An open letter to the Ilfracombe Victorian Celebration Committee
As I work my way slowly north to Scotland after a week with you in your lovely town, the changing landscape of Britain unfurling in my lorry windscreen has allowed me time to reflect about the week gone by and I am making those reflections in this open letter.
The weather was against us from the start. It was a one day wonder week but thank goodness the one day was the Saturday. Of course we are staunch in our attitude to the weather in these islands and none so consummately so than the fabulous array of Victorian re-enactors who form the solid British backbone of your event. The strolling Victorians who wend their way from many corners of the country in such superb costumes made the week all it was.
But other things made it such a great occasion too. The town’s traders and shopkeepers who for the first time in many years rose to the occasion and dressed themselves and their windows with such artistry and colour. The superb art competitions which produced a dazzling array of work so professional that the young person’s winning entry was shown in one of the town’s gallery windows alongside a picture with a £3 grand pricetag.
Many people and groups deserve individual thanks and praise. The Junior and Infant schools who dressed up and made their way into town against the rain to show their willingness to take part. The event and venue providers who all rallied round to offer fantastic discounts and offers, Rita Clews, Ilfracombe’s own Queen Victoria, The Studio Players, the Marriotts, Alison Nicholson, Sonya Moore, the Holy Trinity bellringers who rang a special peal, Sara Hodson and Ilfracombe Museum, the Library, Angle Twitch and Exmoor Border Morris, Heather McNeilly, Susan Pengelly, Laurence Butler and Ilfracombe Musical Productions, the classic car club, Barbara and Events4Ilfracombe, Carole, Kate and the Landmark, Martin Morbidans who played the piano and Mel Risk who designed the logo. Thanks to the team of photographers for some wonderful images, particularly to Tim Lamerton, our Victorian clad photographer. And then thanks indeed to all the professionals who were paid small amounts to bring soldiery, street organs, song, dance and drama shows, and extraordinary displays of talent to the town. Thanks to all those I've forgotten to mention by name...
Thanks of course to those who gave money to our Kickstarter project and to those who gave small and not so small amounts. The event could not have happened without you.
And finally to the backroom boys, or in our case the girls, who made the event work in the way it needed to. To Joe and the street collectors, to Suzanne Jordan for updating the website and keeping it updated. And lastly to Lindsay Derbyshire for being the first volunteer who responded to my ‘Needs YOU’ call out and without whom this year’s event could not have happened. It is Lindsay who has been solely responsible for raising the profile of your event locally, nationally and internationally via Facebook and Twitter and animating the superb collection of photographs which will be there for your use in future years. Lindsay has also been there every day as my unpaid stage manager.
Given all the above, it was therefore with some sadness that, having crossed a very wet Celebration Circle at the beginning of the Upstairs Downstairs party on Sunday night, I was confronted by your Chairman who demanded £15 from me to come to the last official event of the Celebration. My two guests, the wonderful Grymmtooms’ Travelling Museum who had worked all weekend outside in the inclemency of the weather, were also similarly refused entry. I took my props, which I had already put in the hall in preparation for doing a special cabaret performance which I had been asked to do by one of your committee and left.
So a final suggestion for future events. When people like Lindsay, Suzanne, Joe and many many others invest their own time and money to make your event such a success, as the Ilfracombe Victorian Celebration 2016 certainly was, it might be at least a decent thing to do to take the opportunity of the last night party event to thank them, maybe buy them a card, a bunch of flowers or a bottle of wine.
As it was an Upstairs Downstairs party, perhaps you could have told those who you invited in free so you could thank them, to join the servants at the back of the queue for the food.
All the best from a road near you,