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Blog: The Extravaganza

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I was in Peterborough on Thursday to view the closing night of my first ever professionally commissioned piece of ART - The Anglian Water One Alliance Health And Safety Stand Down Day!

CATCHY, right? I think it is going to set the West End alight... in a wet, also safe, way. This was something I was asked to do by Mr CM Smith of Barhale, and also of Being My Step-Dad. He was in charge of the whole event and was hiring some ACTORS to do a session at the end, so needed someone to write a SCRIPT. This is only the second time in my whole life that I have got work through family connections - this first was back in 1988 when I did a fortnight working on SITE, also for Chris. I lost a stone in weight that time, and was a bit disapppointed it didn't happen again!

When I got to Peterborough my Mum collected me and we ZOOMED off to the East Of England Showground. When I was growing up this was the scene of the most exciting thing to happen in Peterborough all year - the East Of England Show, when everyone would go to look at some Large Pigs, try and collect as much Free Tat from the stalls (i.e. pens and those hats made from a sheet of card with a cut out spiral in it) and then look at the Red Arrows go overhead. I even worked there once (or twice?) helping with the parking in the car park - if you come from Peterborough it is pretty much a RULE that you have to do this at some point.

The weren't any animals (though you could still SMELL them, mysteriously) and no red arrows, but other than that it didn't seem to have changed much. The event was happening in The Peterborough Arena, a big HANGAR style building which Anglian Water had hired out for the three days that this was all happening on. We walked in to the main auditorium which was VAST, with about 800 seats, three BIG SCREENS, and three stages - one for the main presentations, one for the BAND that had played during the morning session, and one for the DANCE TROUPE that Chris had got in from a local school to illustrate to his OPENING ADDRESS. When he told me about that i'd thought he was joking, which surprised him - of COURSE he'd have a live band and DANCERS as part of his talk, didn't everyone?

The other half of the room was full of DISPLAYS and STANDS where, reassuringly, you could collect all sorts of free stuff, although I was sad not to see any Spiral Hats. We mooched around, said hello to Chris (who, in his third day, was FULLY in control of the ginormous SHEBANG he was running) and met various colleagues that I'd heard about for YEARS.

At half past three it was SHOWTIME, so nearly FIVE HUNDRED of us filed into the main auditorium to watch the presentation. I'd been asked to write something suitable for this size of room, based around a courtroom scene. It was to have joining in, an EXPLOSION, a cage descending from the ceiling, space for a real site inspector to talk to the audience, and a GRAPHIC video showing somebody being very badly hurt in a real accident. It was quite a lot to get in, but I think I did all right, thought I must say I found the experience of watching it MORTIFYING. Partly this was due to the interactive/PANTO nature of it. Right at the start when the actors got everyone to stand up and raise their hands i turned to my Mum and said "Ugh! I hate this sort of thing!" then remembered that i had WROTE it! I was also VERY aware that the audience was TRAPPED there and would probably have preferred it to be over in five minutes so that they could go home!

The best bit was the bit I didn't do, when the Inspector came on to talk to the audience. He did some proper classy Corporate Comedy ("Anybody here from Balfour Beatty?") and then got people out of the audience to ask them questions about Health & Safety. Whilst doing my research I had become incredibly PROUD of the construction industry's attitude to this - some people (twats) go "ooh, health and safety, it is all red tape that stops sensible people making money", but if you work in construction it SAVES ACTUAL LIVES. They had people from all sorts of different ROLES on stage, who didn't know they'd be picked out, but they were all COMPLETELY on top of it, reeling out lists of all the precautions, procedures and GUIDANCE that was designed to stop accidents. It was inspiring!

So it was all fine, except from at the end when I was told to stand up and be thanked, and almost a THOUSAND eyes turned and looked accusingly at me, and it was really rather exciting to think that something I had written will have been seen by 1,500 people over the course of the three days. That probably means more people saw it over the run than ANY of our Fringe shows!

Like the Fringe shows, however, there was some tidying up to do afterwards, so the whole family of us joined in with taking down tables, moving signage, folding up tablecloths and generally trying not to get in the way, before going off for a BEER. Please note, CORPORATE EVENTS MANAGERS - if you hire me, I not only write the show, I clear up afterwards as well!

posted 26/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett

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