A tempting email. There’s a reunion in the Red Lion on Saturday, am I free to come? Not just any old reunion. And not just any old Red Lion. This is the reborn Red Lion with a Jimi Hendrix Room and a newly burnished old claim to fame. The reunion is for veterans of Barbecue 67. Do I have the nerve to go? My only claim to fame is turning down the chance to interview one of the world’s greatest rock stars.
A treasured souvenir
Memories, memories. That’s what scriptwriter Andy Barrett is after of course. He’s got what sounds like a fantastic project, writing about the ‘unbelievable but true phenomenon’ when not only Hendrix but Pink Floyd, the Move, Cream, Zoot Money and Geno Washington packed Spalding’s Bulb Auction with crowds the Lincolnshire town had never seen before. And very likely has not seen since.
As an old hack dabbling in new media I have learned that Tesco and tram stories score the highest hits on my blog. But there are two other subjects that bring the treat of comments from readers a long way from Edinburgh. There’s that elk-crossing in Banff, Canada and there’s Barbecue 67.
Flashback 44 years ago to Spalding, a small market town famous for the annual Tulip Parade and not a lot else. I was a trainee reporter on the Spalding Guardian and Lincs Free Press and as I remember it, the Red Lion was the pub where we met on Friday nights to celebrate another week reporting court and council news. We drank warm, frothy Watneys (no wine, no lager) until closing time at 11 o’clock.
In the summer of 1967 the newsroom turned out in force to cover one of the most unlikely rock events of the decade. Jimi Hendrix spent a night at the Red Lion though, as I remember it, no-one made much of that at the time. Four years ago, a letter and newscutting from an old friend stirred memories of that long ago summer. The Spalding Guardian had celebrated the 40th anniversary with a special edition of pictures and recycled stories, including one of mine. While my colleagues John Thorne and Pat Prentice went backstage I had opted to report from the hall.
Yup, it was a long time ago
To my astonishment the blog I wrote has continued to produce comments and contacts from all kinds of people over the last four years – great friends as well as people I never met including the two enterprising guys, Pete Barraclough and Mick Barnes, who compered the event and came up with the inspired line up. And John (not Thorne) who tried to retrieve Jimi’s burning guitar from the stage but “couldn’t get through the crowds”.
Two years ago a BBC researcher asked me to help dig up a few names for a retrospective programme presented by the lovely Benjamin Zephaniah (no, didn’t get to interview him either but this time I would not have turned down the chance).
Now, along comes Andy Barrett. I Googled him, of course, and he’s doing all kinds of great-looking work. Right now he’s working with New Perspective Theatre Company (they’ve just been to Edinburgh by the way) to produce a script based on Barbecue 67. And he’s keen to chat or even meet if I can get to Spalding on Saturday.
So very tempting.
PS: the Red Lion is fully booked
August 31st, 2011
The philosopher’s toe: pictures by Andrea McCarthy
Looking back it was a prophetic moment though I did not know it at the time. Almost 14 years ago I covered a Scottish Enterprise conference on the future of Scotland. US futurist Joe Coates, grey and spindly as a heron, stalked the stage and talked about the potential of mobile technology using language most of us hardly understood. What future tourists would want, he said, was a digital companion they could carry in their pockets providing all the information they needed to know about any given place.
In 1997 I didn’t even possess a mobile phone. Now here I am, a director of a brand new media company creating one of those digital companions – or rather, the information that can be loaded on to it.
A roll of good old fashioned drums please. Walking Heads Ltd launches our first downloadable audio walking tour during Edinburgh’s Fringe. At one level Edinburgh Comedy Tour can be taken as a Fringe show (and there are others using digital technology this year) but our 90 minute walking guide includes many layers of information. Just like Joe Coates predicted, it is full of facts people like to know when they visit a new place: where to go, what to see, how to get there. But there’s a difference. With a nice poetic twist, Walking Heads has won a Scottish Enterprise Tourism Innovation Fund award because we promise to take people off the beaten track to reveal the true grit of the place.
So Edinburgh Comedy Tour is a mix of history and folklore, comedy and spicy gossip and I feel it captures the odd Jekyll and Hyde nature of Edinburgh much better than conventional guidebook or guided tour.
Harry Gooch and Jamie MacDonald
With wicked ingenuity our comedian scriptwriters Jamie MacDonald and Harry Gooch have created a surreal narrative that leads you round Fringe comedy venues while developing a dysfunctional but affectionate relationship that leaves you (or me anyway) close to tears at the end. And in the process, with nicely paced navigation from Dougal Perman and incidental anecdotes from comedians Bruce Morton and Susan Morrison, you learn a great deal about the fur-coat-and-no-knickers side of Scotland’s capital. The extra twist to this tale is that Jamie is blind and his running refrain, ‘Be my eyes Harry’, deserves to be a Fringe catchphrase.
Back to the future. We’ve only just begun. We’re learning a huge amount as we go and we have a lot more to learn yet. But already we demonstrate something else that Joe Coates predicted. In the future, he said, companies will be like the film industry: collaborative and infinitely flexible co-operatives, constantly forming and re-forming to share expertise according to the needs of each product.
Unlike a film company, we don’t have best boy nor grip, hairdresser nor continuity girl (though we could do with the hairdresser at times!). But, straddling Glasgow and Edinburgh, Walking Heads is a mosaic of technical and artistic creative talent, buzzing with an enthusiasm that would put big corporations to shame. Of course I am biased and very proud to be part of it.
Since we are a collaborative team, I’m leaving the selling part to other members but I would be mad not to invite you to download Edinburgh Comedy Tour as your absolutely essential companion to this year’s Fringe. At £3.49 for MP3 and £3.99 for the App and Android – that would have seemed cheap back in 1997!
August 15th, 2011