Monday, 15 July 2013

Can you Keep a Secret, Promise not to Tell?

You might have thought that 2012 was the Summer of the volunteer what with the Olympics and the Golden Jubilee but I can now reveal to you, that you are wrong… it’s actually 2013 or else I might actually be part of the legacy which is why I have not been around on the blog for a little while. We have had the Leigh Art trail, then the Folk Festival for which I can show you injuries gained through tying up balloons – if you were not aware they are vicious and can skin your knuckles – the library campaign is on-going but this weekend we had Metal Culture’s Village Green at Chalkwell Park.  This is where I got to be a rock chick, well OK old boiler, working with the media team in the VIP area.  I was introduced to Margaret, who I would be working with, it was fine until I realised that I was not just old enough to be her mother but I could also be her granny!
If you think that Village Greens are for picnics and cricket, you would be right… but our Village Green has so much more.  We had circus tents, music venues, food from around the world, craft markets, poetry, cinema tents, aerial acrobats, amazing art exhibitions, yoga… you’re kicking yourself for not being there, aren’t you?  And amazingly thanks to sponsors like the Arts Council, Southend Council and our local paper The Yellow Advertiser it was free.
This was my first year of volunteering at Village Green and I got to work with local author, Syd Moore (The Drowning Pool) who was the media manager, and boy had she been busy.  She had local BBC Essex on site for the morning, I even got to talk on air… well maybe talk is embroidering it, but that really was me saying “Hello” and whistling.  She also had an exclusive interview for The Observer with our secret special guest, and NME together with other local and National press.  The volunteer team gathered for our final briefing just before 9.00am and then she told us under strictest confidence, who the special guest was… it was none other than Wilko Johnson.  If you came from Essex in the 70s there were a number of great local bands and singers, The Kursaal Flyers, Alison Moyet from Basildon and from Canvey Island the legendary Dr Feelgood of whom Wilko was their lead guitarist famed for his choppy style which some say is due to his efforts to reproduce Johnny Kydd and the Pirates, “Shaking all Over”.
This is Wilko outside the Railway Pub, a well known live music venue in Southend
However, there is something else you should know about Wilko, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer early in 2013, he was scheduled to do a final tour whilst he was still fit enough but had to cancel a number of dates due to his illness.  This meant we were on tenterhooks to see if he would be well enough to cope with the overpowering heat we enjoyed on Saturday.  His first interview with The Observer was scheduled for 10.00am on Saturday morning - we held our breaths and listened for the phone call to let us know if he had to cancel it – the phone did not ring.  We breathed out.
Then the interrogations started, “who was the special guest?” especially from the sound engineer from BBC Radio Essex’s Mr & Mrs with Al(ice as we know him) and Sadie Nine.  Al interviewed couples from the park including the Lili and Sam, aka Lili La Scala, a gorgeous burlesque dancer… no-one should look that glamorous five months post pregnancy and her other half Sam aka The Boy with tape on his face (I am giving you a health warning do not watch this with a drink in your hand or mouth).  Sadie in the studio had the upper hand in the studio and pulled the plug on him a couple of times… oh that other women had that sort of control over their men!
Wearing my ear piece like an old pro backstage...
At 4.00pm, Wilko came for pictures and another short interview and he was spotted… BBC Radio Essex, were off and running... a team from Look East came haring down to add to Muir and Liam who were filming a documentary about Wilko’s gig plus a radio news team who managed an ad hoc backstage interview.  Still the news was embargoed, probably helped by the topography of the park which limited the amount of social media you could indulge in.  And Wilko went home, have to honest at this point I did not think he would make it back, despite looking sensational in the photo shoot with Simon Fowler
One of Simon Fowler's amazing pics of Wilko
Then at a few minutes before 7.00pm he returned with his infamous fender decked out in bordello red and black face, and stepped onto the stage… as the crowd realised who it was they were stunned and then rushed towards the stage… I was lucky to be in the pit, getting deafened by a fabulous set… I am sure that the music and sound of the crowd drifted back to his old Alma Mater, Westcliff High.  It was hard not be emotional when you realised that this gig was the one of the few that he had left… until he gurned at you and shot you with his staccato Thames Delta guitar style and you realised that this man was going to smash it.  The pit was awash with telephoto lens’ and crew sneaking back to take a look… even Sumo who was responsible for the stage came to have a look and listen, praise indeed. 
Now I know why the boys needed those telephoto lens' in the pit
He left the stage to Bye, Bye Johnny Be Good... a grin, a wave and he left the park. 

He was good.  I was lucky.  Actually no, I was privileged.  Thank you so much Mr Johnson for a lovely evening from an old boiler.
 Now for a little bit of housekeeping, if you were there; text VGFR33 £3 to 70070 that way we keep it free for another year.  You know it makes sense.
 And finally, if you are the swine who nicked Sam Duckworth’s acoustic guitar, give it back… you will never be as good as he is.