A view backstage at Beverley Minster

The end of an era

Neil Pickford looks back on a golden age
Last Friday was somewhat unusual because, for the first time in five years I was in Beverley while 200 young teens were having a good time in the Minster – and I wasn’t there.
I didn’t realise it when it happened but February saw me wash out my ear plugs for the last time after a rather excitable Youth Café. I’ve been the duty virger at almost all of them since 2006, standing stern and unsmiling in the corner to show that there is at least one responsible adult looking after the church while all around me youngsters were having fun.
Mostly my duties consisted of said “standing stern and unsmiling” plus pointing at the mop and bucket whenever a can of cola or similar had been spilled on our venerable stone floor. Maintaining a constant supply of black bin liners for the sweet shop, toilet rolls for the loo and strolling around to spot any problems occupied much of the rest of the period before lights-up and, on a few occasions, I had to offer official First Aid-approved tissues and sympathy when a little knock or graze has occurred.
Back in the (Bad) Old Days I was there on the front line when a miscalculation about the number of adult helpers meant we had to limit entry, to the annoyance of people outside. In that period the average age was higher and we had a few problems with girls sneakily carrying booze in their handbags  (although, once we’d wised up it was easy enough to spot them – they were already half-sloshed when they arrived).
But for the last few years things have been so much more organised and peaceful. It’s mostly 12-14 year olds coming these days, we’ve got a solid core of helpers who do the same essential jobs (checking in, cloakroom duties, sweet shop, cleaning, building and un-building) every time and Lee has a group of younger people who do most of what’s necessary before, during and afterwards. That just leaves the duty virger to move various bits of church furniture back where they should be and, hopefully, make a start on Henrying the floor to remove the most obvious piles of sweet papers and chewing gum before we reopen next day.   
As an aside to the various grumpy-drawers who complain that the Minster shouldn’t be hosting such a noisy, happy event I can only say: “Pooh-sticks!” Some 800 years ago our ancestors started building Beverley Minster to be a magnificent multi-use structure that would act as a triumphant venue for music, activity, movement, commerce, singing and special light shows – with a bit of religion in the background. We’re maintaining that tradition, not setting a new one.
Sorry, veered off-subject there – so back to my theme for the week.
I don’t want you to think that I gave up the Youth Cafes because I’m getting old – because I am NOT.  In any case, I’ve actually stepped down to make way for an older person – part time virger Kevin. So there.
I know all about old people – they were everywhere when I was a wee slip of a lad (but not nowadays – odd that). Anyway, they used to sit in the corner at Christmas time, smelling of mothballs and sipping sherry. Once the happy-juice had kicked in they would utter banal observations such as: “It’s turned out nice again for the time of year, hasn’t it?”
Quite often further ‘conversation’ (and I use that word in its loosest sense) then revolved around the dreadful ‘Youth of Today’ and one area of elderly consensus was in the world of music. We youngsters shouldn’t be listening to: “that beat rubbish – you can’t hear the words,” and their control of the media made sure we got very little exposure to it. Just about the only form of music we were allowed was on “Childrens’ Favourites”.
And, apparently, what we really enjoyed were musical whimsies celebrating young boys killing wild creatures; tales of brass instruments that felt sad, or mice infesting a Dutch windmill. “Childrens’ Favourites” – my bottom.
And yet, despite the oldies in the BBC, we had brilliant music being made: The Beatles, The Move, The Who, The Kinks, Pink Floyd and hundreds of almost-as-good wannabes. Then, the next generations followed with Queen, Nirvana, The Prodigy, Placebo, Muse, the Foo Fighters and Rammstein. I had thought the music of my youth would keep rejuvenating itself for the future to enjoy.
Sadly I was wrong. The music of THIS generation has different roots, and it’s rubbish.
Oh, I know I’ll be accused of sounding like my Gran but there’s a big difference. Today it’s ME who can’t make out the words.
However, I don’t mind. My music was of my time and for my time, and I mustn’t condemn the younger generations because they are different. Instead, I must judge each person by how they really are – which, after all, is one of the lessons of Christianity. The teenagers in the Minster Youth Cafe are well-behaved and have a good time without annoying anyone (much) and you can filter out the noise if you want to.
And last Friday evening I contentedly took off my wig, spat out my teeth then settled down with Led Zeppelin and a nice cup of cocoa.
Happy Daze.

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