As I had to collect the stage from Hartley Hall, this was cut short. I'd arrange to meet the crew and Dave the caretaker at 9.45 at Hartley Hall. So a quick trip to the studio to collect the BALLS bike club van and then around to Hartley Hall. I'd arranged for Gerry and festival volunteer Steve to meet me, so that with Dave we could get the stage out. This proved to be a challenge. Dave had a trapped nerve in his back, so couldn't help. Therefore a job that would be easy with four people became a logistics exercise. Hartley Hall is a great venue and Mill Hill is lucky to have it. There are however a few issues with getting gear in and out. As the Hall is in the basement, all gear either has to be taken passed through a narrow loading gap. For large items such as stages, this is the only feasable way in, but it is problematical. It requires people on ladders, which to me is inherently risky. Passing heavy items to people through a narrow hatch is never a great idea and all you need to do is drop something and someone will get hurt. I think a winch and pulley system would be far safer and will be speaking with the Hall to suggest a few ideas. If you are designing a Hall, get in touch with me and for a small consideration, I'll help you design the safest and most accessible hall you could possibly want! I've spent 35 years moving gear about and if you have a safe load in, it makes a world of difference. It is easy to sort this out at the design stage, but once the building is built, then you can suddenly find that you have all manner of problems, some of which massively restrict the usability of the space. For me, safety at work (which I classify this as) is paramount. I think some of my fellow committee members think I am a bit overzealous insisting that if someone goes over 4ft high on ladder which is unsecured, someone should be at the bottom holding it, but ladder accidents are one of the most common causes of workplace injuries and are avoidable if you follow the rules. Anyway, rant over. We recovered the stage and loaded it onto the van for later.
I then had to unload the PA system from the Galaxy, so a quick drive to the studio and unload at around 11am. Another friend of mine, Big Paul turned up with some extra equipment from the Golf club, which couldn't fit in the Galaxy. He had a cup of tea and was amazed at just how busy the studio is on a Saturday morning. I think anyone who sees our staff when we are busy is always impressed. 95% of the time, the job involves sitting around, drinking tea and chatting. The other 5% of the time is manic. By noon this was done and so I had a completely different job. In another guise, I am on the Sacred Heart Church Parish Council. This morning they were organising a Fathers day bacon roll and cup of tea for parishioners, to raise cash towards improving the Church Hall. Father Kevin at Mill Hill, who I consider a friend, is trying to improve the hall. When the church was rebuilt 20 years ago, they made the classic mistake of simply letting an architect design it and a builder build it. He told me that if you have a community space, you need to show the plans to the Hall users, rather than just admire the pretty pictures. He said that the hall needs remodelling and when it is done (which it will be), he will ensure that the Brownies, the elderly groups and people like me who organise music etc will be consulted. In the current hall, the shape is wrong, there is not enough storage for the Brownies etc and the Kitchens and toilets can only support one event, although the Hall can be devided into two. In short, the plans don't work. The main reason I agreed to join the Parish Council, was I believe Churches and Church Halls are the hub of our community. These spaces mean we can hold music festivals, Brownies and Scouts have meeting space, Alcoholics Anon have a space, we have somewhere for weddings, funerals, etc. When I was growing up, I used to attend a youth club at the Methodist Church in Goodwyn Avenue. This is now flats. St Josephs College on the Ridgeway, where my band did several gigs, my sister had her wedding reception and there used to be a glorious garden fete every summer is also flats. This used to stage events for the Mill Hill Music festival. We need to protect these spaces (another rant over).
Anyway, I absented myself from the bacon roll morning (I knew I'd be too tired), but I did say I'd get them the bacon. So I spoke to my good friend, Helen Michael from Cafe Buzz and said "You sell the best Bacon sarnies in Barnet, can you get me enough quality bacon for 160 rolls." Helen of course said yes. So I had to nip up to Cafe Buzz and collect the bacon. It also meant I could have one of Helens tasty Full English Breakfasts. Necessary if you won't eat agin till 2am.
