Tour Memories #4 - Gawthorpe Hall
Off the Ground owe a lot to Gawthorpe Hall. Their support over the many years we have been performing there has been invaluable, and we feel genuinely connected to the community around the venue. We see a lot of the same faces every year and that is so valuable to us in so many ways.
As a venue it is a gorgeous National Trust property set away from the hustle and bustle of Padiham. The historic house is worth a visit just to learn the fascinating stories of the past (but not yet as it hasn't reopened yet), while the grounds and gardens make for a beautiful walk in new surroundings. Here are some of OTG's memories of performing at Gawthorpe Hall from over the years:
Eleanor M - Peter Pan
"I'm sure I have other memories of Gawthorpe, however they are all overshadowed by Peter Pan! Falling off the back of the stage as I died as Captain Hook, I landed very awkwardly on my ankle, after silently screaming for a moment or two, I did my quick change into Mrs Darling's costume and hobbled out onto stage with Tomo supporting me. I grimaced through the final scene and curtain call before being carried off by Tomo. Team OTG then rallied round amazingly to help me. Hook spent the rest of tour on crutches!"*
* What Eleanor is too modest to mention here is that not a single one of Hook's sword fighting scenes (and you can imagine how many that is) were compromised by the injury. Despite spending the rest of the tour on crutches, our magnificent Hook fought with both sword and crutch - it was genuinely impressive to watch.
Dan M - A Legend of King Arthur
"There was a scene where Guinevere was explaining that Sir Lancelot had just escaped from the court of King Arthur. One of the knights asked how he had got away. At that moment, with the roar of a massive burner, a huge hot air balloon appeared from just behind the trees at the back of the stage. No-one said anything and everyone, cast and audience, just giggled for a couple of minutes."
Chloe H - A Midsummer Night's Dream
"I remember being placed down on a wooden pallet by Felipe, who was playing Puck, in the most uncomfortable position ever during A Midsummer Night's Dream and having to stay there for a good while during the lover's sleeping. I wanted to kill him!"
Rob K - Witches Abroad (1998)
"That horrible moment as a cast when you’re aware the actors on stage are improvising because someone has missed their cue. Dan “the gaffa” Meigh curses the inattentive cast member whose missed his cue. The moment he realised that it was actually him who had missed it was glorious. His facial expression defied gravity. He can’t half sprint quick for a small fella. Suffice to say he delivered his scene with aplomb, just a bit breathy for the first few minutes."
Connor W - Sinbad
"I will never forget our Sinbad show at Gawthorpe Hall. I'd only recently really come into my role in senior management and this was the first show I'd managed on my own. I was also in the cast for the show. When we arrived at the venue it was to glorious sunshine, but by the time we'd emptied the van it was in torrential rain. We tech ran in glorious sunshine, but the fight/dance call was in torrential rain. You can see where this is going. By the time we'd had something to eat and were changing into costume we'd had another 4/5 turns in the weather. Curtains up was at 6:30pm and bless our hardcore audience who had turned up and sat for up to half an hour in the rain waiting for our final decision as to whether it was safe to perform or not. At 6:25pm I was forced to make the unfortunate decision to call time and to cancel the show. As I went on stage to make the announcement, drenched through, I was fully having to shout to be heard by audience a few feet away, such was the force of the rain. I suddenly became aware of this shouting, as while I was giving the cancellation announcement the rain began to subside. As I reached the end of the announcement, the pre-show music could be heard once again (it had been drowned out by the rain too). 'The Show Must Go On' by Queen was playing, full volume. I gave Pete, who was desperately trying to protect the sound equipment, a look that could have killed from 30 yards. He swears to this day he didn't know what it was playing, but I'm not so sure."
Rob K - Unknown (possibly for the best)
"Me and another 17 year old getting a bollocking the day of a Gawthorpe show for buying a mature-porn magazine in Padiham. Sent to tents early after the show, only to be kept awake into the small hours by management getting rowdy. All resolved in the morning."
Connor W - Peter Pan
"I got to play a lost boy in Peter Pan, which was a dream come true anyway, but then to get to play a lost boy with a giant stone staircase to play on and slide down the sides of, that was next level entertainment - well, for me at least."
Dan M - Twelfth Night
"We’ve probably got Gawthorpe to thank for the last 24 years of touring. Our first tour was Twelfth Night and we’d organised it while finishing our degrees in Durham. You have to remember that this was 1996 so no social media, I only knew one person with an email address which was, quite frankly, useless as I didn’t have one, and we only had landline phones. It turns out that landlines aren’t that useful when you’re on the road for a month.
We had to do all the marketing for the show before we left, sending lots of faxes to local newspaper offices and a few posters and fliers to the venues (150 posters then were more expensive than 1000 posters now - that still makes no sense to me.) We managed to organise the odd press shoot, the only way to get a photo in the papers, by calling the newsrooms of the local papers from a phone box and hoping there was a photographer in and we could organise a rendezvous.
Our tactics worked with varying degrees of success. We had some great nights and some fairly empty ones and by the end of tour we were running very short of cash. Well, we’d run out of cash but, being just graduated students, we’d managed to crack on for a bit. And then we drove into Padiham.
On all of the roads into Padiham the staff from Gawthorpe had put up bright yellow and orange signs announcing our arrival (which they still do to the day) and our posters were everywhere. That night we had a crowd of about 250 (I said at the time that I would never forget the exact number of the crowd - turns out I was wrong) and that, along with another great night at Turton Tower down the road, meant we had enough money at the end of the run to start planning for the next year.
And here we are 25 years later. A huge thank you to Deborah who helped put up the posters that first year, still works at Gawthorpe and is the only person from a venue who has known us since that first tour."