A little off, then back on, Beamish
It was partly the weather which for the first three days was damp, foggy and dreich (not far from Scotland and I love that word!). It’s partly the fact that the lorry had to be parked away from the field and it was a muddy ten minute walk. It was partly that there was no electricity on the field and no generators allowed, so no lighting or microphones (except they used an anachronistic radio microphone in the arena!) This is so the event has the feel of an agricultural show of a hundred years ago. It’s partly that all participants and volunteers (and I) were charged 35p for tea on the field and had no way to make our own. (The public paid £1.65 which is almost motorway prices!)
The place itself, the bricks and mortar, is very impressive. A huge site and lots for the public to see and do. But there was a feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on; a lack of something. Nobody said anything to me about the show so I have no idea of whether it was what they were expecting. Actually I didn’t see any of the organisers in the audience.
On the first two days of the show, it being Thursday and Friday, and given the weather and the time of year, there were not many paying public coming in. However schools were present on visits and maybe five or six groups from local primary schools arrived early on the field both days. They had timetabled activities which so easily could have included a shortened show by Mr Alexander. Some of the more flexible teachers made it possible for their charges to watch my 11.00 programmed show, by bending their timetables, but not all of the children were ‘allowed’ to do so, so only a small percentage saw it. I thought it was a missed opportunity. If they had wanted something ‘educational’, I could have even done a short illustrated talk about the Music Hall. It just hadn’t been considered.
I don’t want to seem a lackluster killjoy, as there were notable exceptions. A friendly woman in the Costume Department who put my wing collar shirts through the Beamish washing machine (but who said that I was not to tell anyone that she’d done it!). When I asked her name to thank her she told me it was Cinderella! I said she would go to the Ball, which made her smile. A lovely guy, Tony, who forests with horses and who came over for chats between my shows. A Punch Professor who (despite what you may know I feel about Punch and Judy) is laconic and hardened to the life of the travelling performer and whose daily ascerbic comments made me smile. Performing Punch has rubbed off on him. Or maybe he has just found the right calling for his wonderful sharp personality! And on the last day he gave me a lovely present of a wooden magic production box that he said he never used but thought would suit my style. I took to him.
The third day was worse, weather-wise. The organisational issues, if anything, matched the weather. Half way through my first show came a completely unnecessary PA announcement about an arena event about to start. Bear in mind I am using voice only and a small amplifier for my music so this announcement was a real interruption of the show, just when I had the audience with me. I had even asked previously about arena announcements not competing with me! I stopped the music and waited with the audience for the announcement to finish. There were some other minor programming issues too through the day. However, I do understand how much work goes into running these events and I think they were under some pressure.
Do I seem over-critical? I just wanted it all to be so smooth and easy. If am asked back, maybe they might listen to a couple of suggestions to improve my contribution to it, and the day generally.
On the last day the sun came out. This really changed things and for the first time I saw the event’s potential. What a difference the sun makes. Especially when you can’t make your own tea! Next year I will definitely set up an illicit free tea stall for participants!
Never mind, next week at Victoria Park, Widnes, the North West Steam Rally should be a great event. Let’s hope the sun shines. And tea is 60p (or free to you from my lorry!)
All the best from a road near you,