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Rollicking scenes at Momentai as first Sai Kung Animals Benefit Concert is staged

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Catherine Lumsden, Karina O’Carroll and friend

They were dancing in the aisles at Momentai by 10:00 pm on 13 December as the wine and beer flowed and the band let rip. It was all in aid of five animal charities. About 150 people turned up at various times during the four-hour Sai Kung Animals Benefit Concert. We don’t yet know exactly how much money has been raised because generous Momentai host Niko Smirnoff said the accounting will take a couple of days. We do know $12,510 cash was stumped up by increasingly inebriated punters during the auctioning and raffle ticket selling.

The idea of staging a fund-raising concert for all the district’s main animal care charities was dreamed up by Roger Medcalf of SAI KUNG BUZZ. Only the cattle care societies were left out because their leaders said they didn’t need money as AFCD picks up big bills. Niko, who fosters and adopts cats, was quick to offer Momentai as the venue. An organising committee formed: Narelle Pamuk of Sai Kung Stray Friends, Debbie Chow of Home Dog Home, Emily Allington of Hong Kong Cats, Catherine Lumsden of Catherine’s Puppies and Carol Biddell of Sai Kung Lost Found Injured Animals, Robin and Salve Bradbeer, BUZZ directors, Jim Lewis, the Sai Kung Live organiser, Niko and Roger.

Salve, a 19-year-old artist and creative media student, designed big posters outlining each charity’s work. Veteran event organiser Robin had these produced as exhibition-size banners and they were displayed about Momentai’s casually elegant premises. A table was submerged under piles of donated goods for auctioning. Narelle put together a Christmas hamper of wine, chocolates and soft toys as the lucky draw prize.

Items worth thousands of dollars were offered for auction from Merritt Croker, CEO of the Dan Ryan’s and Amaroni’s restaurant group, Peter Downie, GM of the Clearwater Bay Golf Club, the talented artist Psyche Chong and Pauline Taylor of Pets Central. The $1000 and more items did not sell during the first round of auctioning by Rob Archibald when sobriety had not yet been banished, but when he had another go later in the evening lubricated bidders emerged, some getting very good deals. Other donors: Mark Bradshaw of Haven Development, Jean-Baptiste Mage of The Wine Guild, Andy Konrad of Winerack, Mathew Murdoch of Homevet, Jacqui Hamilton of Aphrodite hair-styling and Zone massage.

Jim Lewis did an affable, confident performance as MC. He introduced Ben Tully, an American singer-guitarist appearing in Sai Kung for the first time, the Village Dogs, who are Sai Kung grown and worthy of a much bigger stage, and The Soulkeepers. This troupe reeked of professionalism in every way. One slightly sozzled spectator said to them, “Can I pay you a compliment? You look like real musicians.” And so they proved.

A drunk mainlander marred the evening for a short period with his belligerence. Momentai staff in their black t-shirts, one big enough to be a bouncer, quietly surrounded him and edged him out the door.

In between band performances, the heads of the animal charities went to the microphone to tell the audience about their work. Every one is highly admired and the crowd showed their appreciation with rounds of applause. Debbie Chow stood up there with a friend who translated. Debbie rescues animals in distress almost every day. She hardly ever stops. Narelle pulls off miracles: how can one woman cope with the costs (about $150,000 a month) of caring for 110 dogs? Somehow she does it. Carol Biddell has created several animal care societies including Sai Kung Buffalo Watch (co-founded with Karina O’Carroll) and Sai Kung Lost Found Injured Animals (with Karen Sarah Ball). If you are ever lucky enough to be invited to Carol’s Ho Chung home you will find she has a menagerie, including an iguana. Carol did not wish to speak so Karen took the stage. Catherine has rescued about 400 dogs and cares for about 30 in a Ho Chung shelter. Emily loves all animals but has focused on cats because she sees the need. She has brought many cases of cruelty to public attention and struggles to meet the vet bills.

Momentai has been generous in ensuring successful fund-raising for the five animal charities. $88 from each ticket sold will go to them. Also Niko sourced free or discounted beer from local breweries and drew up a special event menu listing shares of drink costs going to the charities. Rose Torrance and Jim counted the cash raised by auctioning and raffling ($12,510) and signed it over to Roger who is acting as custodian and will pay the total, once the Momentai money is also in hand, into the accounts of the charities asap next week. The organising committee decided the funds should be evenly split.

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