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A New Form of Relaxation

What do the Wardens Do, when not doing Warden Stuff?

And I am not referring to any sort of consultancy work - but something completely different.  Three of the current wardens are, by coincidence, involved in one way or another with the arts - and this short article is an insight to what one of us gets up to over in West London, the leafy "Queen of the Suburbs" when not doing WCoMC stuff!

About three years ago, lost in the annals of time, there was one of those public meetings - you know the type, various politicians standing on their hind legs talking about how they/we can make a difference...  Shortly after that, our local MP Angie Bray (who had indeed been one of those talking at the meeting) got three of us together over a glass or two (or three?) and said "how about we organise something to bring people into Ealing in the dark winter days after Christmas..."  Out of this was born the Ealing Music and Film Valentine Festival.  Why are we always in the wrong place at the wrong time I keep asking myself?

Nothing like believing one's own marketing material, but when we launched in November last year for the inaugural festival (February this year), we announced "BRIGHTENING UP YOUR FEBRUARY:  a new annual festival is coming to light up February’s dark days with a combination of music and film – all celebrating Ealing’s rich, but largely unknown, cultural history...  It was Ealing, not Liverpool, that really gave birth to British rock ‘n’ roll; It was Ealing and Sir Michael Balcon that laid the foundations of the British film industry with its world famous Ealing Studios; It is Ealing that is home to one of the great international orchestras, the English Chamber Orchestra; The Ealing Symphony Orchestra is reckoned to be one of the finest amateur orchestras in the country.  It was an Ealing School that won the BBC’s Senior Schools’ Choir competition. Margot Fonteyn was born in Ealing, as was Pete Townshend of The Who and the comedians Sid James and Julian Clary.  Gustav Holst worked and died here, as did Dusty SpringfieldFreddie Mercury went to Ealing Art College.  The Royal Bookbinders, Blissetts, are in Ealing.  Frank Richards, who wrote Billy Bunter, lived in a house where Ealing Broadway Centre now stands..."

This all involved setting up both a Charity and Trading Company, understanding VAT on tickets (ouch), persuading local companies to sponsor us, booking venues, booking orchestras and soloists, and speakers, oh and building a website and ticketing system from the ground up.  Thanks to our artistic director, Tony Palmer (a very well known local film director and producer), we had a fabulous programme including Tasmin Little and the ECO, Emma Johnson and the ESO, Sylvia Syms and Jan Harlaan (Stanley Kubric's producer and brother-in-law).  We had persuaded Ealing Studios to open their doors, one of the local schools to put on a jazz concert, the BFI to give a presentation and, above all, the local university (UWL) to be a major venue for our exhibitions and films.  Our Treasurer (my wife Ann) was run ragged as budgets came and went as costs were incurred as we brought everything together.  Just-in-Time does not quite summarise one or two aspects of the finished programme.

And then in February the planning was over and we were actually running it.  Suddenly we found that we were at the heart of a logistics operation, involving ferrying wine and beer to chillers, from chillers to the venues and (unused) back to the chillers, getting gate lists to the venues, selling programmes, counting and reconciling the cash...  This was all fine - but when our estate car's starter motor failed the day of the launch we had a critical path problem to overcome, one that we had not anticipated - but thankfully overcame with the help of the local franchise service centre...

And the moral of this?  It was hard challenging work, bringing the artistic and management worlds together without breaking friendships or relationships!  There were moments, but clearly we overcome them - because we are doing it all over again for 2014 (and 2015?).  Or should we have looked the other way?!

 

Patrick Chapman
Chairman Ealing Music and Film Festival Trust and occasional Warden of WCoMC.