A hundred supporters of the Westgate Hall and Skillnet Group’s West Track Studios turned to exotic elegance to make their point on Saturday the 2nd of April. Figures in long dresses or black tie, faces elegantly camouflaged by feather or papier mâché masks, swept through the Hall’s doors to find the unique space suggestive of a North African Bedouin camp.

The creators of this universe, the Westgate Community Trust and West Track Studios (part of Skillnet Group CIC), had joined forces to raise funds and heighten awareness about the contribution the century-old Westgate Hall makes, and should continue to make, to life in our community as well as the work of Skillnet Group and, particularly, its West Track Studios in Roper Road.

Before the event, Jo Kidd, Chief Executive of Skillnet Group, made the prediction that the evening would be “an exciting event full of top quality music and entertainment.” She could not have been more accurate. Food and decorations transported to the world of Arabian Nights, while wine and music were among the best Canterbury has to offer.

Hall supporters were treated to a sit down Moorish dinner prepared by Xavier Germán, the genius behind Canterbury’s Café Mauresque, including refreshing taboulé, vegan paella prepared in the Hall, and enticing baklava for dessert. These flavours were reinforced by the free bottle of the best wine that Kent has to offer found on each table thanks to Clive Barlow of Press Wine Services.

Then, Canterbury’s Brendan Power, recognized as one of the world’s most creative and versatile harmonica players (he has played with Sting, James Galway, Van Morrison, Riverdance and many more), joined forces with saxophonist Ivan Thompson (Hullabaloo)and The All Stars whose members are Martin Elliot of the Michael Nymann band (bass guitar), Steve Higgs (lead guitar), Catriona Bryce ‘Bean’ (vocals), Alan King (drums), Alastair “Titch” Walker (trumpet), Steve Washington (drums)and Ben Mills(singer, songwriter and musician), who came to fame on the X Factor in 2006. Their intoxicating rhythms set feelings flying. The evening was also graced with imaginative flowing choreography of UK champion ballroom dancers, Ian Sharpe and Victoria Lawrence, who volunteered their artistry for the evening.

One of the supporters, Chris Geary, said:
‘Thank you for a great evening. We certainly enjoyed it on our table, and I’m sure we were not alone. The music was very good, the food was very good and the venue was very good! The Westgate Hall was ideal for the event: a central location, easy parking, and well appointed.’

As for fundraising, the auction, hosted off by Ben Mills with David Lee as mystery guest master of ceremonies, raised £1,750. Moneys from the evening are still coming in, but it seems that we raised at least £3,000. All proceeds will be shared between the Westgate Community Trust and West Track Studios. Many thanks indeed for the good-humoured generosity of all who took part. Watch this space for the next event jointly hosted by the two organisations – miss it and miss out!

Forthcoming events:
15th May: Family Day at the Westgate Hall, a day of fun for children and their parents and the opportunity to find out about activities and resources for families in Canterbury. From singing to football, martial arts, baby groups, drama… and plenty of fun, more details coming soon.
19th May: Westgate Hall Wine Challenge, mark your calendars for an evening that will stir your senses! Clive Barlow, Master of Wine, is spreading his wisdom through his Wine Challenge fundraiser for the campaign to save Westgate Hall. Clive will provide six wines to taste and questions about each. Answers will be marked and prize for the winner! Tickets are £20 per person and include a buffet from Patrick’s Kitchen. To book email: wct@westgatecommunityhall.org.uk
5th June: THE BIG LUNCH: Last year’s was fantastic and this year we can make it even better! Come and eat with your friends and neighbours, share your home grown food or buy from the stalls. There will be entertainment for people of all ages. Everyone is welcome!