A pleasure and a privilege to be able to stage manage/MC the annual Helstock, wherein folk of all stripes gather in order to celebrate another year in La Mulley's impressive ongoing accumulation of uninterrupted years of existence. This year she also claimed credit for a quarter century's worth of sole bragging rights on our erstwhile Glorious Leader's attentions, and so Yakima Gold had been procured, a venue booked and donations of cheese encouraged. There was also the small matter of half a dozen turns to get on and off the stage in good order but, hardened by a triumvirate of succesful stage wrangling weekends at Maverick*, I felt that this was the least of my concerns. Indeed it was. Thanks to the provision of a late Easter Cracker I was able to both read a suitably awful joke for my first onstage announcement and to have the opportunity to sport a paper hat in order to establish whether I were appearing as compere (wearing) or, when bereft of headgear, as an artiste - Helen and The Neighbourhood Dogs also making a brief but perfectly performed intrusion as part of the evening's proceedings. I thought I'd made a suitably positive statement by taking off my hat to perform, whereas Helen upped the stakes considerably by removing her entire skirt.
"That hat" someone asked "Is it crepe?" "It does the job perfectly well for what it is" I replied.
After many hugely talented turns, including debut performances by Joe and Tev Partridge**, who have been listening to their mother perform since they were in utero, it was time for putative headliners The Black Feathers, who were in turn mesmerising, beguiling, extraordinary moving, and funny. Having pretty much exhausted my stock of amusing off-the-cuff intros I suggested that I should just do a "Ladies and Gentlemen..." then run up to the top and back of the multi-tiered stage and bang the massive gong which resides there for the use of the Ipswich Hospital Band. I would then announce them in a vaguely hysterical Hugh Dennis The Now Show fashion. That seemed to work quite well. I made my way out of the performance area and sat down next to Becky, innamorata of our own, dear Turny Winn. She turned, measuredly toward me and addressed me with perfect Gerald Thomas-inspired timing. "Rank stupidity".
*I'll say. We once got a thank you letter from Mary Gaulthier. "All festivals should be run this way" she wrote.
**Also an opportunity to use the old Mike and Bernie Winters story - "Oh god, there's two of 'em".