As I write this it's exactly one year to the minute since I walked into the Dickens Inn pub in the arrival-hall of north terminal of the London Gatwick airport. I had arranged to meet Matilda and Christina there, as our flight arrived about the same time, and as our common destination was Redhill.
Entering the pub, I heard Christina sing Mabel, the sign we had agreed on to find each other. We'd had contact on the Internet, but never met in real life before. After greetings and big hugs, I went to the counter for a beer, and witnessed a live demonstration that not only Norway has strange alcohol laws. I had to wait one minute, I was told: they were not allowed to sell beer until 10.00 in the morning. So it was that customers and bartenders were standing looking at their watches, until one of them said: 'It's time'. And they started pouring the beer.
Beer finished, we went for a taxi, destination Redhill. This time a difference between Norway and England was demonstrated live: as usual I headed for the right hand front seat of the taxi. 'If you wish to drive, that's alright with me', the taxi-driver said. 'Otherwise you'd better take the left seat'.
We arrived at Redhill a few minutes later. I was staying at Laker Toby's, and Christina and Matilda continued to another hotel in the region. My room was not ready that early, so I left my luggage and headed for the Warwick Quadrant. I found the Harlequin theatre, located only a five minutes walk from my hotel. A small poster on the door showed what a unique event was going to take place the next evening.
|Probably the only picture
taken of the entrance of the Harlequin Theatre.
Photo: Gary Schroeder
I guess I was not the only fan to visit the Harlequin this morning. But at that point I didn't know the other Procoholics gathered in Redhill, so I didn't meet anybody.
I had arranged to meet another Norwegian, Tormod, at the HMV record shop in London, so I went to the train station. I realized then what a superb place Diane and John had chosen for the Anniversary party: hotel and railway station within walking distance from the theatre. And trains going to both London and Gatwick all the time.
I found Tormod as planned, and we spent some great hours shopping for CDs, lunching and talking about Procol Harum. Neither of us had met before, but we had a common interest, so the rapport was instant.
When I got back to the hotel, my room was ready. And there
were messages waiting for me. Pat had arrived from Kansas, and
Diane and her husband Gary were in from the USA as well.. Soon we
were all assembled in the hotel pub. Through the Internet, we had
arranged to meet this evening. And Diane (Rolph) had arranged a
place for us to gather at Laker Toby's Hotel.
As the evening went on, a huge Procol Harum party evolved. Participants from all over the word were gathered: Mirek from Poland, Fritz from Germany, Stephen and family from Australia, Fiona and Malcolm from England, the Scottish Tom and Jerry, several Americans including Leonard, Diane, Gary, Pat and more. Some Norwegians I had never met before: all in all more than twenty people gathered. All in the spirit of Procol Harum and Keith Reid, brought together for the following day's unique birthday party. Most of us had never met before, but thanks to the Internet we met like old friends this Friday night.
|From left. Tormod Ringvioll (Norway), Mirek Plodzik (Poland), Evan Wagshul (USA), Pat Keating (USA), Matilda Linder (Sweden)|
Saturday morning was mostly spent waiting for the afternoon's
event. Gathering in small groups, we had an occasional beer,
talked about Procol Harum, which musicians we expected would
appear and which songs they would play. Some of us visited
Harlequin for what must have been the fifth time. And this time
somebody had started rigging up displays etc, to prepare for the
Thirtieth Procol Harum Anniversary, scheduled to start at 4
o'clock. We helped out a little, by blowing balloons and such
things. Diane and John really wanted to make a party of it.
Suddenly an unknown voice cried out: 'Hi Jens': it was Roland, Internet friend for a year, and my future collaborator 'Beyond the Pale'. Our first (and this far only) meeting in flesh took place 19th July 1997. Thanks to modern technology, we have been able to join our efforts using 'Beyond the Pale' as an instrument to promote Procol Harum and bring the fans together.
|The concert was a sell-out. But it differed from an ordinary concert in many ways. Everybody got nametags when we entered the theatre lobby: a nametag is well-known from conferences, but I have never had one at a concert before. But then this was not an ordinary concert; this was a party. And many of the guests knew each other by name, very few by sight, so the nametags were an important instrument in bringing us together.|
The videos, catering and concert are all well-documented elsewhere. So I won't go into that, but I must say it was the greatest experience of my life.
|After the concert Christina and I managed to get backstage. What an unique feeling to stand there chatting with the heroes of my youth (and adult life). I managed to get my Procol Party Set List fully autographed by all the band members – including Douglas Adams who read Keith Reid's spoken words in In Held 'Twas In I.||
|I had been in contact with Peter Solley via e-mail: he had visited my Procol Harum website 'Shine On Brightly' (the ancestor to this website). Pete had impressed us all that night, playing several different instruments in a great way. And it was nice to have a chat with him.|
|Matthew Fisher was a very nice man; he knew my name from the website as well. 'But I never realized this was a Norwegian site', he said, 'I always assumed it was based in the USA'. I am delighted that Matthew and I still keep regular contact through e-mails, he is a good friend. I also talked to his nice sister, Judith, and Matthew's mother. Mrs Fisher was obviously impressed by all the fans gathered around her son. 'How come you're so poor when you are this famous ?' she wondered. We know that bad management and legal consultants have reduced the money Matthew Fisher and the other Procol Harum members rightfully deserved.||
|Most of the band-members assembled with some of the hard core fans in Laker Toby's pub after the concert. Pictures where shown, and taken, autographs written, beer drunk. And everybody talked about Procol Harum and had a good time. It was late, very late when the last of us retired to bed.|
Redhill was unique in many ways. People gathered from all over the world, strangers met like old friends. A concert with name tags and food. A band playing for their fans without getting paid, even covering their own travelling expenses. A line-up consisting of nine persons that once had been one of the Procol Harum five (or four). In Held 'Twas In I played in full, by the band only, for the first time. The party atmosphere with chatting between fans and musicians. But maybe mostly, many friendships were established or renewed this magical weekend in Redhill. Friendships that will continue and grow.
Hopefully we will be able to meet again in the near future. For a new Procol Harum party, in Redhill or another part of the world. Until then Redhill stands as a signpost in my life. May it never cease to sign!
|Thank you Diane and John for making this happen. And thank you Procol Harum for playing the music of our lives.|
More Redhill anniversary pieces