The Ashes Explained

Where Did They Come From?

Where, asks D.Smith of Wendover, did the notion of playing for a tatty old jar of fag ashes come from? Why do we do it, and why - when everyone knows that the band contains trainspotters and Airfix kit-builders - are we rather pathetically trying to make out that we are cool sporting types who understand things like 'silly mid-off' and 'gullies?'

Oh ye doubting Thomases. Here for the unbelievers is a short history of what was initially known as 'The Ufford Ashes.'

Paradise Explained

It all began on July 9th 1992. Dee, our then besuited and avaricious agent, had inexplicably booked the band into an obscure country pub somewhere in the wilds east of Stamford. It was called The White Hart, and was in a microscopic village called Ufford. Other bands seemed to be playing there, and as there was a decent fee put up for coming, it seemed ideal. We even got to play outdoors in the beer garden, which was splendid. Attached to the pub was a paddock, in which dwelt a goat, and upon which one could camp, should one desire. It was upon this hallowed turf that the first scratch game of drum-skin frisbee began with the landlord's daughters.
By the following year - also July 9th - this had developed into a kind of free-for-all cricket match. So many people joined in that by the time we had emptied the van out into the pub's car park for the third time - July 28th 1994 - there was not only a trophy to play for, but a full-blown enemy team. Chris from Bishop's Stortford, and his wicked sisters, brought along bats, pads, stumps, and even real hard cricket balls for those brave enough.
The original ashes was an old peanut butter jar full of old dog ends, with a Blyth sticker on it. These were then transferred to a glass train-shaped affair (plastic actually - Ed), which we were determined would be ours in perpetuity. Sadly this was not to be save one glorious year of triumph. Another change of venue and new Ashes, mainly thanks to Trina puffing away like a goodun after we forgot to bring any. These are now simply The Blyth Power Ashes, and so do for anywhere...

Paradise Postponed

The White Hart provided a number of interesting experiences - the year it rained; the year a female Palmated Newt wandered across the stage area; the year it was Protag's birthday; the now infamous Slapgate Affair. It was, on the whole, a light-hearted and good natured alternative to the bilious muddy hell of exploitation that is Glastonbury and its ilk. Sadly, July 21st 1995 was the last time Blyth Power played at Ufford, as the pub changed hands, and stopped being user- friendly.
The event had grown into quite an affair by then, and we were sorry when efforts to find a new venue proved fruitless. Happily, Mr John Taylor alerted us to the presence of The Whistle Stop, adjacent to the East Coast Main Line at Tallington, and after an absence of some years, we were happy to stage the event again. As things turned out, so was everyone else, as it was even better than previous affairs at Ufford.

The venue changed. The presence of the railway line makde up for the lack of a goat - a facility few found much use for anyway. The campsite had all kinds of exciting facilities (that open air commode for instance), and although the space for playing cricket was a little less generous than at Ufford, at least the ground was level, and given the informal nature of the ashes games, it was not really a problem. Sadly, after a good run and a couple of changes of landlord/ladies the old problem of pub-owner-not-really-getting-it cropped up, and the 2007 event was scuppered at the last minute. The following couple of years saw the event transplanted to Derbyshire, before moving to Norfolk for the next year (well, at least it keept Mr Cooper happy), and is now happening at The Plough in Farcet Fen just south of Peterborough.

Now you know what happened.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now, there are a number of questions frequently asked about the event, so now seems a good time to discuss these:

‘Why don’t you book such-and-such-a-band? They’d probably be up for it.’

We don’t ‘book’ anyone. The Ashes just about pays for itself, and we can’t afford to pay anyone for performing. Consequently as we wouldn’t dream of asking people to play unpaid, we have never actually approached anyone in this regard. If bands want to play, they can ask us and we will explain the situation to them. Then it’s down to them. We make absolutely no exception to this, however enormously famous they may be.

‘Why don’t you book any ‘name’ bands?’

We like The Ashes as they are. It’s a friendly affair of family and new and old acquaintances. Anyone’s welcome but the bottom line is that after all these years there are so many familiar faces that it’s become one of the few places we’re prepared to let the kids run wild. Quite apart from the expense of booking a ‘name’ band, we would almost certainly end up with a huge influx of people we don’t know, and have nothing in common with. Anyone’s welcome to buy a ticket and turn up, but The Ashes has had a long slow evolution to the point it has reached now. We and our children have grown up together, and basically we don’t want a bunch of wankers coming in and treating it like it’s a toilet. There are any amount of other festivals where people are paid to clean up after them, and if that sounds parochial and middle class we don’t give a shit. That’s how it is.

‘Why do you always have the same bands playing?’

Because they ask us nicely and because we like them. Slots are generally allocated on a ‘first come first served’ basis and we are booked up for the next year pretty much before we leave site.

‘Why didn’t my favourite band get to play for half an hour longer. They could have done an encore.’

It’s all down to stage management. We are absolute Nazis about this, and the only way to make sure that as many people as possible get a chance to play is to ensure that no one fucks about. Ten minutes extra on someone’s set because they don’t want to stop means that someone else gets to play less. It isn’t fair. Having been left with only half a set on many occasions ourselves because of poor stage discipline we are simply not going to let it happen. Plus, you're probably the one asking me this at the end of the next band's set too. Think about it...

‘Don’t you know who I am?’

No, and we don’t care. That kind of attitude does not exist at The Ashes. If anyone wants to throw their weight about they probably won’t get past an initial email as we have met enough cunts and wankers to be able to sniff them out from a mile away. They certainly will NOT be allowed back.

‘What about the children’s tent?’

Good question. The basic idea is to provide something to help parents keep the kids busy enough and happy enough for some of the time to allow them to enjoy some of the music. We can’t guarantee to be there supervising it all the time, and obviously children below a certain age aren’t going to be left in any case, but every little helps. The one thing we don’t want is to try and make anyone coming to The Ashes take responsibility for it. All the materials provided are regarded as disposable, and if it all ends up in a gigantic brown sludge then fine. The only drawback is that we run out of materials for the next day.
Next year we’ll try and eke the paint and glitter out a bit more. Some of the concoctions cooked up were spectacular, but by Sunday lunchtime all we had left was brown!
Other plans include a separate children’s library, with chairs and books for those inclined. More on that anon, but we have plenty here that the brats are growing out of and contributions will be welcome.

‘…and rubbish?’

Mr Porter and the kids had such a fun time playing bin men that we may consider doing a daily collection next year. Again, we’ll confirm later, but it seems to us that if any accumulated garbage was bagged and left along the fire lane by a sensible hour mid morning, come Monday no one would have to clear anything off the field, Hugo and Joseph could have fun playing in their orange vests, and the hire van would be empty, so all the accumulated bags wouldn’t be thrown in on top of the long-suffering Blyth backline.

‘I don’t like Mondays’

But the landlord does. The bank holiday weekend is a key one for any events venue, and naturally The Hunters is a business that wants to maximize its revenue. We have been asked if we would continue on the Monday in order to allow them to sell more beer. This is something we are considering how best to address. Obviously the reason for moving to the bank holiday was to allow people a day to get home, but on the other hand last time we ended on a regular Sunday, enough people stayed to make it worthwhile. That was at The Goat in darkest Norfolk too, so it doesn’t seem too preposterous an idea…

‘Why did the beer run out?’

Each year we make every effort to liaise with the venue more on all fronts, and we hope to make the whole thing an all round better weekend.

 

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