On my way up to Rotherham after a great week in Ilfracombe, not without its highlights and interest which I will relate in my next chapter, I stopped for a break at Gloucester services. If you are ever travelling the lower end of the M5, stop here, if only to wonder why all our motorway services are not like this one. Run and owned by the same family who run the Tebay services, it is a real joy and testimony to the fact that feeding large numbers of people wholesome and real food is not impossible. I had a wonderful steak and stout pie, chips and roast veg with delicious gravy. Yum. I also bought a locally-sourced pork chop for my tea.
While I was there enjoying the airy and attractive décor I had the following email which the writer has allowed me to copy here. It is a response to my review of the somewhat quiet reception I had at Crich Tramway Museum which I wrote about recently. It made me smile and then laugh out loud. They begin with a quote from my blog.
The four-day stand in Derbyshire was very successful and the crowds turned up in abundance… The audiences however are quiet…They seem to enjoy the show but just didn’t let anyone, least of all me, know.
Derbyshire is totally different to the south of England (and to the areas to the north, south and east). Most of it is just a blob of empty space in the middle of the country, where you have to search the map with a magnifying glass to locate any towns. Goodness knows how you ever found Crich.
With all that nothingness, we do not attract many visiting performers. The weather can also be off-putting at any time of year and outsiders are often deterred by little things like snow falling in the middle of summer. Your performances took place during a lengthy spell of good weather – that spell started on the morning of your performance and finished just after you left.
The few resident entertainers that perform here have developed acts that involve a lot of wild leaping around to keep warm, which is why when the folk of Derbyshire are told that there will be street entertainment, they can be pretty certain that it will be the local Morris dancers or a visiting Morris team from the next village. During major festivals, the street entertainment is more varied and we have previously been treated to performances from the likes of Man Friday Morris from Leicester, (although they apparently disbanded shortly after their last visit).
I think that you actually misinterpreted the response to your show for the following reasons:
- No matter what you did, most of the audience seemed to be anticipating the moment when you would pull out a couple of handkerchiefs and start a Morris.
- Derbyshire audiences have learned to avoid eye contact with performers for fear of being dragged into a ‘stick dances’ where the performers kick their legs out while thrashing around with pick-axe handles. Many audience members have developed evasion tactics that include pretending to tie shoe laces or moving around slowly with a pronounced limp.
- Loud applause or cheering have the same effect on performers as eye contact and we know from experience that such actions are asking for trouble. They also use too much body energy which can be fatal if the temperature drops.
I am pretty sure that you had never before seen anything like a Derbyshire audience; likewise, they had never seen anything like you, but they did like you, I can assure you of that. Only one person walked away during your show and he was heading for the privy with a somewhat agitated child. I know that you saw him walk away because you commented on it, but did you notice how several people with ‘bad legs’ rushed forward to claim the space that he had vacated?
And so I come to the disruption that you have caused to my family life. There has been a mark on the wall calendar for several months advising me that I am required to provide transport to Manchester this weekend. For the first time ever, I have refused a family transport request. I have done this in order to come and see you in Rotherham this Saturday.
I suspect that this is one of the few times that someone from rural Derbyshire has ever left the county to see a performer that they have previously seen.
The bottom line is, we did like you; very much.
I shall look forward to meeting the writer at Rotherham. I loved the response.
All the best from a road near you,