Where Did They Come From?
'Where,' asks D.Smith of Wendover, 'did the notion of playing for a tatty old jar of fag ashes come from? Why do you do it, and why, when everyone knows that the band contains trainspotters and Airfix kit builders, are you rather pathetically trying to make out that you are cool sporting types who understand things like 'silly mid-off' and 'gullies'?'
Oh ye doubting Thomases. Here for the unbelievers is a short history of what was initially known as The Ufford Ashes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now, there are a number of questions frequently asked about the event, so now seems a good time to discuss these:
‘Why don’t you book such-and-such-a-band? They’d probably be up for it.’
We don’t ‘book’ anyone. The Ashes just about pays for itself, and we can’t afford to pay anyone for performing. Consequently as we wouldn’t dream of asking people to play unpaid, we have never actually approached anyone in this regard. If bands want to play, they can ask us and we will explain the situation to them. Then it’s down to them. We make absolutely no exception to this, however enormously famous they may be. So appreciate your bands, and make an effort to come see them. Without them giving up their time and efforts, it simply won't happen.
‘Why don’t you have any ‘name’ bands?’
We like The Ashes as they are. It’s a friendly affair of family and new and old acquaintances. Anyone’s welcome but the bottom line is that after all these years there are so many familiar faces that it’s become one of the few places we’re prepared to let the kids run wild. Quite apart from the expense of booking a ‘name’ band, we would almost certainly end up with a huge influx of people we don’t know, and have nothing in common with. Anyone’s welcome to buy a ticket and turn up, but The Ashes has had a long slow evolution to the point it has reached now. We and our children have grown up together, and basically we don’t want a bunch of wankers coming in and treating it like it’s a toilet. There are any amount of other festivals where people are paid to clean up after them, and if that sounds parochial and middle class we don’t give a shit. That’s how it is.
‘Why do you always have the same bands playing?’
Because they ask us nicely and because we like them. Slots are generally allocated on a ‘first come first served’ basis and we are booked up for the next year pretty much before we leave site.
‘Why didn’t my favourite band get to play for half an hour longer. They could have done an encore.’
It’s all down to stage management. We are absolute Nazis about this, and the only way to make sure that as many people as possible get a chance to play is to ensure that no one fucks about. Ten minutes extra on someone’s set because they don’t want to stop means that someone else gets to play less. It isn’t fair. Having been left with only half a set on many occasions ourselves because of poor stage discipline we are simply not going to let it happen. Plus, you're probably the one asking Annie this at the end of the next band's set too. Think about it...
‘Don’t you know who I am?’
No, and we don’t care. That kind of attitude does not exist at The Ashes. If anyone wants to throw their weight about they probably won’t get past an initial email as we have met enough cunts and wankers to be able to sniff them out from a mile away. They certainly will NOT be allowed back.
‘What about the children’s tent?’
Good question. The basic idea is to provide something to help parents keep the kids busy enough and happy enough for some of the time to allow them to enjoy some of the music. We can’t guarantee to be there supervising it all the time, and obviously children below a certain age aren’t going to be left in any case, but every little helps. The one thing we don’t want is to try and make anyone coming to The Ashes take responsibility for it. All the materials provided are regarded as disposable, and if it all ends up in a gigantic brown sludge then fine. The only drawback is that we run out of materials for the next day.
Mr Porter and the kids had such a fun time playing bin men that we may consider doing a daily collection this year. Again, we’ll confirm later, but it seems to us that if any accumulated garbage was bagged and left along the fire lane by a sensible hour mid morning, come Monday no one would have to clear anything off the field, Hugo and Joseph could have fun playing in their orange vests, and the hire van would be empty, so all the accumulated bags wouldn’t be thrown in on top of the long-suffering Blyth backline.
‘I don’t like Mondays’
But the landlord does. The bank holiday weekend is a key one for any events venue, and naturally The Hunters is a business that wants to maximize its revenue. We have been asked if we would continue on the Monday in order to allow them to sell more beer. This is something we considered how best to address, coming up with the idea of the Ashes Monday Album Rehash. Obviously the reason for moving to the bank holiday was to allow people a day to get home, but on the other hand last time we ended on a regular Sunday, enough people stayed to make it worthwhile. That was at The Goat in darkest Norfolk too, so it didn’t seem too preposterous an idea…
‘Why did my favourite beer run out?’
Each year we make every effort to liaise with the venue more on all fronts, and we hope to make the whole thing an all round better weekend. But it seems every year you all drink more beer too! :)