WICKSTEED AT WAR WEEKEND RETROSPECTIVE
Let’s start with the whingeing first: It’s 9am in the morning, a ‘brisk’ breeze belies what the forecasters have told you, the grass is damp underfoot and the grey clouds scud ominously overhead. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to buy a cup of tea and possibly even some breakfast? But, like Kettering High Street on a Friday evening, all the shutters are down. Even Reg’s Retro shop, usually so bright and inviting, is in a depressing state of lockdown; his 1950s’ alarm clock having failed to work again.
This, then, is Wicky Park on the first morning of the ‘War Weekend’ ~ where the major battle appears to be getting up in the morning.
It is, I believe, Wicksteed’s third foray into the 1940s’ scene, and it is to their credit that they have persevered with an event that gets better every year. Savaged by high winds and driving rain, the first event, though not exactly a washout, was certainly a test of endurance. Even the enticement of a large marquee crammed to the gunnels with barrels of real ale was not enough to maintain momentum on the Sunday of the first weekend. It was a real-ale drinker’s dream (or possibly a nightmare). Imagine standing there alone, gazing at a parade of beer barrels the beer in which had just been reduced to a pound a pint to clear! There really is only so much one individual can do!
The second year at Wicky saw a larger volume of heavy mechanical wartime equipment, more re-enactors, the shifting of the beer festival into a demarcated area inside the Pavilion and more traders. This event also came with a 1940s’ evening dance and entertainment, which, in spite of the presence of those who were only there for the booze, went off really well. The biggest gripe came from the traders who discovered much to their dismay the inherent problem with holding any themed event at an open park, which is that most of the Joes and their family look but do not buy.
It is, indeed, particularly difficult to create and maintain a 1940s’ atmosphere under these conditions, as the number of people wearing 21st century stuff made in China and sporting ubiquitous tattoos obviously far outnumber those who dress in period clothing ~ and then, of course, there are all these things called kids whizzing this way and that, not at all with the reserve and decorum that one would expect from 1940s’ children. But then, hey and wo! ~ this is a family-oriented park and that’s what it’s geared up to be.
Wicky Park deserves praise for bringing together a peculiarly inventive mix of 1940s’ enthusiasts, a beer festival, a 1960s/70s retro shop, a boot fair, an amusement park, 1940s’ military re-enactors, tanks and heavy vehicles and, so I’m told, a wedding all over one weekend.
The heavy equipment and military displays were awesome to say the least; the battlefront displays were impressive as were the pyrotechnics, although I have to say that the focus on the battle was deflected somewhat by a couple of Kettering-type ladies who had fallen into a fit of hysterics about a fat Allied soldier who didn’t look quite right lumbering across the battlefield ~ if you are that soldier, take comfort in the fact that those doing the warbling are not exactly going to come even third place in the Slimmest Women of Wicky competition (er, jury is still out).
On the trading front, most of the stall holders reported worth-while takings over the weekend and said that they would certainly consider coming again next year.
Who wouldn’t be coming next year, and neither will their friends, was a couple of period-dressed folk from Hertfordshire who were asked on the gate ‘were they going to the boot fair’ and who felt like fish out of water amidst the shoals of ordinary Joes.
For the evening dance, however, there was an excellent turnout and a balanced proportion of people dressed in 1940s’ civvies and uniforms. It did seem for one dreadful moment that Wicky were so pleased with their brilliant white paintwork and new lighting system that draining the national grid was much more important than creating atmosphere ~ however, dimmed light in the appropriate places happened as the Ashby Big Band struck up.
Whilst the band provided the dancers with the fuel they needed to strut their stuff, Vintage Vocalist Peter Wayre once again took on the role of host, tied the whole thing together and gave the show its momentum and true 1940s’ feel. Peter is a very accomplished singer, a true professional and very amiable with it.
On Sunday afternoon, with the sun finally condescending to put in a guest appearance, and with a good range of quality ales still on the go for quaffing, it was time to sit down and relax to the dulcet tones of Pete Wayre and Luna Nightingale (another not-to-be-missed vintage vocalist) performing such timeless numbers as ‘Lambeth Walk’, ‘I’ll be Seeing You’ and ‘Straighten up and Fly Right’. By the end of the afternoon it was more a case of straighten up and walk right! Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/station109
NB: Station 109 would like to thank Peter Wayre personally for his suggestion of arranging accommodation for us in the Sherman tank overnight this year but ~ unlike last year ~ we had bought the wife a chauffeur’s outfit! Thanks anyway!