Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The 99th Garrison collects for Children in Need at Carfest North, 2nd to 4th August, 2013.

Through events that the 99th has done for Sinead Blythin she asked us to help Chris Evans raise funds for Children in Need at his Carfest North Event at Oulton Park Race Course, Tarporley, Cheshire.

The event was to take place from Friday 2nd August, to Sunday, 4th August, 2013 with an expected audience of approximately 25,000 people every day.
I was the Senior Officer for this event and given its size etc had some trepidation as I drove to the venue on the Friday.  The show did not open to the public until 12 noon and we had arranged to troop for a couple of hours from 3:00pm before launching into full troop mode on Saturday and Sunday.

Chris, Dave P, Dave S, Dave R, [there were too many Daves!] and Ken were all due to arrive on the Friday and were planning to camp. Ken and Dave R in a caravan and motor home respectively and Chris and Dave in tents.  I had arranged to stay at mum’s about 40 minutes away for the duration of the event.


Myself and Dave P arranged to meet Chris at Delamere Train Station at 12:30 and after getting lost when the satnav took me into a housing estate I eventually got there later than planned but still with a few minutes to spare to find that Dave P was already there. Chris and his train arrived bang on time and it was fortunate that there were two cars to transport all of his costume bags and camping gear to the venue. 

It was on the drive to the venue that problems started to appear.  Ken had got to the site before me with his caravan and the first call that I had from him was to ask where he was meant to go.  I spoke to the steward at the gate on Ken’s phone and advised him that he needed to direct him to the Exhibitors Camping Area.  Not long after that I got another call from Ken saying that he was now at the right camping area and was being told that there was no room for him.  I again asked to speak to the Steward on Ken’s phone and was informed by him that they had no room for any of us on the Exhibitors Camp Site which was full.  At this point, I began to think that all my initial trepidation was justified and did get quite annoyed on the phone with the poor steward as I had been told that our camping pitches had been reserved for us.  He stood his ground though and said that all we could do was to turn up, speak to management and see what they could do! 
 So we carried on our journey and got to the Exhibitors Camp Site at about 1:00pm thinking that we still had time to set up base and then troop as had been planned from 3:00pm for a couple of hours.  However, we had to wait for the site management people to come and see us during which time we were joined by Dave R and Barbara in their campervan.  The management eventually did come to see us and were apologetic but basically the camping pitches had been “mis-sold” which meant that they had run out of space for the exhibitors who were camping.  However, they did manage to find room for those of us who had tents [at that point] but the caravan and camper van would have to park up outside of the secure exhibitors camping area.  Having sorted this issue, we then proceeded to set up the tents of Chris and Dave P… Dave’s being a 2 second pop up but very small and patriotic affair and Chris’s being a much bigger tent that required some proper construction.  Having eventually got both tents in position we then proceeded to put up the Garrison flag which Chris had made and which transpired to be very handy to the other troopers in locating us later and also in use in photographs on Sunday.
 Ken and Dave R had set up their caravan and camper van and then we all grouped up together again with the aim of obtaining our exhibitor car park passes and wrist bands without which we would not gain access to the areas we needed to or the exhibitors toilet and shower blocks etc.  I wasn’t very confident at this point given what had occurred with the camping pitches but this aspect went reasonably well and we were all given our wrist bands although they only had two car park passes left.  Given that I would need to get access to the site every morning I took one of these for my car!

We then set off to assess the lay of the land before any trooping… by this point it was too late to troop on the Friday as had been planned.  We also met up with Gabi from the organisers who showed us where our base tent was for the actual event which was to be our changing area for the duration.   This was in the “Artists” camping area and seemed to us to have been the logical place for us to have been told to camp too.

It was here that we met a security guard called John who made the very helpful suggestion that rather than dragging all our costume bags to the base tent every day, we could drive Dave R’s camper van to the base tent and park it up there with all the costumes in.  Dave R and Barbara were Ok with this too and fortunately didn’t need that much room to sleep in so after a quick walk around the site, we all went back to the exhibitors camping area and piled all the costumes into the camper van which Dave R then drove to the base tent and parked up there for the duration of the event.

We had also called at the Children In Need tent and enquired about our collection buckets so that we could collect for them and were advised that they hadn’t arrived yet and they did not know how many they would be getting and it would be a first come, first served basis when they do. 

