Periwinkle finds that festival organisation isn’t quite as straightforward as one might think.
I told you last month that a frozen brain fart caused me to undergo some sort of religious experience. A voice commanded me to stage the mother of all festivals in my lower paddock. The first thing I did was to scoot off to the Scottish Highlands for a week to see whether I could stage a small scale concert as a dry run as it were. I found a suitable site near Ullapool and set myself the ambitious target of organising the entire thing by late afternoon. I mean, how difficult could it be?
In my mind all the elements of the ideal gig clicked perfectly together like Lego – catering, music, stage construction, advertising, security. I already had a name for the event: Loch Up Your Daughters. With a slack handful of luck, McBob would soon be my Scottish uncle.
I broke fast with a Paisley-patterned plate of lightly buttered kippers. Then, with a spring in my brogues and a hole in both Argyll socks, I strolled from my B&B to the post office to pick up a concert licence, the heady odour of seaweed in my nostrils; the screech of gulls in my ears (though I confess it might have been the screech of seaweed in my ears and the odour of gulls up my nose – I’m not really the outdoor type despite owning 5,000 acres).
The first in a series of ego-deflating events came when the postmistress explained that getting a concert licence was a tad more complicated than filling in a form. It would be easier to play a piano sonata wearing boxing gloves, she said.
It got worse. My plan to select a caterer from among the tradesmen’s postcards in the newsagent’s window down the High Street keeled over and sank on discovering that catering wasn’t catered for at all in this shop window marketplace. You could have your pick of rhododendron planters, wheelbarrow repair wallahs or TV chefs keen to make a fast buck teaching tourists how to prepare gorse-flavoured shortbread, but local caterers? Not one.
To cap it all, the Yellow Pages proclaimed that the nearest stage supplier was in Milan. I gave them a bell on my mobile. They wanted three months notice. And did you know that stages don’t come ready assembled? They have to be constructed! On site. Who knew?
The poet Rabbie Burnett had it sussed, didn’t he, with his ‘best laid plans’ sound bite?
As each detail of my fantasy version of concert management crashed and burned, the sheer scale of my naivety unfolded in all its glory. I sat at a table by the window at the local watering hole – the Tartan Partan – in the late afternoon, working my way through their stock of single malts and feeling damned sorry for myself.
By the time the lunch menu did the rounds, the anaesthetic effects of the firkin of whisky I’d quaffed by then, rendered panic medically impossible. But I didn’t feel too good. My ill-placed and delusionally optimistic belief that Loch Up Your Daughters would somehow self-arrange, stemmed, I now realised, from a reservoir of ignorance deeper than Loch Ness. Never once having organised an outdoor event before, of course, didn’t help.
However, you know what they say: ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the gal.’ She cameth alright, and how? She drifted in like dandelion fluff on a summer breeze; a petite, diaphanous, 20-something. She had a soupçon of the flibbertigibbet about her, giving the impression that she was more highly strung than a ukulele. She introduced herself with an insult: “Dude, that’s not a tie, it’s a cry for help.”
“Pleased to meet you too,” I said. “Actually I could use some help. I don’t suppose you know anything about event management?” During a brief pause I thought I heard her utter a soft-voiced ‘Ka-Ching!’ but perhaps it was the malt.
“Like, this is your lucky day!” she said, emptying her handbag onto the table. She sifted through a pile of business cards, eventually proffering one. The card read, ‘The Seventeenth Chakra’ under which was written: ‘Ms Meadow Flowers, Event Organiser … and then some!’
“Like, that’s not my real name of course,” Meadow said, wafting her hands aloft as if delineating the flight paths of two wind-blown Cabbage Whites on a collision course. “My real name’s the alchemical sign for chutney. You know, like Prince? The artist formerly known as?” I took this to be a reference to the Prince of Wales, but could not connect His Royal Highness to chutney in any meaningful way.
If her business cards were to be believed, Meadow held prominent managerial posts with at least 50 companies, each under a different name. From the tilted epicentre of my malt-induced fug I took this, not as a clear warning sign of deception, but as a measure of Meadow’s versatility.
We talked… Well, she talked, I listened, as she set out her qualifications for the job. Apparently, she had an honours degree in 14th century Macedonian folk dance and a Masters in ‘The Art of Experimental Finger Buffet Management.’ She’d seen the film Woodstock 56 times and felt that any additional knowledge of event management would only impact negatively on her panache, a commodity she claimed to have in such abundance that it had to be regularly expressed – like breast milk – to avoid angst.
She went on: “Like I met Michael Eavis, once. He goes: ‘What do you know about event management?’ And I’m like, take a chill pill, Eavey! Like, I’ve seen Woodstock, man. The movie? Like, heaps of times. And he goes: ‘Big deal.’ And I’m like, ‘Cool the beans Daddy-O.’ Like I was really communicating with the old man in his native language, you know.”
At some point I must have passed out. When I came round, the barman told me that I had abandoned the idea of a Celtic concert just before handing Meadow a cheque for four thousand quid to come down and organise a festival on my paddock. I can be quite the entrepreneur it seems, even when unconscious.