Over the course of the last 7 or 8 weeks since I first officially came on board the Laughter for Life project, I’ve sat down or laid in bed at night and thought about how it was going to go and ru all kinds of best-case/worst-case scenarios through my brain. But none of them came even close to last night.
It was, without doubt, one of the best nights of my life and one of my greatest achievements. I felt both proud and piviledge to be part of such a spectacular and succesful event and I can’t even begin to express my gratitude to all of those who were involved, helped out, donated or just encouraged us to do it.
Shattered now, yes, but boy was it worth it.
We didn’t have access to the space until 6 o’clock, so we turned up en masse at the venue around 5.30 to put our stuff down in our function room and lay out our battle plan. Emma, myself, Paula and Rose all took on various jobs without much discussion and everyone just seemed to fit in around what we were doing.
I don’t want this to be a stupidly prolonged thank you session, but I think it’s safe to say that without the assistance of the “significant others” – Brad, K and Julian – things would have been a lot more bumpy.
I left everyone to handle the front-of-house goings on and found my way to the auditorium and found Suze all ready and raring to go as our Stage Manager for the evening. I had no idea that she was going to be as busy as she was – having assured her it was just going to be a case of jogging each act with a 5 minute call before they were due on stage.
As it happened, she was completely invaluable, doing all the legwork that I couldn’t have done. I think our partnership for the night was rather like the proverbial swan, with me sitting serenly above the water looking calm and controlled and marshalling people here and there, whilst Suze paddled away furiously under the surface making sure everything I was marshalling was where it should be to be marshalled.
The acts all turned up in plenty of time (more of an achievement than you’d have thought, let me assure you) and were absolutely brilliant to a man. Kind, generous and fun to chat to, I managed to have a good giggle before we even got to the show itself.
I had Rob, my documentary cameraman, following me around getting all the madness on tape, so it’s going to be interesting to look back on it in a few month’s time and see just how calm I was (or wasn’t!) looking.
We had just over an hour to get everything set up, including rigging a follow spot, getting the band set up and sound-checked and giving the acts a chance to familiarise themselves with the space and the set-up.
They all wandered on stage from the green room just before we opened the house (let the audience in) and chatted with the band to arrange their walk-on music, which was great for them to be able to choose. The house band – Big Buzzard – were brilliant and added such a sheen of professionalism to the whole event.
They were something of a last-minute addition, having offered up their services at relatively short notice, but I’m so glad we took them up on their offer – they really added that extra dimension to the show.
The show itself was simply stunning. The entire bill was nothing short of hilarious and several times throughout the even I thought I was in danger of embarrassing myself with loss of bladder control. If I’d not be tied to an oxygen cylinder, I’d have been rolling in the aisles.
Bill Bailey strung the whole thing together perfectly – giving everyone perfectly distilled little pieces of his humour whilst linking between the acts. Geoff Whiting, Glenn Wool and Rob Rouse tore through the first half and had me coughing with laughter the whole way. After the break, I had managed to compose myself enough to be less of a distraction through Ian Stone and Dara O’Briain’s sets.
During the interval, I popped backstage to the Green Room to grab a fresh O2 cylinder – it being the nearest secure place to leave them through the show – and was planning on heading out front to catch up with all the various friends who’d made the effort to come along.
As it was, I ended up in a really long chat with Rob, Glenn, Dara and Ian about my O2 and then segued into CF and its various effects/characteristics. They were all genuinely interested and keen to learn, and being the Ambassador I am, I’m never going to pass up an opportunity to educate people on CF!
After the show, I was keen to make sure everything got sorted backstage, but was hurriedly ushered off to make my presence at the after-show drinks reception felt. Although I think what I actually ended up doing was making sure that Richard Madeley understood all of my gobbledigook on his crib sheet for the auction.
Emma stood up and started things off with a run of thank yous and talked for a bit about where the money we raised was going and what we were all here for. I then followed up with a brief heartstring-plucker to get everyone in the mood to dig deep in their pockets for the auction itself.
I have to say I’d not done any prep for it apart from thinking about my opening line, and I was pretty impressed with what I came up with. I knew I’d have to talk about some difficult stuff, but I think I’m so used to it now, it just rattles off without me having to think about it too much.
It seemed to set the tone well though, (“Thanks a f**king lot” was Richard’s response when he took the mic from me) and the auction went really well. Considering all the lots we had were donated for nothing, everything we cleared was money straight in our boxes and we did a great run for 11 lots – over £1,800.
That figure will be swelled over the coming few days with cash from programme sales and the collecting buckets (somewhere in the region of £1,200), and individual donations (which is currently overr £1,000 and expected to rise) – all of which is to be added to our ticket sales, which is somewhere around £15,000. All told, we’re looking pretty good to hit £20,000 for the whole night – an astounding and truly humbling amount of money.
I think one of the biggest compliments of the night for me, though, was to hear today that there were people in the audience who had no idea they were at a charity gig at all – they had bought their tickets purely on the strength of the bill we presented (no pun intended) and when they realised it was for charity and learned about the cause, couldn’t wait to dig into their pockets and drop cash in our collecting buckets.
I said last week that this whole experience had taught me how wonderful people can be and to believe in the spirit of human nature and it’s only been reinforced over the last couple of days.
This whole event has been one of the greatest – and most rewarding – experiences of my life and I have to thank Emma and Emily not only for letting me be a part of the project they started, but for allowing me to feel so much a part of the team and the cause.
If you’re not already signed up to the organ donor register, you have time to do it now. If you’ve just read through the whole of this blog entry, you clearly don’t have enough to do today, so you’ve got enough time to take out 2 minutes of your time to go to www.uktransplant.org.uk and sign up right now – it’s fast, it’s electronic and it could make a difference to up to 9 other people’s lives.
Don’t let your death be in vain, and don’t let the 400 people who died last year while waiting for a transplant have passed for nothing. If there’s any message that should come from this weekend, it’s Live Life Then Give Life.
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