December 16, 2016

Seattle’s Moisture Festival 2016 Fundraiser in Glasgow, Scotland for The Britannia Panopticon – The World’s Oldest Surviving Music Hall

In August 2016 a fun loving group of circus tramps representing Moisture Festival headed to Glasgow to help raise funds for the restoration of the world’s oldest surviving music hall – The Britannia Panopticon, where Stan Laurel started. It was a wonderful adventure and a historic mission for Moisture Festival!

The first show was Thursday evening, August 4, in the west end of Glasgow at a stunning refurbished cathedral called The Oran Mor, now a famous venue for shows and events. In order to accomplish this magnificent feat, Judith Bowers, who leads the Britannia Panopticon restoration effort, and her volunteers arranged two vans and two cars for transporting people and props. The show drummer, from Glasgow, was Chris Anderson, a rock and roll drummer who had never played a variety show before. He did a fabulous job. Thursday was the only night that The Creative Martyrs could join us. They are fantastic Glasgow cabaret clowns whose characters appear as though from 1853.  The dressing room was down the elevator and was reportedly Amy Winehouse’s favorite dressing room – quite beautiful and elegant. The show went really well – greeted enthusiastically by the audience.   Once the work was done off we went - this was our first night at The Scotia – Glasgow’s oldest pub – two blocks from The Panopticon. 

Friday was spent rehearsing and everyone in the cast was very excited to perform on the Panopticon stage! The room exudes history, the scale is intimate - it is funky but functional with old photographs posted on the walls, artifacts from days gone by displayed around the room. It is as though the room embraces you. This was our first sold out show and the room was electric. I was MC that night. I explained my connection to Scotland, a Scottish mother and a West Virginia hillbilly father - brought together near the end of World War Two. My family’s visits to Glasgow led to a flyer about “the world’s oldest surviving music hall” and the obvious connection to Moisture Festival of Comedy/Variete in Seattle. I felt at home on the stage, ready to introduce the first act.

Saturday was a day full of surprises! The Saturday matinee show was to be a clown show and workshop with Hacki Ginda and Bobbo Roberts, a Glasgow 9th generation circus clown. The clowns were to make it up and handle it. But there was no Hacki (stopped at the border). Most of the cast was taking the day off to explore Glasgow. Around 11am Judith asked, “RB, do we have a show? We have over 30 people who have purchased tickets! Oh, and Bobbo has another gig this morning and can’t get here until 1pm” (he didn’t make it until 2:20pm).  I found Moeppi Ginda – who had never done a clown workshop.  Martha Enson (aerial rope/The Velones) had just arrived in Glasgow at 11am. By 2pm we had thrown together a show for the folks! Some cast members began to
walk in and were nabbed to be a part of the show.  Judith put on her Florie costume. We created a bit with the Velones and Moeppi. Then the word spread that Bobbo had arrived. He and Moeppi took it from there, having a great time with the kids in the audience. One exciting moment was after the show when a gentleman introduced himself as the grandson of A.E. Pickard, the man who created The Britannia Panopticon. He was truly appreciative of the effort we were making to help bring the music hall back to life and he loved the show!
       At 3:30 we had a scheduled meeting with Mark, the rigger from Aerial Edge, to confirm the ability to rig for rope at The Panopticon and to borrow a mat for The Velones. Mark, Cathy, Martha and myself agreed that the rigging point up in the attic was strong enough! The Velones were on the bill for Saturday night!
      As we continued to prepare for the evening show the event manager from The Briggait (the wonderful space where we were scheduled for our closing show on Sunday) approached us and informed us that there were gale force winds predicted for Sunday and since the Briggait had a roof made of glass panels that sometimes popped out, it was deemed too dangerous to do shows there! No worries - we loved performing in The Panopticon! I’ve rarely seen a cast more relieved and pleased with a weather forecast. The Saturday evening show fell into place nicely  -The Velones rocked! Armitage Shanks gave that special Saturday night energy. The elephants were on parade!

Closing night at The Panopticon! The cast and all of the Panopticon volunteers were amped up for the last show. We all circled up in the dressing room, held hands and thanked our stage manager, Caroline ,and donors who helped make the shows a success including Judith and all the good people at The Panopticon. It had been a wonderful experience for all of us.  Moeppi’s luggage was finally delivered which included his own bubble formula! We were ready to deliver our best show for the people who had come to support The Britannia Panopticon! They rewarded us with a standing ovation and Judith closed out the evening with Harry Lauder’s “Keep Right on to the End of the Road.”   No one wanted it to be over but the adventure was near the end - a wonderful success! As Jenny Collins said, “like a wonderful dream that came true.”

by Ron W. Bailey - Moisture Festival Artistic Director

Moisture Festival Team: Godfrey Daniels, Randy Minkler, Ron W. Bailey, Caela Bailey, Moeppi Ginda, David Crellin, Aileen Wilkie, Sandy Neale, Martha Enson, Cathy Sutherland, Freddy & Evelyne Kenton, DuCaniveaux Bears, Mark Ettinger, David Salonen, Chris Anderson, Marie Mileto, Caroline Ettinger, Jenny Collins, Danny Obrien, Eric Marantz
Glasgow team: Judith Bowers, John Celestus, Becca McCall, John Celestus, Stacy Welsh, Meredith Joy Robinson 

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