All those journalists and politicians who ramble on about the UK being a ‘divided nation’ should pop their way out of whichever bubble they’re living in and make their way over to reality, i.e. Todmorden. Despite a near 50:50 split in the referendum, the town is amazingly united. And that’s possibly because there’s so much going on here.

We hear all the time about the UK ‘punching above its weight’. Well, Todmorden certainly does. Our first ever book festival, for instance, was an extraordinary success. The inspirational programme contained at least 32 events over eight days and attracted people to Todmorden from all over the country.

As so often, the idea was first raised over a cuppa (where would we be without coffee?). It – the idea – was then passed on to a retired professional book festival organiser who, as a Todmorden citizen, gave her services for free. As did everyone else involved.

Many of us are looking forward not only to Happy Valley screenwriter Sally Wainwright coming here in the New Year (she had to postpone), but also to another book festival next November.

On the day the festival finished, Todmorden decided to switch on its Christmas lights. One interesting aspect was that no one knew whether the Calderdale electricians had turned up to do their complicated duty. It turned out they had, after practising on and off for the previous two-and-a-half days…So Christmas officially began on 24th November to the sounds of Todmorden Community Brass Band, the Choral Society, a singing public, and Calder Valley Search and Rescue collecting for their charity.

Last Thursday I was invited to two carol ‘services’: a Dementia Friendly Todmorden Carol Sing-along, held in St Mary’s, and a very different event held in the Unitarian Church. St Mary’s was packed to the rafters (see picture above), with children from four of Todmorden’s five primary schools singing along with residents from care homes, together with their carers and the award-winning Dementia Friendly volunteers. The smiles on the faces of the residents said it all.

While in St Mary’s it was all about us singing carols, the Unitarian event was a mixture of carol singing, mainly comic readings, and listening, as at a concert, to a range of performances, from brass band music (Community Brass Band), choral music (Three Valleys Gospel Choir), and ‘seasonal’ songs featuring two folk singers, an opera singer, a guitarist and a keyboard player (three individuals in all). They were all magnificent – as they had to be to please the hundreds of people attending.

Finally, congratulations to the business network Todconnect for winning the Great British High Street Award (Rising Star) 2018.  Punching above our weight again.

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