Then it was back to the studio, via the Bacon drop off at the Church, to load up for the Three Hammers gig. The gear was loaded by 3.30 and Jack accompanied me to the Hammers. The first task was to unload the gear. We then built the stage, set up the drum Kit, built the PA and set up the amps. Joe and the boys arrived sharp at 6pm for soundcheck, followed by Misdemeanour. I know both bands well. Graham Ramsay, drummer of Misdemeanour has played in my band on and off for 30 years. We are currently collaborating on an album. I've also known the rest of the band for years, apart from the lovely singers Shelley and her sister, who are ere youngsters, but have quickly become part of the Mill Hill Music family! Joe has been rehearsing at the studio for years. Joe is a hugely talented musician. Next to Punk rock, reggae is my favourite genre of music and Joe should be a superstar. He has the looks and the talent and has assembled a superb bunch of musicians.
Both soundchecks went without a hitch. At 8.50pm, Misdemeanour took to the stage. The do everything from James Brown to The Beatles to Carole King. My fellow festival organiser Dan was quite amazed by the variety of their set. I think that as he knew Graham was my drummer, the pub would be treated to a set of The Clash and The Pistols, but Alan on guitar is a brilliant player and the band can play anything. Even Brian, our Jazz buff liked them! By the time Misdemeanour had finished, the pub was heaving. All too soon, they'd finished. We held the raffle, which raised a substancial sum. The raffles are used to help us meet the costs of running the festival. Jenni our raffle organiser, has raised around £1,000 for the festival. This just about covers the cost of stamps for our mailout. We run on a not for profit basis, but need to keep money in the bank, as most costs are up front, such as insurance, stamps, printing, hall deposits, equipment, banners, etc. In all including hire of halls etc, the festival costs around £15,000 to stage. Neither myself nor any of the festival organisers take a penny in pay for this. I also provide all of the studio sound equipment free of charge for the duration of the festival. With the loan of the Balls club van and Gerry's van & all of the other goodwill help we get, we probably have about £5,000 savings, which otherwise would probably make the festival untenable.
I've no idea how many people turned up at the Hammers, but I'd estimate 250-300. Even better, they were up for a party!
|Joe Angel and the Pamozi Band|
At 10pm, Joe Angel took to the stage. The place was already in party mood, but they went wild.The Marley classics such as One Love, No Woman No Cry and Jammin' went down a storm. The place went mad.The whole place was dancing and singing along.
As I sat at the mixing desk, I felt quite emotional that the festival was coming to an end. It is a long time since I've seen the Hammers quite as busy. Every night of the Festival has exceeded expectations. Every night has seen the people of Mill Hill go home happy. That is the payoff.
As Kerry at The Hammers likes to keep in good terms with the neighbours, sadly we had to wrap up at 11pm. As I thanked the band, I let the crowd in on a little secret. 30 years ago, my band did a gig there on December 21st 1985. It was a momentus night for me in many ways. Misdemeanours drummer, Graham was in the band and organised the gig. We played with a band called Soldier Bike, who were highly rated at the time. The place was packed to the rafters. the plan was to try and turn The Hammers into a regular music venue and this would have happened if the Landlord hand't been replaced. Back on that night, I said "It would be great to get a Reggae band up here" The friend I was working towards making this happen, said "Reggae in Mill Hill, your mad, no one would come to that!". I said "I bet you £5 that it would be packed out" and the deal was signed. I told this little story and thanked the audience for belatedly winning me a fiver.
At the end, Joe got the full rock star treatment. Selfies with the crowd, autographs, signing boobs (well I made the last one up!). Before Joe went on I announced that they were the best Reggae band this side of Jamaica. A Jamaican guy came up to me and said "Man, that is a big claim". I said "If you don't agree at the end, I'll buy you a pint". At the end, he came up beaming. he said "Your money is safe brother". What a night.
And then we had to break down the gear. Getting a stage, 3 guitar amps, a bass amp, a Keyboard amp, a drum kit, a PA, four monitors and a DJ station into the van was a task in itself. This was done by 2am. Van loaded and returned safely to the studio (with special thanks to Dan, Jenni and Gerry), I headed up to the Mill Hill Kebab House for my traditional post festival 3am kebab. Very tasty it was too.
And that friends is the festival, done and dusted. Well it's not quite for this blog. There will be one more installment, where I detail all of the planning that went into it and the aftermath.
But until then, thanks so much for your support. We estimate 2,000 people attended the entire 9 days. We hope you enjoyed it as a much as we did.