Tallington 2002

Victory At Last
An in-depth look at recent events at the annual Blyth cricket match and festival by Gorge Burgher

Following the sweeping victory in the Tallington Ashes grudge match against the forces of darkness and Bishop's Stortford, I interviewed Mr Joseph Porter at his Northern retreat wherein he was so overcome with inertia that he had been obliged to call someone in to write up the website stories. Knowing how evasive he can be when questioned about the band and its history, I decided to go straight for the jugular and pose the questions that really matter in an effort to throw some new light on the enigmatic figure that has been responsible for so many improvisations on the cutting edge of folk music.

G.B. What is your favourite cheese?
J.P. A good strong mature cheddar, although I do like a bit of stilton with dry toast and spring onions once in a while.

Having thus cleared up the big issues I went on to ask him about how things had gone this year at Tallington. His reply was typically verbose, and I have not bothered to transcribe it into reported speech. Let's face it, I'm a busy man and have far bigger fish to fry. Consequently, here is the story of the Tallington Ashes 2002 as told to an incredibly important journalist, whose work influences the taste and choices of a generation, by a bloke who doesn't know his arse from his elbow as far as the music scene is concerned. Why else would he have been burning sausages in a field in South Lincolnshire next to a train track when his peers are playing such prestigious events as Glastonbury (at which I had a VIP privileged gold pass which allowed me to avoid the plebs) Tea and Biscuits in the Park, and of course the jewel in the crown of the rock year, Holidays In The Sun.
Having thus established that I am a man of considerable importance, and frequently get to stand next to people like Mick Hucknall backstage at stadium-sized gigs, I will allow the old fool to rattle on about his parochial doings without further wasting my time trying to edit him.

Give or take the odd phone call, Tallington began for us early on the morning of Friday 12th July 2002, when it became apparent that we had forgotten to get hold of a cricket bat, and that this all-important item might prove necessary should Chris from Bishop's Stortford and his evil sisters bottle it and send excuses down. Equally possible would have been the fit of pique on being bowled out for 25 which might have prompted the churlish one to storm off in a sulk with his bat and stumps leaving us with an easy total to reach, but no gear to reach it with. Such are the problems faced by an organisation like Blyth Power.
The problem was solved with a quick visit to the pound shop, wherein a cricket set was purchased, including tiny wickets, a tiny bat, and a tiny rubber ball which I regarded with some alarm, as it looked like it could raise a nasty bruise if bowled too fast. Thus we elected to buy a pack of three tennis balls as well, which cost three times as much as the bat, but have the virtue of being fairly gentle when they slam into your temple at 250 miles per hour. Drat! Over budget already, and we haven't even left Harrogate.
By the time we did leave, laden with barbecues, cheap combustible meat products, a soggy packet of vegi-burgers and enough tents to accommodate the Grand Army, it was a balmy summers late afternoon, and we were able to relax and enjoy the traffic report on Stray FM advising us to avoid Knottingley as an overturned lorry was causing tailbacks as far as Wetherby.
This proved to be a fabrication, and we were able to enjoy an unhindered progress down the A1 to our destiny, although I had consumed two whole packets of Morrissons Scotch pancakes while panicking about the possible delay. They were very nice.

G.B. I had them when I toured with The Levellers, as a priviliged VIP guest in their bus. We had them hot with butter, and they were probably much nicer than yours. I have also eaten them with The Men They Couldn't Hang, and a whole load of other very famous people.

Arrival at Tallington at 19.43pm found a whole load of tents in the process of erection. Steven and Fiona had already set up a very nice detached mansion, and were seated on the veranda sipping G & Ts, on a very nice pair of patriotic folding chairs. We set up our tent and settled down to watch the steady encroach of the Birmingham Urban Sprawl Overspill, which was manifesting itself in a variety of loud colours alarmingly close to our nice suburb.

