Summer in the (wet) City
23rd & 24th June 2007
During a rather splendid meal one balmy summers evening in 2005 Keith Townsend reminded us that Spring Hill College, the home of Moseley School, would be 150 years old in 2007. Furthermore he suggested a grand scheme to rival the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria, held there in 1887, and the fundraising event held in 1973 which helped raise the much needed cash required to start building a sports pavilion for the school. Little did any of us know what lay in store.
In June 2006, as plans evolved the Moseleians gave a presentation to school staff who embraced the idea with several members of staff joining the small group organising the event. As the weeks passed so did our need for expert advise and so the small group grew to be a large group including numerous city council, police, licensing, health and safety and fire officers. These new members brought with them great lists of hurdles we would need to jump in order to make the event safe and legal. Licences would need to be granted, health and safety groups would need to be set up and insurances purchased. It was quickly apparent that the event would take large amounts of time and cash to organise. The cash came in the form of a number of sponsorship deals for various aspects of the event while the legal hurdles took up more and more of our time and were, quite frankly absurd. In order to hold our event we had to pass the same stringent tests that, say, a large pop festival would need to have. The law makes no distinction between small school events with over 500 people in the grounds or a large Wembley type event with up to 50,000 visitors. The law is an ass and unfortunately our eye was taken off the ball by spending so much time sorting this out. However sort it out we did and by the end of April things were looking very good. We had glorious sunshine all month and the main attractions were in place: A 5km road run, bungee jumping, live music stage, funfair, simulators, Victorian cream teas, marching bands, falconry and much more. Barry Phillips scored some great successes with early press releases and the list of performers for the stage was starting to look very impressive. As the weather turned in May so did our fortunes. The company building the stage informed us they only had a stage available for one day and not two as promised, the funfair still promised the earth but gave no confirmation of what attractions they would be providing and the orchestra who were due to play at the proms evening discovered to their horror that we were talking about 2007 and not 2008. No way would they have a programme of music ready in time. Did we panic? No time for that and within 24 hours we had a new stage company and not one but two new
orchestras. By this time we had started to advertise the event fairly heavily with letters and visits to all schools in the area, press advertising, radio interviews, leaflet drops, poster and banner advertising. The weekend was absolutely packed full of entertainment and the phone was red hot with exhibitors signing up craft and side stalls. The only snag was the rain, and boy didn’t it rain, every single day for six weeks, then it stopped raining and turned to drizzle instead. Eighteen hours before the gates were due to open the stage crew arrived and a magnificent stage grew, phoenix like from the damp playing fields and the lighting crew set to work in the rigging. 20 portable toilets arrived, 50 trestle tables with 55 crash barriers. Flags, bunting and balloons were prepared and displays were… well… displayed. Then my mobile rand. “Hello Roger, It Gilmore Smith here, the man with your simulator for the weekend. I’m not coming because I’ve got to wash my hair, or it’s raining, or I have had a better offer” or whatever excuse it was because I was so angry with him I wasn’t really listening. All I can say is the air turned blue. Meanwhile the stage crew were putting the final touches to their creation and by midnight the stage was set, quite literally, for the unknown element the next day would bring. By Saturday morning the drizzle had subsided but my nerves were given another test. “You know that funfair I have been promising you for the past six month” said Mr Rose, the fairground man. “Well its just me with three little kiddies rides!”, “You know all those classic cars we said we would bring, well we don’t want to get them wet,” said numerous classic car guys. Actually they didn’t, in fact they didn’t say anything they just didn’t turn up. And so the day wore on. Clearly we had overestimated the numbers of visitors but to be honest we had no choice because the licensing authority insisted that we catered for every eventuality, we even had 24 hour security guards.
Those who did come all seemed to have fun, even the Lord Mayor, and without exception everyone who performed on stage was superb. The Calthorpe Crew, a school for children with disabilities, danced for us, Shirley Pipe Band marched, The Dhol Blasters drummed, various folk groups played their socks off and we even had an appearance from Elvis himself. After a short break in the late afternoon the Birmingham Schools’ Brass and Wind Orchestras took to the stage and gave a superb proms performance, sponsored by FGF Organisation and Richard Cobb, to an audience of flag waving picnickers. The evening was definitely a great success. Sunday morning saw around 200 runners line up for the 5km run, sponsored by Resolution plc. Police bike riders helped marshal what proved to be quite a gruelling course, cunningly devised by Moseley School PE teacher Keith Scott. The first runner returned to great cheers in a time of 22 minutes 19 seconds. Sunday afternoon saw former pupil Carl Chinn broadcast his live BBC WM radio show from the event with interviews from many Moseleians including David Slimm, who had travelled back from America after 50 years to be with us. As the afternoon drifted on various Moseleians including, Sarah Lee and yours truly, threw themselves off the bungee crane while others became memorised by the return to the stage of Paul ‘Elvis’ Martin. As I write this article now and reflecting on the weekend I can see that we were very ambitious in taking on such a challenge, but I make no apologies for that. Many aspects were a great success, mainly the ‘home grown’ ones such as the cream teas, face painting, school tours, displays, Moseleians members room and the 5km run and while we build on these we can learn lessons from the whole experience. Certainly I have learnt never to go out again with Keith Townsend for an evening meal.