A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Another brush with fame

Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford goes multimedia.
It’s been a strange few days really, an almost non-stop sequence of dealing with various people from the BBC- my dulcet tones wafting through the ether courtesy of Radio Humberside on two separate occasions (Hi James and Lara!) while my battered and thoroughly lived-in body has been digitally captured for the future delectation of viewers to BBC websites. It must be thanks to that pretty certificate of competence in floor cleaning I told you about the other week. Or possibly it’s due to a combination of bizarre coincidences rather than any innate talent or plan.
I won’t make too much of a fuss about my new-found fame – we ‘downstairs’ types know our place (or so old ‘wotsisname’, that vicar chappy, thinks – hahaha) but I must say that, as we discovered in May, the boys and girls in the BBC backroom are all jolly nice, friendly and accommodating. And if they aren’t then they certainly do a darn good impression of it.
I know I’m not a genius interviewee, nor am I a fantastically gifted and attractive presenter but, by the time the editing work has been finished on my pieces to camera for Turn Back Time I will at least appear to be competent – and that’s taken some doing. When I know when my contribution is available online I’ll let you know and you can judge for yourself.
It’s easy, in the middle of such excitement, to get carried away with it all and forget the day job but I was dragged back to earth by my irritatingly random brain. Having got into a BBC frame of mind my mind wandered through my dusty and unordered attic of BBC-tagged memories. One in particular from the 1960s mugged me – radio comedy favourite ‘Round the Horne’ and, in particular, a regular section called “Boys in the Backroom.” (you can probably see where that random flash came from).
And then I realised there were people in the background of the Minster who were even more deserving of publicity than I at the moment – particularly in the busy build-up to Christmas. So this week I am pleased to shine a spotlight onto the efforts and achievements of our Minster catering team.
Now this is a floating group of volunteers, numbers varying dependent on what is being prepared, who started off cooking monthly parish lunches for church members. A year or so back, under the leadership of Peter and Carol Mounstephen, they started the fund-raising Shoppers’ Lunches – providing a range of warm ‘comfort foods’ available every third Saturday of the month to all who come – and boy, have they been coming. Each one generates a few hundred pounds profit towards reducing the Minster debt and their efforts over the two days of preparing and serving are thoroughly appreciated by hundreds of people.
But that’s not all: they provide meals on request for weddings, visiting groups, refreshments for events in the Minster and even, during the filming of Antiques Roadshow, hundreds of sandwiches for visitors queuing during the day (as well as a list of dozens of volunteers and those behind the cameras. Even we virgers were catered for – a veritable treat). It’s a rare week when at least one of the Mounstephens doesn’t roll up, laden down with various ingredients to start work on yet another culinary enterprise.
Hours and hours of work in our hot Parish Hall kitchens has built up an expertise in cooking, presenting, serving and tidying up that is the envy of many other organisations, and we’re very proud of this. So much so that, when a visiting choirmaster suggested in a letter that ‘some of your ladies may be able to provide tea and cakes for the boys,’ the rest of the Minster staff felt rather insulted on their behalf.
Our ladies (AND gentlemen, thank you very much) could provide tea and cakes without even blinking. It’s an innocently insulting request similar to asking Eric Clapton if he’s up to strumming along to ‘Kumbayah,”; wondering if Stephen Fry had the ability to string two sentences together, or whether Wayne Rooney could look stupid.
Unsung heroes, all of our team, and this month they’re doing an additional Shoppers’ Lunch (on 11th December) as well as the normal one on Saturday 18th – in this case to raise money to pay for a new motor for the dishwasher. They’ve worn the old one out through all the catering they’re doing, don’tchaknow?
This, I’m sure you agree, is a worthy objective and one that most people would think highly deserving, so you can support them by turning up on either date – and have a decent meal in the process.
I’m even prepared to sell my newly-valuable media celebrity autograph (if anyone’s daft enough to want it) at £1 a time in aid of the cause.
First published December 2010 


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