Then having established that we all had our camping spots and passes and had a base tent in the Artists area it was time to chill and enjoy the event for the evening so we headed off to the main stage area.  At this point I need to slot in that Dave P had bought a Monkey mask for the event and had decided that he was going to wear it in the evenings which he duly did.  He also, after trying numerous different ones on, bought himself a new hat [with goggles to wear with the mask] and I have to say that he got almost as much attention wearing that with the Monkey mask as he does when he wears his sandtrooper armour.  Chris had also bought a Deadpool mask to wear too so, en route to the main stage and during the live shows, they were both asked for photos which being the shy retiring types [not!] they gladly agreed to!  We were also joined during the evening by Dave S and Rachel who were also camping but by this time had not been able to get a spot in the exhibitors camping area.
 We found a good spot slightly away from the main stage/crowds but in front of a large video screen and close to a [quieter] bar for Friday nights entertainment which consisted of Bjorn Again, The Magic Numbers, Texas and of course Chris Evans who also bought his son Noah onto the stage to say “night, night” to us all too…. Awwwwww!!

The weather had been scorching hot all day but it did cool down a little bit during the evening but it was still a very pleasant way to while away the hours before leaving to go to my mum’s where I arrived at about 11:50pm.
Saturday morning I left mum’s at about 7:30am in my Imperial Officer’s uniform and got to the venue at about 8:20am.  I managed to get access and park up without any problem and then proceeded to go to the Children in Need tent to try and get some
collection buckets only to find that they weren’t open yet!

I then joined the other troopers at the base tent in the artists’ area and waited whilst they got themselves ready.  We had also been joined by John B. Paul, Sonya, Rhys and little baby AJ were also due to join us too.  Paul and his family were also camping and had set up their tent not too far from Dave S and Rachel’s.  We were booked to troop from the show opening at 10:00am until about 5:00pm and were duly ready to troop at about 10:00am.  By this time I had been back to the Children in Need tent with Rachel and managed to get 2 collection buckets for us.
 The madness then started!  We were so popular at this event.  Carfest is a family orientated event and the atmosphere was lovely and friendly.  It was not possible for us to walk very far at all without being stopped for photos.  We actually took the decision that in order to get anywhere we would have to march in formation and not stop when people asked for photos but crew would tell those that had asked us to stop where we were heading to and that they could come and see us there.  This seemed to work quite well and we did become a bit like the pied piper with people following us for photos.  It was still difficult trying to get the troopers to form up, stick together and march though…. Something that we need to work on!
We also had Rhys with us for this event [Paul's son] and he did an excellent Jawa and was very popular.  Even had the Jawa wiggle/run down to a tee!

Chris Evans was due to broadcast a show live from the event on Saturday from 10:00am until 1:00pm so that was where we headed off too.  Once at the main stage area we found that we could see Chris doing his broadcast but that he probably could not see us as we were not in his line of vision.  We then spotted that there was a disabled viewing area which was empty and slightly elevated and was for use during the live gigs in the evenings and that if we stood on that, Chris would definitely see us.  It also turned out to be a really good spot for photos as we could control the people coming up the steps to see us and we got lots of money in the collection buckets in this way!
Anyway, our cunning plan worked, Chris had seen us and we were asked to go back stage and were told that he would be interviewing one of us live on radio and it looked like that was going to be me as I was the Senior Officer there and did not have a helmet on. Dave P nearly fell over due to some low level seating which had been installed for the guests but managed to stop himself from falling.  Whilst we were waiting back stage we saw the lovely Moira Stewart too and asked her for a photo.  She obliged and commented on the sandtrooper’s armour being dirty.  I said that he was a “dirty trooper” and she said that “dirty troopers are the best” and then laughed that cheeky laugh that she has.  Sadly, we were then told by one of Chris’s peeps that his schedule had changed and that he would not be doing any more interviews on the show.  We then left the backstage area but not before Paul Hollywood had asked for a photo with us too!
We then trooped all day with a break for lunch at about 12:00 for an hour.  We were also joined after lunch by Neil from the Mint Imperials who did Vader and we spent time at the Army display area posing with the soldiers and the band and Lord Vader even got to conduct the band as well much to the amusement of everyone!!

