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Monday, 9 July 2012

Steve Knightley on Abbotsbury wash-out

The skies over east Devon and Dorset disgorged an entire month's worth of water on to Abbotsbury and the surrounding area on Friday night, throwing plans for Show of Hands' annual one-day festival at the town's subtropical gardens the next day into chaos. Word went out early on Saturday that the show had been cancelled. Perhaps the Isle of Wight's problems this year had made an impression?

"We'd already invested in the infrastructure - everything was built," said Knightley, Show of Hands' front man. "But we've had a very kind offer from the Wickham festival to let anyone with an Abbotsbury ticket in at no extra cost for Saturday August 4. The show also includes Bellowhead and the Home Service, so it's a good deal. We're hoping that will offset some of our losses.

"The production costs last year came to a bit less than £5,000. That was the crew, the PA and the other stuff we had to put in place - and the crew did their full two days' work for us. But we weren't insured - I don't think there's a company that will cover outdoor music events during the English summer. The extent of the loss depends partly on the musicians. I mean, we wouldn't hit anyone for a fee if we hadn't actually played, but I guess it's up to them if they want to charge us." There's also ticket returns to take into account...

Initially there'd been fighting talk from Knightley, who'd texted over the weekend "Police closed the roads. We were ready to rock!" But as damp reality set in he became more sanguine.

"I was setting off from Exmouth on the Saturday morning and the traffic was extremely difficult. Phil (Beer) was having the same trouble coming in a different direction and we just had to take a view. Then the police shut the Abbotsbury road along the seafront after there was a landslip nearby and reluctantly we had to cancel. It was the right decision, though, because it carried on getting worse.

"It's worrying times because the summer is usually our big earner and all these things have knock-on effects on each other. We're doing a two-day residential workshop at Herstmanceaux castle in east Sussex on July 24/25 with Martyn Joseph guesting. There are 70 spaces but we tend to sell the most tickets for it at Abbotsbury because I mention it on stage and explain about the workshops. There are also sessions but it doesn't have to be participatory." He sounded glum.

"Next weekend we're supposed to be playing at Ely and that's on a floodplain. I just hope it's going to be OK."

So how did he actually spend the weekend? "I sat in the rain and watched the tennis. I also took the kids swimming at the Exeter Golf and Country Club. I should have been on a main stage being a folk god and instead I was being a bedraggled dad."

Here's a song recorded at Herstmonceaux that's (partly) in a major key as a pick-me-up.

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