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View from the inside: crisis, what crisis?

The 29th Festival will be held on Fri 22nd - Sat 23rd March 2019 once again at Brighton Racecourse.

[This article originally appeared in the Spring 2005 edition of Sussex Drinker magazine]

Most of you reading this magazine will have attended (and hopefully enjoyed greatly) the 15th Sussex Beer & Cider Festival at Hove Town Hall from 10-12 March.You may or may not have noticed, depending on how much you drank, how wonderfully well everything went, all according to plan, under the expert leadership of wonder woman, Festival Organiser, Ingrid Sharp.

But did it really go like this? My personal diary suggests that not everything went as intended.

Late June 2004 – invited to trip to Crouch Vale (Beer of the 2004 Festival Presentation). On way back, strange woman with yellow eyes comes and sits next to me on the coach, claims to be the Festival organiser, Ingrid Sharp, and ‘persuades’ me to volunteer to help with the 2005 Festival

July 2004 – attend a Festival Committee meeting and somehow get job as Programme Editor.

Sept 2004 – Festival Committee meeting – same strange woman with yellow eyes keeps feeding me with Harveys. Result is that I get roped in to a food tasting session with a potential caterer as I appear to be the sole Vegetarian on the committee despite ceasing to be a vegetarian a good few months back.

Sept 2004 – On way back from food tasting get asked by Ingrid to take on the ‘non Treasurer’ jobs in the list of Treasurer duties, become ‘her’ assistant with responsibility for everything to do with ‘tickets’ and the design and procurement of the Festival glasses.

Oct 2004 – signing mandate forms for writing cheques lead to several meetings in public houses, not all bad news. Festival Organiser declares herself pregnant – see what drinking beer can do to you! Big congrats to both Ingrid and Daniel.

Oct 2004 – emergency meeting with Festival Organiser in Evening Star and forget to discuss the beer festival. The Dark Star Sussex Porter is excellent.

Nov 2004 – appointed Ingrid’s Secretary, far from sure what this is about. Not allowed to take minutes of Committee meetings. New Treasurer, Alison Pinkham, elected on Brighton & South Downs Branch trip to Oakham as all Committee members present except sole member from other Branches. But am I upset?

Dec 2004 – all going well, meet with Alison in the Selden Arms to sign some more bank mandate forms. The Grand Union Honey Porter is extremely good. Take to Alison straight away as she goes completely out of her way and gives me a lift home all the way to Ferring.

Dec 2004 – take part in quizzes at the Harbour View in Portslade, (Alison owns the pub!), with Ingrid (and spouses) and win loads of prizes. Glasses ordered. Agreement reached with Festival Programmes company for them to design and print our programme for no charge to us while they procure adverts and keep the revenue. Decide to increase our own advertising with the use of beermats – designed and produced by Colourfast Ltd in Brighton

Jan 2005 – discover I am coulrophobic but get no sympathy from rest of committee
Tickets sales started and going well. Ingrid starts wearing a clown’s red nose. Beer organisers working hard on ordering the necessary.

Feb 2005 – ticket sales going spectacularly well. Friday night is sold out. Trying to cram everything into the space available in the programme is fun. Get stressed out, have a tantrum and offer resignation. Get told by Ingrid to not be so stupid. Committee agree to play CDs on the Hove Town Hall PA system when live bands not playing. Told that I can’t supply the music because of my weird tastes. Agreed that everybody will bring in a couple of CDs.

Mar 2005- nothing to do with festival but go with Alison to see Fairport Convention on their 39th anniversary tour at Worthing Pier Pavilion. Absolutely superb, wonder if they will play at next year’s festival for free beer!

Mar 2005 – get job of designing t-shirts for set-up crew and festival merchandise. Absolutely hopeless at it so get Ingrid and Daniel to help. Not everything goes smoothly so necessary to call in a marriage Guidance Counsellor to prevent them throttling each other.

Mar 2005 – inundated with ticket applications and phone calls about ticket availability. Learn spiel off by heart, advising callers that tickets are available for sessions other than Friday night. Wife (Jan) refuses to go anywhere near the phone anymore. Get used to answering the phone as ‘SCBF Ticket Sales’

Mar 2005 – ‘Final’ Beer List received. Jan spends all weekend putting beer symbols next to each beer – not easy mixing text and images in Word. Programme submitted to designers.

8 March 2005 – Festival set-up begins, scaffolding and beer arrive and by end of day are in place. Get given the vitally important job of assisting carrying the bacon baps from the food shop across the road. Go to get Festival T-shirts from supplier in Cheltenham Place, Brighton. Get directions, find road – ‘No Entry’. Go round block and approach from other end. Can’t get to right road as I find another ‘No Entry’ sign. Go round block twice more encountering ‘No Entry’ signs before finding way through the maze of the North Laine area.

9 March 2005 – set-up continues, glasses arrive, everyone seems to like the design. Then, Allan Moores spots that there is some sort of ‘deposit’ in the bottom of each glass (turned out to be simply a calcium deposit as glasses produced in a hard water area). Eventually get permission to use the big industrial glass washer in the basement kitchen. Try it out but it doesn’t work. Panic. Ingrid decides we will wash all the glasses by hand. Several teams set-up in each of the Town Hall kitchens. Several hours later we have sparkling clean glasses. As glasses were my responsibility, offer resignation – accepted! Programmes arrive – look really good.

