Netley to Hinckley to Heckington
It’s all in the location. Not just the style and theme of an event but location can make a huge difference to the success of my contribution. I have been concerned for a couple of years about my pitch at Netley Marsh Steam Rally and this year it was made considerably more difficult. I am beside a main ‘road’ leading to and from the main arena and this year was at least a yard closer to it. This of course resulted in problems for the vehicles coming past my audiences. At times it felt like perfoming on the M6. At least the organisers this year closed the road for the middle part of the day but it meant the exhibitors had a slightly longer detour to the ring and expressed their dislike in no uncertain terms. I thought one man would have a heart attack as he lambasted me for having the audacity to prevent his tractor taking the route they had always taken. His wife even said that if she had children there was no way she would let them watch my show. It is fascinating how shows bring out all the best and worst of people. The showground becomes a microcosm of the world as a whole.
The location in Hinckley is as near perfect as I could wish for. A gently sloping market square with a level patch at the top for the lorry and stage. Easy access and the sun facing me and not in the audiences’ eyes. Travelling performers must have occupied this spot for centuries. I love the few town centre gigs I do. Britain’s town centres are in sad and rapid decline due mostly to the ease of out of town shopping and the burgeoning of the superstores. Towns like Hinckley are becoming ghost towns with mostly charity shops and only the usual national chain stores. The town centre managements who are addressing this issue may be fighting a losing battle but I applaud and support their efforts. The management of Hinckley Town Centre are brilliant. Helpful, supportive and imaginative. The result a sweet stand and good audiences. Hinckley used to be sock central for Britain. All the sock makers have left town. I bought a pack of socks from the town’s TK Maxx. They were made in Taiwan.
And so to Heckington Show in Lincolnshire. This was a new one for me and I had been looking forward to it. Advertised as the ‘largest Village Show in the country’, it certainly was big. I was to be part of what is called the Heritage area, and had offered to come for busking money only as it was on my route south from Hinckley, I wasn’t booked that weekend and they wanted to see whether the show would fit into their Victorian theme for 2017.
Maybe because they weren’t paying me, maybe because this year's World War I theme didn’t quite fit what I did, maybe it was the style of the area which was populated mostly by re-enactors and there wasn’t a lot of available space (strangely as there were large open spaces alongside the area), but all in all it was a disappointing stand. There were other performers on the area who all needed their time slots so I could do no show buildup or wind down. No improvisation between shows so I just was standing around for much of the time.
The worst aspect was that there were fireworks on the Saturday night and everyone there said it was usually the best display around. So I made plans to leave in plenty of time with Mimi and Blue. Heckington has a railway station so we caught the train to the nearest small town Sleaford and enjoyed a meal near the station in a sunny pub garden. The event organiser had said the fireworks were scheduled for 9.45 and the last train was due back at Heckington at 10.15 so it all seemed good. When we arrived back at the station and walked into the village the place was deserted. This was unsettling because if the fireworks had finished the place should have been heaving with the 30,000 people who attend. I met another dog walking couple who told me the fireworks were late and had not yet started. They were heading home speedily.
This was a nightmare as I was in a strange village late at night with two dogs who become very disturbed by fireworks. We started walking away from the show site but hadn’t gone very far when the display started. My two started shaking and fretting and all we could do was hide behind a transit van at the side of the road and sit it out. Horrible for them. Blue shook so badly I thought she was going to have a fit. When I returned to the show site afterwards my neighbours said the horses in the ring who were there as part of the World War 1 show had been so terrified they had almost broken out of the ring.
I wont be going back to Heckington.
All the best from a road near you,