 2.

For info, there's also the Made in Brighton Festival out at the Marina.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

It's all over bar the shooting!


Peril in the Park - when Cathy and I first discussed doing a live murder mystery production at a local café back at the beginning of the year, Saturday April 9th seemed a very long way off. But then it crept up on us, as things like this inexorably do.

And last Saturday was D-Day. Or rather, it was MM-Day.

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of plot details, prop organisation, printing, laminating, script writing, rehearsing, last-minute amendments and general panicking. When the day finally came, I was seriously wondering what on earth we'd let ourselves in for.

We knew that the food was going to be great, we'd been in the café and seen and smelt what they have to offer. The guests had paid £40 a head for this event, a not inconsiderable sum for an evening out in the throes of a recession, so we really had to give them their money's worth. Not to mention this was our reputation at stake. Being our first live production, we really needed to make a bit of a name for ourselves.

I arrived at the café at 5pm along with the rest of the cast - Cathy, Dade, Sid, Carol and Andrea, clutching our huge bags of props and paperwork. Cathy had managed to make it there without being arrested for carrying five guns, two knives, a bloodstained sheet and some handcuffs. We'd originally thought that we'd have two straight hours (between the café closing and the performance beginning) to set up and run-through, but we didn't bank on the fact that although the café theoretically closes at 5pm, they quite understandably leave the doors open and people can pop in to buy a quick ice-cream etc. The staff were also very busy setting up the tables for the performance. So they were trying to negotiate their way to the tables with cutlery, glasses etc, while we were throwing ourselves round the only open space in the room, rehearsing our various scenes. I really hope we weren't in their way too much!

Before we knew it, it was 6.45, T-minus 15 minutes. We were all in our costumes, sipping a nerve-steadying beer, and keeping our fingers tightly crossed.

At 7pm on the nose, the first guests arrived and the rest gradually trickled in for the next half an hour. Initially, it was a case of getting people to mingle - no mean feat with a room full of strangers. But Sid (as event hostess, Greeta Client), Cathy (as her temporary assistant, Tallulah) and Dade (as Ed Lines, local journalist and photographer) did a great job of entertaining them and keeping them on track. Until 7.30, I was pretending to be a guest but once everyone had arrived, I performed a quick change outside the café and hurtled in in my very fetching police uniform, clutching a blue flashing light and to the slightly dodgy recording of a police siren. And that was it - we were off. The next three hours passed by in a whirl of scenes, audio clues, visual clues, heckling from the crowd, some quite fantastic off-the-cuff performances by a couple of the guests and a sense of mounting confusion as the combination of clues and copious amounts of alcohol combined to baffle the budding sleuths.

In what felt like the blink of an eye, the guests were finishing up their desserts and it was time for us to conclude the limerick competion, mark the solution forms, arrest the wrong man and then have the obligatory (but surprising for the guests) dénouement.

To our great relief, a round of applause ensued, giving us the opportunity to thank everyone for coming and introduce ourselves. Once it was all over, we managed to chat to quite a lot of the guests as our real personas, as opposed to our characters, which is always nice to do. They were a great bunch and all seemed genuinely impressed with the evening. Hopefully word of mouth will do the trick. Natalie and Juliet who run the café are really keen to get another one going so we'll be meeting with them to discuss how we move forward.

All in all, it went really well and I, for one, had a fantastic evening. Cue huge sigh of relief!

The photos of the evening, courtesy of Krysalis Photography, can be found HERE.