Not even the designation of a greenbelt area could stop the colony growing, and by the time I set off with Mr John Taylor to set up the PA there was a positive conurbation springing up. 'There goes the neighbourhood,' I sighed as Mr Jessi Adams emerged from a nearby shanty bearing humous in pitta bread.

The original plan had been to set up the gear and shut it in the backstage room for the night, to allow for a swift start to proceedings on the morrow. As it happened, with the collusion of the landlord, it was decided that acoustic sets would be played on the Friday night. Thus with John and his deviant offspring Simon, we prepared the stage and before you could say Jack Robinson, I was standing onstage with a guitar, breaking my promise to the world not to set foot onstage this weekend without a drumkit.

G.B. I interviewed Jack Robinson once for Time Out. He was doing a world tour, and I was allowed backstage at the Wembley Arena to drink half of his rider. While I was there I met Mick and Keef and a whole lot of other extremely famous persons.

A gentle hour and a half of lilting acoustic folksong followed. Firstly myself played half a dozen songs by way of a soundcheck, then we importuned Mr Chris Butler, Mr Gob Dylan, Mr Jessi Adams and Mr Steven Cooper to play as well. The evening was wound up by myself and Mr Cooper playing The Maccabees' Goodnight, which signalled not only last orders at the bar, but an exodus to the campsite to start lighting the pyres.

While myself and messrs Simon and John Taylor attempted the almost impossible feat of assembling a collapsible barbecue in almost total darkness, the BUSO had grown to such proportions as to warrant the election of a mayor and a town planning department. By the time the barbecue was lit, there was a light railway under construction, a street market, several disorderly public houses and some unpleasant men in suits were contemplating a high-level extension of the M6 to link Stamford with the Black Country, via Market Deeping.
Thus we gathered round the stinking fumy coals and, feeding the non-carnivorous members of our party first, went on to char flesh at such a rate as to enable us to pass out cheap burghers to unsuspecting passers-by. 'Is it vegan?' they asked.
'No,' we replied.

It has subsequently reached my notice that some people were not entirely thrilled at the intensity and variety of traffic passing that Friday night on the adjacent East Coast Main Line. The final straw for some was the storming great Grid which roared past around 03.00am with steel empties. Disgruntled remarks were heard at breakfast, and not even the mass production of fried egg sandwiches cooked on a Trangia stove could mollify everyone.

G.B. I once saw the Bodhran player from Clannad eating an egg sandwich. That was backstage at Phoenix when I was there to interview someone so famous and important that I have temporarily forgotten whom. I distinctly recall standing in a tent a mere three yards from a number of influential musicians that weekend though. One of Radiohead asked me to 'get out of the way.'

So Saturday dawned. The sun shone, the BUSO yawned and stretched itself, and all the trainspotters braced themselves for the morning's big event, which was an enthusiast's special double-headed by a class 92 and a class 37. Personally I elected not to go to the nearby footbridge for a photograph, being engrossed in the making of tea, but as more tents arrived, it soon became time to repair to the stage area, where with Simon, Matt and John - the PA crew for the weekend - dutifully relegated the needs of a trainspotter to second place and assisted in setting up the gear for the first live set of the day.

This involved Blyth Power playing for forty-five minutes or so, in order to line-check the PA gear, the better to enable things to run smoothly later on. Mr Jessi Adams had kindly volunteered to assist as Stage Manager for the Saturday night, and with a busy afternoon and evening ahead we played a short and painless set to the lunchtime drinkers, which passed off without incident. Then it was time for the cricket…

G.B. How do you organise a field full of people into two cricket teams, and get a match started without coming over like a cross between Joyce Grenfell and the PE teacher from Grange Hill?
J.P. You don't. I didn't.

Fortunately everyone was very kind, and with a minimum of fuss the game got underway. This year Blyth won the toss, and elected to bat second. This was a cunning piece of strategy, as last year, the Stortfordonions only won thanks to the late arrivals turning up and wanting to have a go.

