Toast London– Clapham Common, London 2009
(Mia Randall-Coath reports)
The annual celebration of Antipodean food, wine and culture took place on Clapham Common, London on the 26th, 27th and 28th June.
Toast South Africa started the weekend with traditional South African food and braais, wine tastings from regions across the country, cultural exhibitions, displays by the Umhlathuzi Performing Arts Group and a polo match between invitational South African and Great Britain teams.
On a shortened polo ground surrounded by 5000 plus spectators, a well supported South Africa team (Rod Guttridge, Garth Fraser, Sbu Duma) took on Great Britain (Tarquin Southwell, Henry Collins, Danny Muriel). All players gave a superb display of close and technical polo but it was the team from Great Britain who took the honours by 6 goals to 5.
Saturday was the showcase for all things New Zealand. Beats of Polynesia echoed around the Common, the Kiwis’ passion for barbequing was well catered for and wine tasting master classes were held throughout the day. Polo again took centre stage as New Zealand (Tommy Wilson, Richard Seavill, Victoria Grace) were led on to the pitch by Ngati Ranana London Maori Club. Great Britain (Andrew Blake Thomas, Henry Collins and Danny Muriel) were escorted by the Fulham Brass Band and stoically faced the haka. With commentary by Kiwi and Ascot Park Polo Club owner Peter Grace, the 9000 strong crowd were treated to a superb exhibition of the sport. and a well earned win by New Zealand 7 goals to 6.
Toast Australia rounded off the weekend’s activities. Following the welcome ceremony, the Descendance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Dance Theatre accompanied Team Australia (Jock Mackay, James Wayland, Tim Phelan) to the polo ground followed by the Fulham Brass Band and Team Great Britain (Andrew Blake Thomas, Will Blake Thomas, Nick Henry). An exciting game ensued and with commentary by Dave Pannell the 7000 plus spectators cheered the teams on to a 7 goal a piece draw.
With entertainment from Sneaky Sound System, one of Australia’s biggest bands, Ned Walker and Take 5, barbeque master classes from Raymond van Rijk, didgeridoo workshops and aboriginal storytelling the festival came to a close. Throughout the weekend, visitors were able to try their hand at polo with Ascot Park Polo Club’s ‘Have-a-go’ sessions and rides on polo ponies and visit the myriad of exhibitions.
Each day had its own very distinct flavor and atmosphere and regardless of nationality, all visitors were welcomed with equal warmth. Having started in 2000, Toast celebrates its 10th anniversary next year – if 2009 is anything to go by, it promises to be a good one!