A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Making an Antique

Neil Pickford finds himself ageing rapidly.
As I write these words I am young, vibrant and bright. By the time you read them I shall be old, broken and worn.
The cause of this transformation can be summed up in two words: “Too Many Things.”
OK, I know that’s three words but I’m already too tired to go back and change that sentence – let’s just hope I have enough strength to get to the end of the column.
Anyway – hidden in one of we virgers’ favourite self-help books, “The Joy of Pecs” (which John and I study chiefly because of its guide to safe lifting techniques) is the useful advice: “Don’t overdo it!”
Well, I can honestly say I don’t mean to, but I shall be amazed if I’m not feeling completely pooped by Saturday.
“Things” started badly during the East Riding County Choir performance of pieces by the Haydn brothers, who, one newspaper preview had stated, would be attending in person.
This was obviously a bit of a shock to the brothers, who have both been dead for over 200 years, but they did their best. Sadly, their efforts to materialise in the interval blew one of the main 100 amp fuses to the Minster and we had to cancel the second half of the concert.
The choir sadly dismantled the staging while we virgers turned all the chairs back in the nave to face the east end of the church again – making variations in the normal plan to accommodate Songs of Praise.
So yes, thank you very much everyone who commented that Row 18 was missing – that’s where the BBC want a camera run so it’s entirely deliberate.
And yes, the seats were a bit closer together than normal because we were putting 550 people in an area that normally has less than 400 chairs.
Not that it matters because, by now, they will all have been moved again – in fact removed completely, so that Antiques Roadshow can have an uninterrupted nave for all their stands and cameras. But, unless you pop into the Minster very, very quickly you won’t see this because John and I will have returned them all to their proper positions by the time doors open again at 9am on Saturday.
Between these minor tasks we virgers have also been up and down into the roof and ‘atop’ the clock tower so many times for one thing and another – Bank Holiday tours, ordinary tours, pointing out camera angles and positions for the two directors, training Aled and Fiona how to broadcast while safely working our giant hamster wheel, running errands, pointing things out – oh, you know, things.
Then there was a wedding, two concerts, the special St John of Beverley service with visiting mayors and dignitaries and the farewell service to long-serving curate Richard Carew (who is leaving us to annoy the Archbishop of York instead), and you can see it’s been a busy old week or so.
So please forgive me for feeling like I do.
By the way, last week I did promise I’d explain why we spell ‘Virger’ with an ‘I’ at Beverley Minster, rather than the ‘e’ as most churches do. Sadly, I’m too tired so you’ll have to hold your breath until next week.
Until then…..
First published May 2010

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