WELL it would appear the after-dinner speech I worried about last week was a success. As was my first visit to the Peebles Hydro - what a stunning setting. The occasion was the annual conference of NODA Scotland - that’s the National Operatic and Dramatic Association, or as some wag put it at the weekend, No One Drinks Anything. Yeah, right!
This yearly gathering finds amateur performers from around the country coming together to socialise and discuss the business of developing their clubs and societies. Edinburgh was well represented with folk from Southern Light Opera and Musselburgh Amateur Musical Association, among others.
Ahead of my speech on Saturday, a silver service meal was served for attendees who, I discovered, would be timing how long I spoke. No pressure there then.
The reason for their diligence was a sweepstake. Each table hoping to win the pot if they predicted the correct length. There were a few surprised faces when they were told I didn’t have a speech written and was going to ad-lib from cue cards. Even I didn’t know how long it would be.
Before speaking, the meal itself quickly became one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Great fun, but definitely surreal. Throughout the three courses, a pianist played show tunes... and the 300 diners sang along, complete with harmonies, as they ate, providing a sound track for the meal that ranged from Les Miserables to Cabaret - it turned out to be a highlight of the visit.
On a more serious note, as I said to Gordon Blackburn, my host for the conference, what the weekend brought into sharp focus is the passion that NODA Scotland and its members have for performing. It is this passion that helps keep theatres around the city alive. So join me in raising a glass to our amateurs, the lifeblood of local theatre in so many different ways.