We trooped again until about 3:00pm and were then joined by Richard, Jake and Stacey from the Mint Imperials.  Stacey then crewed and Richard put his trooper armour on before we all then headed off out again but this time we were on a special mission as Gabi was leading us to the VIP area where Sophie Ellis Bextor and her husband [from The Feeling] had asked for us to go and see her and her two little boys.  We spent some time in the VIP area with them and took advantage of the lovely cool breeze that came in from the viewing area and also the fantastic views from there too.  There were also plenty of people on the outside taking photos of Lord Vader and his troopers looking out at them from a height!
Once we had left Sophie we then trooped for a little while longer before calling it a day.  We handed in the now very heavy collection buckets to the Children In Need tent and have been told that we collected £1,109.00!!!!!  an amazing amount!!  Thank you all!! :-)  
We then went our separate ways to get changed and showered etc before meeting up again for something to eat before going along to the main stage area for the night’s entertainment.  Dave P and Chris in their respective headgear again but also this time with their light sabres for maximum effect in the dark! 
Saturday’s entertainment consisted of Noasis, Deacon Blue, The Feeling and Ocean Colour Scene and Fireworks… sadly though the Fireworks were on too late for me and it also started to persist it down during Ocean Colour so we all quickly left and headed off to tents/vans and cars etc.  At some point during the evening though, Dave P and Chris, decided that they were going to try and stand where the camera would pick them out so that they could appear on the large video screen… this they achieved!!
On Sunday we were joined by Alan, Wayne and Craig and set off trooping again at about 10:00am. By this time Chris and Dave P had taken their tents down and Craig carried the 99th Flag all day like the image that we all know from the Falklands War.  Paul also let Dave S wear his Vader costume and its safe to say that Dave was living a dream from his childhood at this point and loved the opportunity to be his Lordship for the day.
This was a cooler day and I had been in two minds about whether to wear my Mara Jade costume or not as I thought that I might get too cold.  However, despite the cooler temperature and breeze the outfit was actually quite warm and comfortable to wear.  I did have one or two costume malfunctions though with some “wiring” coming out as soon as I put it on and the leather belt/holster not sitting flat like it used to.  These will both need putting right before I can wear her again.  I have since discovered though that part of the problem was me not fastening the belt right ... Doh!!

We had another good and busy day and this time Dave S did Vader for us in Paul’s costume…. He was made up!  Living a boyhood dream!!  We paid another visit to the Army display area where we had to go and see one of their medics called “Bones” who wanted photos of us and I had my photo taken with a young Staff Sergeant who has forwarded it to an Army magazine for publication! 
We also found that if we stood in front of the main stage when it was empty and no bands were performing people just flooded to us for photos and made their donations.  [This time we had one collection bucket and two small collection pots]  This was helped by some impromptu dancing that we did to New York, New York!  We were also filmed by a TV company at one point for promotion of Carfest!  Sadly, I can't recall the name of the TV company!
We used a different tactic this day and went around the car display area.  Most of the stall holders wanted pictures of us on their stalls and were told by Rachel [who was top crew!] that it would cost them at least a “note” to get photos of us!  This worked well with donations of £10 or £20 coming from most of them!  We also got to have a go on the Carousel!
We stopped for lunch again at about 12 noon and met up with Richard and Stacey again from the Mint Imperials along with Phil.  They trooped whilst we had our lunch but sadly had to leave early not long afterwards. 
We were also asked to go to pose for photos with the Lady Mayoress of Chester and an organisation called Sporting Bears.... Chris, being a Scout Trooper could not resist the temptation to attack the large teddy bear that they had with them bearing in mind its resemblance to a naked Ewok!

After lunch we then trooped again until about 4:00pm before the heavens opened and we made a dash for our base tent!  At this point, we were all shattered and as it was raining decided to end the trooping and de-kit.  We were all that tired too that no one planned to stay for the evenings entertainment… I did however meet and get to have my photo with one of the evening’s stars…. Alfie Boe.

We also, of course had to have our obligatory post troop photo.
A huge thanks to Sinead for making all of this possible for us.  It was nice bumping into you and the family the few times that we did.
Huge respectful trooping thanks to Ken, Chris, Dave P, Alan, Dave R and Barbara, Dave S and Rachel, Wayne, Craig, Paul, Sonya, Rhys and AJ, John B, Neil, Stacey, Jake, Richard and Phil. The comradeship and team work at this event was superb!  Special thanks go to Rachel who crewed both days and was brilliant at dealing with the troopers, the stall holders and officials and the public - adults and children - and rattling the very heavy collection buckets and pots!   Made my job a lot easier!  Thanks Rachel! :-) 

Here’s to Carfest 2014!!!