The weird world of the Whitehaven Festival
In 1998 I came up with the idea that Whitehaven could stage a major festival (over a couple of glasses of wine mind you) and you would think that the strangest thing of all was that it became a success with one event attracting over 300k visits but no, there were far stranger things behind the scenes!
Take the claimers
For example, and we had so many people try it on from tripping over cables that wern't there (let's face it that's like a chancers apprenticeship) to the down right ridiculous. How about the lady who claimed she was wearing £2500 Gucci shoes that were ruined by raw sewerage running down the harbour. It was an easy one to disprove as there were no pipes anywhere near her and when we asked to see the shoes, low and behold she had destroyed them by fire to kill the smell!
Then there was the lady who tried to sue for a blistered throat caused by the exhaust pipe of an Ice cream van. She claimed she didn't know the engine we would be running, all we had to ask was what was she doing with the exhaust pipe and the matter blew away (pardon the awful pun). We had a chap tried to claim for damage to cows caused by air shows so we videoed them one year when the Red Arrows were doing their best to get their udders in a pickle but happily the grass was far more interesting to the unpatriotic milk makers. We also had a lady (sorry girls but you really dont come out of this one very well) who tried her best to make us have a silent festival ie no air shows and no fireworks to protect her nervous horse. We even offered to have a Vet on standby for the horse but all she wanted was silence so we chose to give her that and ignored her.
Then theres the plain funny:
I had arranged for a USA Film crew who were making a documentary about the US Navy to sit on the bow spirit of a tall ship to get a cracking inner harbour view of the Red Arrows. Thankfully they had tied the very expensive kit they were using to their back pack because when the reds did their close fast pass (yes that one, that makes you think they have been smoking something first) the cameraman screamed F,,, me and dropped the camera. That was a spine tingler. Fast forward a year and I was accompanying two senior US officers along the main front when the Reds did it again and the senior of the two officers shouted F,,, me was that a near miss! Fast forward 4 more years and I was taking Jean Christophe Novelli fresh from the stage behind St Nics Church to the harbour to meet one of our sponsors. Now Jean gets stuck right into the whole cooking thing but unless he is fully briefed, he can miss out on the whole scene. So there we were walking towards Stobbarts Marquee on Quay Street, JC was on his mobile and a Hunter Jet (yes it had to be a hunter, all engine no foreplay) came screaming over head causing JC to drop his mobile which smashed and scream F,,, me as I quickly added, Oh sorry did I not tell you about the air shows. Actually F,,, me should have been our motto,,, can anyone translate it to Latin?
Floyd bless his cotton socks was our first celebrity chef demo in the theatre we built in the rear of St Nics but despite his surroundings, his colourful language kept bubbling to the surface. A member of the local clergy spoke up and said rather light heatedly, Mr Floyd, this is still a house of God, to which he replied, Oh Bugger.
Then theres the tight gits:
Why do I have to pay to get on the Sugar Tongue? Answer, because theres tall ships to see, chefs to watch and extra entertainment. Reply: Im not interested in any of that, to which we would say well come back on Monday for free then!
Why do I have to pay to get on the Tall ship, Ive been on that one before!
Why are you charging local children to get into the gig (Ndubz were headlining and were Number 1 in the charts that weekend). One woman even told me that if we put more effort into finding sponsors, I wouldn't have to rip kids off!
Can I just photograph the timetable page as I dont need the programme just the page?
£2 to get on a ship, what does that get me? It gets you on the ship; But what can I do on there for the money? What would you like to do, sail it?
How much are tickets for Status Quo? £39 each. How much for locals? £39 each! Fuck it then you can keep them.
We're not going to the gig but we are having a garden party to listen to them, what times are the different acts on and do you have song lists? Would you like to buy a programme? No, just give me the times!
Theres always just the plain daft:
Are Status Quo staying in a Whitehaven hotel? No, why do you ask? Well if they arent supporting us I'm not buying a ticket to see them!
I've bought tickets for the Rugby ground to watch Status Quo, if it rains on the day will you be putting a roof over the stadium? No, just bring a hat!
This one was a regular after every festival: I missed the event as we booked a weekend away, you need to make the dates clearer and advertise better to which a fairly standard discussion followed; It's been in the local newspapers regularly for a year! I dont read them any more, It's been on BBC local radio and CFM, I dont listen to them, Its been on Border TV ad BBC North East several times, I only watch Sky News, to which I would finally say well in that case can you give me your address and Ill knock next time!
The Newspaper say's Abba Gold are playing the next festival, is that actually Abba?
Conversation overheard by a local reporter on the Friday of one of the Festivals as crowds were heading to the harbour area, voices reported as locals: There must be something on this weekend!
I got a parking ticket during the festival, what are you going to do about it?
And my all time favourite; Why can't we do that every weekend!