Go out with Alison much later than planned to collect unused tickets and revenue from pub outlets. Get caught in massive traffic jam. Takes over 4 hours to complete job. Totally knackered when get home.

10 March 2005 - wake up at 4am realising that we don’t have enough programmes- there can’t be 3,000 in the 5 boxes delivered. Can’t sleep, so get up and do some work on the ticketing accounting. Eventually get to Hove Town Hall and greatly relieved that there are about 3,300 programmes delivered in 11 (eleven) boxes. Programmes look even better when they are inserted into the sparkling clean glasses. Discover that I am the only person to bring in CDs for the PA system, so its old and current Fairport Convention etc using the superb Town Hall acoustics.

10 March 2005 – going well. Trade session completes without problems. First public session also good, over 500 people arrive. Recruit new members who not only will work at the Festival next year but will provide us with free web space. Thanks Paul and Helen (and for the lift home). Decide to ban all red noses for Comic Relief Day due to phobia.

11 March 2005 – lunchtime session excellent. Actually get time to mingle with the customers and even get a couple of beers. Make a big faux-pas with beer tokens for our St Dunstan’s guests. Offer resignation - accepted. Get cuddle from Ingrid. (When I was working for a living, why couldn’t I have had a manager like her?). Evening session, the usual full capacity. Ask Regional Director, who will appoint the new festival Organiser as Ingrid is standing down because of her forthcoming motherhood. Find myself promoted to Festival Organiser for 2006. Mary wearing red nose but not on her face. No sign of band at the appointed time. Ingrid starts panicking again. Load of phone calls made to find them. Eventually turn up. Use speakers over the Cider Bar. Roger and Jackie now totally deaf. Still going well. Cider is running out.

12 March 2005 – lunchtime session busy, over 500 customers. First signs that beer capacity might be a problem when examining the dip sheets. Tony Gibson and Jackie despatched to Middle Farm to get more cider. Discover that we have now sold over 500 advance tickets for the evening session with at least 300 customers expected at the door. Only 560 glasses left. Everyone panics. Time is 12.40, emergency glasses held in store on site in Lancing that closes at 12.30. Frantic phone calls made, site will stay open to 13.30 but no later. Allan and Mike the Pipe go to get them – eventually arriving at 13.45 but manage to persuade the site officials to stay open. Emergency glasses obtained – turn out to be spares from the Worthing festivals 2003 and 2004.
Beer running out. Everyone panics. It’s all my fault. Offer resignation – accepted.
Tony Gibson on return from Middle Farm, scours the county and obtains bright beer from several breweries and friendly pubs. Despatch wife Jan to the Gribble Brewery at Oving to collect 2 x 4.5 gallon pins. Make her earn her complementary ticket.
Beer arrives, saved for the moment.

12 March 16.20 - make presentation to Ingrid of a huge bouquet of flowers as a thank you for her work over the past 2 years and in view of her future event. Message on card reads simply ‘An impossible act to follow’. I don’t think that anything could ever be so true. I have found her totally inspirational. What an organiser!!!!!
Ingrid is heard to describe the late and probably the greatest female folk rock singer Sandy Denny’s voice like a ‘strangled cat’. I don’t like Ingrid anymore.

12 March 17.00 onwards - loads of people arrive. Over 800 through the door and more coming. Slight hiccup at the door over tickets set aside. How could I be expected to remember my daughter’s partner’s name – I was having enough trouble in remembering my own name although it was pretentiously printed on the back of my T-Shirt. 20.00, beer in Main Hall appears to have nearly run out. Ingrid panics and starts meowing like a cat. Nothing will console her, not even a saucer of Millis Winter Witch. Decide to take control and take her for a walk. Off to the Quiet Bar and show her that there is still loads of beer. Having trouble bumping into things as my nose appears to have got a lot longer. 21.00, everyone still appears to be happy and there is still beer in the Quiet Bar. Band in Main Hall looks like it is doing a great job.

12 March 22.00. - We’ve made it and still there is a small amount of beer left in the Quiet Bar.

All the customers leave and the staff have a wild party. Well, not exactly. I’ve never been to a more subdued affair, everyone shattered but feeling good over their part in the Festival.

13 March 2005 - Sunday morning – 12.15 - leave Town hall in minibus. Chat to driver who offers to give us a quote for all our transportation costs next year and to do all the arranging. Festival work continues right to the end!

13 March 2005 - Sunday morning – 10.15 – arrive at Town Hall for take-down. Supposed to have been there for 09.00 but delayed by need for coffee. Others have been doing the hard work of taking down casks and scaffolding for hours.

14 March 2005 – carry on Town Hall clear up. Get job of getting the bacon baps again. By 15.00 everything cleared and Ingrid and I are the last to leave, still on a high and feeling very job satisfied.

So, how successful was the Festival? Well we catered for 3,000 customers expecting 2,800 but managed to get over 3,300. Something in the order of 15,000 pints were drunk and people were extremely happy so the Festival must have been an enormous success.

There was no way that this success could have been achieved without the help of all our members who gave up their valuable time to help plan, set-up and work at the festival. We are already starting on Next Year’s event, which will be held on 9th, 10th and 11th March 2006. One thing for sure, we will need to plan for an even bigger event next time. Immediate plans are to visit as many other Beer Festivals as possible to harvest their good ideas. Somebody has to do it.

Peter Betteridge
‘Her’ Assistant



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