Thus by the time we came to approach their total, we still had about thirty prospective batsmen in hand. We must try to do something about this next year. Maybe we'll limit teams to twenty or something? Or maybe not...

So, Bishop's Stortford opened the batting, and for a while it looked like we were going to take our traditional pasting. Despite some devilish bowling from the likes of Harvey, and Mr Ian Smith's wicket handling, they very quickly began to notch up the runs. Mr Chris from Bishop's Stortford himself was only dismissed when he hit the ball onto the train tracks, thus earning six and out.

The sun climbed higher. Tension mounted. I was able to stop making a nuisance of myself by frequently popping off to meet arriving hands, and it was largely thanks to my continued absences that we eventually got them all out for 102. Hurrah for us.

So Blyth took the crease. I elected to open the batting and was dismissed after making six runs. Possibly my best yet, but fortunately we had many skilled hands which made light work of the remaining total, and we drew stumps after Mr John Taylor hit the winning runs with enough batsmen still waiting in the wings to ensure victory at any cost.

The ashes were presented with stirring speeches, and we are now the proud holders of a little transparent plastic steam engine full of dog ends and kak. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the great sportspersons who took part in the match, and to assure all those on our side who didn't get to bat that we'll try and rig things next year so that everyone gets a turn. Cheers.

G.B This all sounds impossibly immature to me.
J.P. That's because you're a git.

Time, then, to plot and plan with Stage Manager Adams, and to advise those bands now supping beer at their tables as to exactly what they were letting themselves in for. Eventually a running order was drawn up, and everyone was jolly good about it. No one argued about their stage times, no one played over, and no one said anything impolite about the equipment - at least, not within earshot of anyone else. Against all the odds we got six bands and two solo artists on and offstage by eleven o'clock with a minimum of fuss.

First up were Poke, from Sheffield, who astounded everyone present, not least with their drummer's pink velvet trousers. I shan't try to describe all the bands that played, as I'm not a music journalist (You wish - G.B.), but for more information on any of the acts performing this year we advise you to trace the links provided. Suffice it to say that there was a wide variety of musical genres represented, and everyone rocked utterly.

Next up were Daddy Those Men Scare Me, whom Blyth have played with a few times in London. They even managed to sound good at that horrible gig at The Hope & Anchor, so Tallington proved no problem.

Following them were Rome Burns, whose electrical bits and pieces were all coerced into good behaviour, and then the peerless Miss Rachael Pantechnicon took the stage to deliver some sound advice, some poetry, and to promote her heroically unpublished children's book.

Then it was into the final furlong with General Winter (sorry about the drum mat Scott), Mr Chris Butler, Eastfield.

Blyth Power rounded off a cracking evening, with a set which included, among other things, Chris From Bishop's Stortford playing drums on Dancing.

Not his first appearance of the night either, as he had been one of Eastfield's many drummers this night.

Too many things happened to recount, but we would like to thank Simon and Sad Sack for bedecking the stage with Britney posters, to all the sound guys for fiddling and twiddling, to Jessi for ruling the stage with an iron hand, to Pete, the landlord, for his kind indulgence (and jolly fine egg and chips), and finally to everyone who turned up and made it work.

G.B. So are we likely to see Tallington featuring in the festival calendar with all the other events I get free passes to?
J.P. We aim to preserve more of an atmosphere of the village fete than the music festival. Ultimately it's about people having a party in a field. Next year we're having stalls, fortune tellers, and a thing that you can throw beanbags at to drop Jessi into a tub of baked beans. You ought to come along and try it.
G.B. Will there be anyone famous?

But things didn't end there. More plants and flesh were seared far into the night, and those amongst us who are not thrilled by the prospect of top-link traction were able to doze off to the sounds of drunken revellry, as there is not nearly so much traffic on the ECML on a Saturday night.

The following morning saw a departure that would have rivalled the evacuation of Saigon, and by some strange oversight the campsite was left spotless.

See you next year.