Fayre comment: the stars of this weekend’s show

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I’ve said enough about the Midsummer Fayre in the last few weeks – in press releases, on the radio, and on this blog, not to mention in acres of emails. But it is a pretty big event for me and for H2A, so allow me this final mention before we get back to other things, if only to give some people a bit of much deserved credit.

Morris dancers

There wasn’t anything very midsummery about the weather on Saturday – it was cold and threatening to rain. One or two of our stall holders were maybe put off by this and didn’t make it, whilst others had bad luck with incomplete gazebos and, in the case of one poor craftsman, a theft of all his equipment. In addition, the much-anticipated ‘mobile belfry’ (all the fun of bell-ringing without the spiral staircase) suffered a technical hitch and had to remain packed up on its trailer. As a result of all this, the churchyard had a few gaps when we kicked-off at 10am. But the crowds came, the musicians entertained and soon things were going well.

duke street procession

copyright: Danny Beath

Everyone who took part in the event did a fantastic job – Richard Kirby, Tony Hulme and all the other volunteers from All Saints; my friends who came for a weekend break and ended up packing gazebos away; and all the musicians and stallholders – but here are a handful of people I want to give a special mention to.

Percy the town crier: Percy would make for a great documentary. Pushing 90 and recently widowed, he continues to throw himself into everything he can. He’s become such a reliable fixture of the fayre, always there without fail, I’d forgotten to actually invite him along – and didn’t realise until about midnight on Friday. Saturday morning at 9.15am, with gazebos going up all around me, I called him at home and apologetically asked if he could be around in – say – 45 minutes. Without cursing or complaining, he said ‘I’ll get me gear on.’  Not long after 10am, he rolled into town on his scooter, in full regalia – a sort of Dick Whittington meets Easy Rider.

Percy

Later on whilst leading the procession through the indoor market on said scooter, Percy gave us one of the most laugh-out-loud moments of the day when he pinned an unsuspecting shopper against Ray Gough’s picture stall with his front wheel. Magic. As the procession emerged from the market, Percy waved us goodbye and scooted off down Market Street towards home, red cape flapping in the breeze, another job done. Every procession should have a Percy.

Robyn: It was luck that I should bump into Robyn a few months ago, when I mentioned to her the idea of doing some music from Edward German’s ‘Merrie England’ at the fayre, with Elizabeth I (who sings a solo in the operetta) making a special appearance. This had just been an embreyonic thought until I told Robyn, who not only offered to get the music for Hadley Orpheus choir she conducts, but offered to don a costume and sing the part of Good Queen Bess herself.

Elizabeth I sings

I borrowed a costume from Annie at the Belfrey Theatre (more of her later) and dropped it off with Robyn who, over the weeks that followed, made amendments and repairs and even added new wiring to give it the structure it had once had when it was first made 40 years ago. On the day of the fayre, she glided down the aisle of the church as her men sang ‘Long Live Elizabeth’ before turning to sing her own solo – and she sang it beautifully.

Annie: Annie wins the award for doing far more than was asked of her. Originally I’d hoped to augment H2A’s own costume supply with a few from the local Belfrey Theatre, of which Annie is chief costumier. I was simply going to turn up, pick them up and return them once we were done, with no hassle caused to Annie. And yet, without being asked, Annie came along to our robing session at the church hall a few days before the fayre, helping to fit people in their costumes; she took costumes away to alter them; and she even stayed up all night on Friday trying to get one finished for the next morning. She also dressed up herself, by the way, to provide us with a Queen Victoria – a Queen Victoria who, if not amused, was at least amusing.

Vic et al

copyright: Danny Beath

Matt & Miriam: Matt and Miriam are old New College friends who I roped in to take part a few weeks ago via facebook – broad-shouldered and bearded, I’d got him in mind as Henry VIII (see above!). They kindly came along to the robing session at the church hall to get their costumes last Wednesday night, complete with daughter Eleanor, only to get rewarded by having their car window smashed by a passing thief while they were there. I felt rotten about that. But their enthusiasm undampened, they still came along on the day – and not before Miriam had spent several hours making Matthew a fantastic Tudor shirt completely from scratch (again, without being asked). Matt even brought his clarinet and did some duets with our minstrel, Wyndebagge. As some knowledgeable observers pointed out, a clarinet was not contemporary with Henry VIII, but go easy on us – this is a town fair, not a BBC costume drama.

Tom and Stephanie: When H2A’s Mr Fix It, Tony Nicholls, told me he was going to be away for the weekend of the Fayre and the Barrel Race, a chill ran down my spine. How would we cope? To his credit, Tony did hang around long enough to orchestrate gazebo-erection and various other things before haring off at 9.30 on Saturday morning. We don’t know where he gets his energy.

gazebo

But there was lots more to do throughout the day, and the big clear-up at 3 o’clock. Tom and Stephanie, key H2Aers since we started, took the reigns and made sure that everything happened – Tom was on hand all day (even donning a dress for the lunchtime procession, not a pretty sight), while Stephanie managed to fit a day’s work in at the library between set-up and clear-up. As soon as that was done, they were off to Wrockwardine Village Hall to get ready for our ceilidh – Steph took care of the food and drink, Tom did the barbecue. And they couldn’t even enjoy a lie in on Sunday – between them they did the small job of running the Great Wrekin Barrel Race. Phew. Make no mistake – this was a Herculian effort from them both, and there can’t have been many people in Wellington this weekend who worked so hard for no reward or recognition.

barrel race group

So, that’s that. No more going on about H2A events. But before we put the fayre to bed for another year, join me in a virtual three cheers for these fantastic, happy, selfless individuals who made this weekend possible.

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