A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Work, work, work

Neil Pickford is pooped

It was a tiring old week last week – we had our annual REaction event where several hundred pre-teens are given a day of dancing, loud music, quizzes, a bit of learning and a special virgers’ tour as part of their religious education.

This year it ran from Monday to Wednesday which meant I swapped my normal two midweek days off to shout loudly at groups of excited children and wave my arms around in the roof all day for the duration.

John, bless his cotton socks (and aching legs) opted to lead many of the parties up and down the stairs so I thought I’d got the easier part of the day: John thought he’d got the better deal so we were both happy, but my poor ‘ickle throat was vewy, vewy tired at the end of each day and demanded a soothing glass of red wine – for medicinal purposes you understand.

In between these we walked around, gauging the mood of children and visitors and comparing notes. My goodness, you don’t half get some cobblers thrown at you: one year I was indignantly told that a visitor, who had just walked through the main entrance, had been planning this trip for years and it was utterly ruined for her.

I pointed out that the event was due to finish very soon and normal peace and calm would prevail once more – but apparently her trip of a lifetime was only scheduled to last for a total of ten minutes so she couldn’t stay for that.

Another year I was loudly informed that children should be seen and not heard and it was blasphemous to have them running around and having fun. I asked how long it was since they’d last been in a church to worship rather than as a tourist and they told me, with some pride, that they weren’t Christians – which rather undermined their right to lecture us on how to behave in our own building, I thought.

Of course, not everyone was so negative. In fact the vast majority (while wincing at the noise levels) thought it was marvellous to see so many youngsters having a good time in the Minster: “It certainly won’t do them any harm” was a common reaction, “And a few of them might come again.” And we agree.

Anyway, we virgers and everyone else involved with the event – the 11th we’ve hosted – agreed it had probably been the best-run yet and was all very satisfying. We then stripped everything down, packed all the staging away and I was walking out of the door when the ‘phone rang. Stupidly I answered it.

Apparently a concert scheduled for the next lunchtime was not, as we thought, 50 ladies singing from the floor but 150 ladies who required raised staging and seating for all. This was rather unexpected and a huge amount of extra work – and all the more irritating because we had packed the staging away.

As I was flying solo next day John and I decided to tear into the task right then and there. We worked like maniacs and, from first ‘bless’ uttered through clenched teeth to final set-up was a mere two virger-hours (equivalent to six normal man-hours).  I thanked John and he thanked me because he figured those would be the only ones we’d get for our efforts.

And that’s how it turned out because, next morning, I got another phone call telling me ‘sorry, but I’ve got the concerts mixed up. It IS only 50 ladies after all and they didn’t want staging. Sorry’.

Oh, how we laughed.

Over a 20 minute period, I personally set the world record for speedy dismantling of a large stage while not swearing. And then, for some strange reason, I felt rather tired.

I’m told it was a nice concert.


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