Hester on the ferry to the gig
I'm usually a bit jaded when I watch awards shows on tv: that x actor or y actress is 'proud' or 'humbled' by the occasion, or 'honoured' to be there etc etc. So it was a bit of a surprise to be at an occasion where I felt precisely all those emotions!
Will on the ferry (looking good!)
We had been invited to play at a celebration party given by Aardman Animations in Bristol, after they had announced that the founders and CEO's Peter Lord and David Sproxton had given 75% of the company over to their employees (including freelancers) to maintain the companys independence for the future. This is an extraordinary act of altruism and generosity, when you consider thay could have sold the entire shebang to Disney for zillions and pissed off to the Bahamas. The company itself - speaking purely as an observer reflects their ethos: friendly, laid back and bursting with ideas.
They had decided to throw a fantastic beanfest for all their employees and since they are longtime fans of the Ukes - we had played at their headquarters once before - can't remember when, but Hester said she was pregnant and her daughter is now 6 years old.
So I drove down from Buxton with Will to Bristol and we checked into the hotel and then, after something to eat, headed over to Aardman to soundcheck and set up; our changing room was Peter and David's office - all CEO's should have offices like this!
Aardman (in case you haven't heard of them are a huge animation company) and their offices are vast. They have won Oscars four times apparently and their hits include Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit. Here's Richie walking to soundcheck.
Hester has her eye examined by a minature Doug (our sound guy)
George was back in the fold for this gig and so, with the addition of Dave Bowie, we were nine - we don't often play with that many! The stage was set up in the foyer under one of their famous sheep from Wallace and Gromit (I think).
It was a fantastic party and although we got a few people dancing, I think that most peeps were just enjoying the vibe and kept talking - it was a pleasure to play for them all (listening or not). We did two sets and when we came back for the second set, I had the chance to listen to some of David's speech to the assembled revellers/employees: he said that he'd been talking to a friend who'd just come back from the States, visiting some animation place where 'everybody was working their guts out' 'making other people rich'. He then said that everyone at Aardman could work their guts out 'to make themselves rich' - to appreciative whoops from the throng.
Pointing at a slightly incongruous model of a Spitfire airplane hanging from from the ceiling, he said he had been asked why it had been placed there among all the party bunting etc. David explained that he had always loved aviation and recently he had had the chance to go up in one of these venerable aircraft (with an instructor). At a certain point in the flight the instructor passes over control of the airplane with the phrase "Do you have control", to which the junior pilot has to answer clearly "I have control." Since David and Peter won't be there forever, their employees will have control - I thought it a highly appropriate metaphor for the future of the company.
Peter (left) and David (right) came backstage (or more correctly, back to their offices - strewn with our detritus) to say thank you and chat. Neither of them are at all showbizzy or grand and are just basically two low key talented guys. I chatted to Emily, Peter's American PA who told me that when Peter was dithering over getting a new car (price, performance etc) and in the end she had to say to him, "Peter just go into a shop and BUY A CAR!"
The famous Aardman model "Morph" is positioned alongside one of our ukes for a photo op!
Some wonderful comments from employees under this hashtag.
Walking back to the hotel afterwards in the rain, I remembered a conversation with a friend I had back in the 90's - he had postulated than in the 21st century, the nation state would be dead and Globalism would rule: people would no longer say, I'm a British person, I'm a Venezualan or I'm from Kazakhstan. Instead people would say: I'm a Coca Cola person, I'm a Sony person or I'm a Disney person.
With the current political climate, I mused I wouldn't mind being an Aardman person - and Bristol is quite a cool place as well.