Tossing the tifta

If the forecast is to be trusted the weather turns tomorrow and so the next hour or so is my last opportunity to complete some picture postcard images around the harbour. I wander round in the sunshine, snapping children’s fishing nets, stacks of lobster pots, postcard racks. I’m an amateur photographer on holiday and it’s a welcome diversion.

After I change into my ‘tux’ I walk around the harbour again – a little more self-consciously this time – and stop at Nick’s Fish bar. Nick and his assistant don’t comment on my ‘posh’ appearance as I order a small fish with chips to take out. They’ve no doubt seen it all. “Salt ’n’ vinegar?”

The channel is looking calm beyond the breakwater tonight and the water could be inviting in different circumstances. A couple of hundred yards further along and, with the last of the salt wiped unceremoniously from my face, I arrive at the hotel and am confronted at first by a pheasant strutting across the front lawn and next by Rhianan at the front entrance suggesting I photograph her in all her finery, which I am happy to do.

Back in the 1850s this place used to be home to Reverend Francis Lyte, vicar of the town’s All Saint’s church. Then it was his private residence – Berry Head House – and when he was near to dying the story has it that he looked across the harbour towards Torquay at dusk and was inspired to write Abide With Me.

In his time the Reverend might have been invited to the Brix Awards, might even have won a Neighbourhood Challenge prize. When he came to Brixham in 1824 he set up its first Sunday school and each year organised an ‘annual treat’ for up to 1,000 Sunday schoolchildren (surely the whole town and more) where a short religious service was followed by tea and a sports day.

Rhianan and I walk around the outside of the hotel into the main function room where 16 tables are beautifully laid out with a single rose at each setting. As we arrive the last minute preparations are practically complete with scripts fine-tuned and boxes of chocolates being pushed under the tables.

Soon young volunteers are standing either side of the entrance to welcome their guests. Casey and the Berserkers get a round of applause for their outrageous outfits. Surely they can’t wear those all evening.

Dragan, Izzy and Will – in their best ‘posh’ outfits – kick off the evening with a choreographed introduction and give everyone a flavour of what’s to come in the eighth annual Brix Awards.

Next Angela and Chris take the mikes, encouraging all the young volunteers to the front. Some are more willing than others. Sammy is here and Ben, both clearly enjoying themselves. There is Toni and Freya, Millie and Rhianan, Kerrie and a couple of dozen more who I haven’t seen before this evening. When they are finally together there’s barely room on the small stage for them all.

Once they have been introduced and congratulated, volunteers Charlotte and Matt stay up front and explain the first game. Yes, this is an evening of awards, commendations and speeches but also music, singing and silly games. An array of large floppy hats appear and Charlotte demonstrates the task ahead. “We call this game Toss the Tifta,” she says. It is a ‘posh’ theme after all. “Stand on this side of the stage and toss a hat onto your partner’s head.” She throws a hat towards Matt who ducks down in an attempt to catch it. “It’s a bit like throwing a frisbee,” continues Charlotte. “So let’s have a couple from each table to come on up.” For an icebreaker – although I’m not sure an icebreaker is needed – Toss the Tifta works well.

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