Warm and Toasty the Third

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To Colchester Arts Centre! …on Sunday afternoon for the hat trick of Warm and Toasty sessions with Johnno Casson.

This was the third and final gathering of the informal Warm and Toasty Club for this year in Sunny Colch.

Johnno has managed to grow a truly cross-generational audience, who just get what he is trying to achieve with his love of culture and community.

“We aim to make you feel sunny”

…said Johnno, just minutes after the extra chairs had been put out at the back of the Arts Centre to accommodate the sizeable crowd.

For the fag end days of the summer, it actually wasn’t that warm in the Arts Centre. There wasn’t any toast either.

But don’t allow that to get in the way of a good story. Let them eat ice cream instead…

And then straight after the Warm and Toasty welcome, it was eyes right for the bunting and 1st Class Brass who were blowing up a storm on the main stage at the Arts Centre.

The Colchester based band fits perfectly with what Johnno has been working so hard to achieve all year with Warm and Toasty.

The idea is to give a platform to local artists that sometimes slip underneath the radar. Add in some serious talent from elsewhere to sample the delights of Sunny Colch, and pitch it all so that it is perfect for everyone from summer holidaying school kids to the Nans in the crowd.

It helped that 1st Class Brass Band chose Sweet Caroline as the opening number. It takes a rare talent for an Arts Centre crowd to be singing along from the very first number.

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Talk of mankini catwalk appearances by Johnno thankfully didn’t last long. He did explain however how the next act Chris Marchant had been flown in from Ipswich at no expense.

Nope – THERE REALLY WAS NO EXPENSE.

Warm and Toasty is all the better for operating with a ‘challenging’ budget.

And so one moment you are sitting in the Arts admiring the fret work of our friend from Ipswich, and then the next you are listening to fanciable tales of growing up with an Italian car and getting an Arts Council grant to do it up.

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Colchester artist Chris Dobrowolski did just that with the family Triumph Herald Estate car. Warm and Toasty was treated to a unique story of how Chris’ life can be told via a family photo album featuring the classic car.

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We then went on a journey with Chris and the Triumph to Predappio, the birthplace of Benito Mussolini. It wasn’t your typical family holiday photo slideshow.

Chris stumbled upon souvenir shops celebrating fascism. His response to create a piece of kinetic art depicting a none too flattering saluting Mussolini, all powered by the windscreen wiper of a family Triumph Herald Estate.

Warm and Toasty isn’t your average family show…

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A calming influence was needed: Enter the Warm and Toast Biscuit of the Month.

Hurrah!

But wait! What’s this?

We had a head-to-head with chocolate digestives facing off against Scottish shortbread.

This was a charming Warm and Toasty moment. Biscuit of the Month has led to regular club members wanting to contribute. Allowing the audience to become the stars sums up the Warm and Toasty ethos.

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Step forward Mark and his love of chocolate digestives, followed by Samantha who was celebrating all things shortbread.

It was brilliant to see how Johnno has inspired local folk to take to the Arts Centre and deliver an impassioned speech about their special biscuit. You should be able to get Arts Council funding for this.

Mark spoke of how:

“If you feel that something is missing from your life, then usually it is a chocolate digestive.”

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Samantha then introduced the classic shortbread. A young child from the back of the Arts Centre actually cheered. A friendly biscuit heckle from a chocolate digestive addict followed.

As was right and proper, shortbread delivered the loudest WHOOP on the Warm and Tasty clapometer – which just so happened to be Johnno’s waving hand.

There was to be a happy ending with both biscuits being served up around the Arts Centre- plus Johnno managing to photobomb a photo opp with a couple of biscuits.

STAR QUALITY.

The music then continued with the commanding voice of Paul Mosely from Hartlepool. The hat trick of Warm and Toasty shows has shown that Johnno has the contacts around the country. He is able to persuade like-minded musicians to come to Colchester to play at the club. This is really quite lovely.

Ever the performer, Johnno closed Part 1 with a random communal singalong of We Luv the Sunshine, one of his own songs that has become the unofficial Warm and Toasty anthem.

The summer theme continued during the brief break. Ice cream was served up, along with a soundtrack of Sun is Shining, Mr Blue Sky and Cruel Summer. The attention to detail at the Arts Centre is impressive.

We were back after the break for more fine tunes from 1st Class Brass. Some classic songs from the shows were played. They didn’t feel at all out of place with the Bob Marley remix from moments earlier.

And then it was time for the Warm and Toasty grand premiere. The overall project is far more than simply putting on a show. Johnno is very active around Colchester speaking with some of the more mature members of our community.

These conversations are captured in both video and audio, and then published and archived for future historical reference. Plus they also serve the purpose of right here, right now. They are usually very funny.

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Doris was the star turn for Sunday afternoon. We watched a video where Doris spoke movingly about wartime memories of growing up on Canvey Island.

And then just to prove that age is no obstacle for clubbing – there was Doris sitting on the front row at the Arts Centre, looking rightfully proud at the fantastic age of 95.

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It all got a little emotional after this. Sandy is around half the age of Doris. She took to the stage to share her memories of her slightly eccentric Mum, who also lived in Canvey.

But the dignity and eloquence of Doris led to Sandy having a bit of a moment. She handled it perfectly, as did the Warm and Toasty audience – with a beaming smile, and then a celebration of her Mum and her memories.

Awwwww.

A fragile atmosphere was now in place. The fragile voice of Ady Johnson only added to this.

This is a VERY GOOD thing.

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Ady has played endless Arts Centre gigs, as well as many much larger shows outside of the area. But Warm and Toasty must have been something unique even amongst all of his experience.

THAT voice cut through the emotion of the Arts Centre. There was to be no biscuit heckling during Ady’s two song set.

Some audio clips from Johnno then followed. These are part of the Warm and Toasty podcasts that he has been curating.

The Warm and Toasty Club Podcast-Episode 3 by The Warm And Toasty Club on Mixcloud

The concept is to showcase local characters. Life’s big events aren’t on the agenda. Instead there is a celebration of the ordinary. We should all do this more often.

Paul Mosley then returned to complete yet another wonderful Warm and Toasty. He spoke fondly about his brief visit to our town.

You can bash out words, publish some hit and miss snaps and collect the audio and video from the afternoon – but it doesn’t do the magic of Warm and Toasty any justice.

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Johnno has an infectious personality and an even more powerful talent. One of his key skills is to be able to assemble such a diverse crowd on an August afternoon in Sunny Colch, and somehow pull it all together.

Colchester is a much warmer place for this.

We’re hoping to get some toast when the club returns in the New Year.

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