It’s not about the money

It’s a fast-flowing evening and there’s lots to get through. Harry is on the microphone now, our compere for the evening. He’s a natural. I can see him presenting Blue Peter before long. “Look underneath your tables and bring out the chocolates and the green pyramid thing,” he is telling us. The Ferrero Rocher pyramid game doesn’t take much explanation. “Wait for it to table 5! Okay, all ready? On your marks… Get set… Go!”

I abandoned my teammates and flit between tables with my camera, capturing some of the mayhem that ensues. Faced with a green sponge pyramid, a few boxes of chocolates and some cocktail sticks some find this game more difficult than others. Table 11 – with Sarah and Rachel – have a method. Some on their table insert sticks into chocolates and then pass them onto others who quickly building up the pyramid from its base. It’s a division of labour that proves effective and soon there’s an ecstatic cheer from their table. Extra points on the scoreboard for them.

Other Brixham groups take a turn on the stage – church youth clubs, a samba band, the swimming and life-saving society. All say a few words, give out certificates to their participants and generally celebrate the achievements of the young people of this little fishing port. Rhianan comes out, gets a special mention and an award from another group for inspiring some music and play project. She takes it all in her stride but is clearly made up.

Next Charlotte and Matt are back telling us about their plans for a 120-mile sponsored walk across Devon in aid of YES. “You can sponsor us the whole distance,” Charlotte is saying, “or per mile.”

“Thank you,” says Chris, now on the mike. “It’s so amazing that you want to do this. It’s such a long way and it’s not going to be easy. We’re so grateful.” And then, half-heartedly, “We might come along some of the way with you – not very far – but we might join you for a short while.”

Before a musical interlude Harry is explaining another game, something they have called the Table Challenge. Crepe paper, red corrugated cardboard, pipe cleaners – the sort of things you’d get an assortment pack from an art shop – is being handed out to each table. “During the break we want you to invent some new pointless item out of your art materials. Something posh but also totally pointless. And there’ll be prizes for the winners.”

Meanwhile Toni and Freya leave our table and take their turn in the spotlight, glancing at each other as they belt out Jesse J’s Price Tag with a karaoke track as accompaniment. They’ve been practicing all week.

Their rendition goes well and there’s get a massive cheer as they finish. They flop down in their chairs, still mouthing the lyrics, relieved it’s all over but delighted with the reaction. Job done.

Before we get down to the serious business of distributing the Neighbourhood Challenge prizes and announcing the winners of this year’s Brix Awards, Harry gets people up on stage yet again, this time to show off their pointless posh inventions. There’s a hammock for a beard, a posh hat for a glass, a medieval firework. “How does that work then?” The cucumber sandwich holder and spiral staircase for flies seem to tie for first place although there is friendly dissent from the table that ‘invented’ a bow tie for a Bentley. “Congratulations to you all. Some delightfully pointless posh items there. Well done!”

Andrew, chair of trustees for YES, is up on his feet now, remembering twelve months ago when the Nesta Neighbourhood Challenge was first launched. “Many of us have been pushed way out of our comfort zones this last year,” he says. Knowing what I now know about the Challenge in Brixham, they have certainly packed a lot in.

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