Plough Inn 2013

2013 - The Barman and Other Stories

Well I know this is long overdue, and offer no excuses, but Ashes 2013 has stuck in our memories for three chief reasons. Firstly, because it was the first time we ran on to the Monday, and we had a whole load of very nice surprises thanks to the support and help of Ashes regulars. Secondly, it took place during the Kickstarter project, and the overwhelming response to this made us feel particularly loved-up, and thirdly, for the first time our own home-grown act took to the stage in what some might choose to regard as the most significant moment in Ashes history. Fruit Salad performed live on stage and now nothing will be the same again…

OK, so let’s look at these three aspects of the weekend individually. ‘Ashes Monday’ sprang up thanks to the not unreasonable request of The Plough that we carry on an extra day as the bank Holiday Weekend is potentially a good earner, and better for them to make the most of a weekend they could very easily dispose of in their calendar. We agreed, and it seemed fair enough, as this way the ground rent didn’t go up and everyone was happy. Of course we had to fill it up somehow, and also try to make it an attractive prospect for people sticking around, and thus was hot upon the plan for rehashing an old album in its entirety for a one-off performance to be delivered on the Monday evening, with an exclusive booklet made available to those present only.

The event started as usual with folks rolling up from Thursday lunchtime, ready for a Friday start. Friday, however, brought one or two rude awakenings… Health & Safety raised its head, and demanded our full and frank attention. It seems that in our innocence – as The Ashes has simply grown organically from year to year without any real intention on our part of its being anything other than a gathering of friends – we have neglected to pay attention to the current dictates of Health and Safety, and that a number of crucial pieces of paper had been overlooked as regards risk assessment and the like. We were fortunate in that the local authorities permitted us to proceeded this year on the understanding that we would get it sorted in 2014, and part of this year’s plan is to ensure that we comply with all requirements in this regard. Yes I know this sort of thing isn’t necessarily in the spirit of Stonehenge ’83, but at the end of the day most of it is common sense, and that which isn’t is simply the law so look out for some additional red tape this year.

Anyhow, Friday passed off delightfully, with the usual galaxy of stars,although the hired in shower was a complete waste of money, and we are grateful to the Plough for allowing us access to the green container by the staff caravans, which worked fine and was perfectly adequate once it had been given a good scrubbing down by Mr Porter and his assistant Number One, Ruth, (to whom great thanks are in order following a very busy weekend assisting the Old Man in his duties, and we hope she will be prepared to step up again this year, as he is older and stupider than ever, and would greatly benefit from a good sidekick).

We were fortunate in the weather right up until half way through the cricket match, at which point ‘He opened the heavens and it thundered and poured’. Fortunately a draw was uneccessary as the presence of the second marquee enabled us to uproot the whole match and take it indoors, where the Cracktown team were given the rest of the thrashing they so richly deserved. Ashes – and honour – were retained, and we went on to celebrate the day with yet further galaxies of stars, after which Blyth Power played their Saturday night set and thus we went to bed…

The same Blyth Power seem to have opened proceedings on the Sunday morning. This was down to a number of requests by parents for a set they could actually attend during daytime, as they kept on missing the night time ones. It seems to us that as The Ashes is designed around the fact that so many of us have families now this is more or less a fundamental right, and we should have thought of it years ago. Thus 2014 will see the same again, with a Blyth set kicking off the Sunday programme.

As for the rest of Sunday, I recall it was splendid and everyone rocked, but the specifics elude me, as I am old and confused… Apologies to Jasun for the unexpected welcoming of our very own Ashes Virgin to the event, but blame The Beard and Brother Bemps.

So to Monday, and we were delighted with the response to the afternoon fete. This proved highly successful, hugely enjoyable, and extremely amusing, and we are grateful to all participants, stallholders, and those who joined in with the tug-o’-war, and other events. Of note were the bring and cry stall, the hoopla (for which we had been donated dozens of fould deodorant samples), and the noble and selfless Silver Fox who permitted himself to be drenched for the common weal. This proved particularly popular, and participants were rewarded by the sight of the great man returning to the field in his pyjamas after having dried off… At least I think that happened. Or was it just a fantasy?

So we wound things up with a complete performance of ‘The Barman and Other Stories’ live on stage on the Monday evening, and it all seems to have gone sufficiently swimmingly that we are repeating the experience this year with another vintage collection cobbled together for a one-off along similar lines. Thanks, then, to everyone for a cracking weekend, for all the help with the children’s tent, and other aspects of the event. Looking forward to this year…

So what about that performance alluded to? Fruit Salad live on stage? Well, basically the girls wanted to perform, so an impromptu rehearsal was held – I think it was on the Saturday morning, and ended up with the ladies singing live to a backing band made up of other Ashes regulars. They sang a cover of X-Ray Spex ‘s ‘Germ Free Adolescence, and their own disrespectful version of a Pog song. It was a rough and ready show but – most crucially – they were live on stage singing, having made the effort to do so by their own enthusiasm and energy, and it is this that we find so satisfying, and would like to make some effort to encourage further this year, and at future events.

So, Mr Porter’s current plan is to host informal music classes in the spare marquee from around 9 – 10.30am over the weekend. The idea is for anyone interested in either learning or teaching to be there before music starts on the main stage, and such knowledge and wisdom as our musicians have collectively acquired over the years can be shared and made available. It will probably get off to a shaky start, as teaching can be as self-conscious and embarrassing a business as learning, but there seems to be an interest both to give and to take, so it seems silly not to try and let something interesting grow, quite literally, out of the Ashes. So, Mr Porter proposes to lug his drums next door for morning lessons, and anyone who wants to come and sit in, either to teach or to try their hand, are welcome. The worst that can happen is that he will spend a quiet reflective hour alone in an empty marquee, but that will harm no one. Any instrumentalist who wants to come and run their own workshop during these times is more than welcome – the spare marquee is big enough for anyone to run a class in a quiet corner, or we can work together and see what happens. It’s just an idea at the moment, and we’ll see how it pans out when we get there, but I’d like to think at very least that if there are members of the ashes community who’d like to try and get involved with the music, then the opportunity will be made available, without clashing either with the regular music programme or spoiling anyone’s breakfast. Any musicians interested in joining in with this hare-brained scheme get in touch and we’ll see what we can sort out together. In the meantime, thanks again for 2013. It was a great weekend, and thanks for all the Kickstarter pledges that made it so special. We’ll have the new CD at Ashes 2014, as well as a Monday set of old stuff, so come along and we’ll see you there as usual.