RAF Leeming FAMILIES DAY 2021
Due to the ongoing Global pandemic the 2020 event was cancelled so effectively, the 2021 event was 18 months in the making, and even then, it was still down to the wire…
“Build it and they will come”… so I did! – Sgt Greg Macdonald, 607 Sqn
As lockdowns changed categories so did the dates and the stress levels soared. First it was scheduled for May 21 and after 18 months of under the radar networking I had managed to get Sophie Ellis Bextor as the headliner for a snip of her usual price on the promise they could fly their own private plane in (as you do..). Along with some first-class bands I knew this was set to be my finest line up by a considerable margin.
In early 2021 a chance meeting with Flt Lt Bowie informed me that my master plan of using 1 Hangar again was potentially thwarted due to a major refurbishment programme! A few meetings and calls later it had become apparent that now, in fact, no hangar would be available….nightmare!! Other potential venues on camp were also too small for the anticipated post pandemic numbers. Oh sugar…
I am not sure how I got this idea but all I knew is that I wanted to create a ‘WOW’ factor so that, for once, people would not actually believe their eyes. Hence the idea of a big top Circus Tent. Never once in the last 5 years of doing this did I ever think I would find myself negotiating a price for a Big Top. Let me say, it’s a fairly niche market and not a cheap one either, but after haggling 2K off the initial price I also asked if they would throw in a couple of fire breathers, which they did!
A massive thanks to Charles Chipperfield for the tent as it achieved everything I wanted and more. Of interest, his family started the first ever Circus in 1684 when the River Thames froze over, and his grandfather flew Spitfires!!.
And so, after many stressful months the plan slowly started to take shape. That was until lockdown was again extended to the 21st July. With a formalised date of the 29th July this was going to be extremely tight. Covid measures in place and festivals and events going either way I was on the cusp of throwing the towel in before stress got the better of me.
With 4 weeks left to go I had an email that nobody wants to receive from Sophie’s Manager: “Greg, can you give me a call, please”….I already knew in the pit of my stomach how this was going to play out. Sure enough, she cut to the chase: a pre-arranged festival that had been cancelled 2 years ago to which she had been committed to was now back on and conveniently on the same day as Families Day. OMG, what was I going to do now? 4 wks to go, no headline, was Chesney Hawkes still available?
After 30 minutes sat with my head in my palms wanting the ground to swallow me up, I sent out a desperate email to some agents and managers I had spoken with over the years. I needed their help, fast.
To my surprise and delight, within 5 minutes one of my leads called saying that his ‘mate’ Judge Jules may be available! Ten mins later my hopes were dashed as sadly he had a gig already on Saturday 31st July…it’s Thursday 29th July I explained…five mins later, he is in, booked and confirmed: what a result!
And so, after many very stressful months event week was finally upon us. This is the part I really enjoy as you finally see your plans become reality.
As we hit Thursday 29th July RAF Leeming Families Day (Covid friendly, of course) finally swung into action. The weather held out, the cars roared around the runway and the Typhoon soared above our heads as the day was filled with laughter, celebration and normality. The night air was filled with the sounds of bands, DJs and people reacquainting themselves with the ‘Art’ of socialising once more. People turned up in droves. This, after 5 years of doing it, was the singular ‘Divine’ moment I had been waiting for: people forgetting their troubles and worries for a few hours and simply enjoying being part of the big family that is the RAF.
Special thanks to Marcus, Rob, Foxy, Ovy, Louis, Neil, Dec, Kieran and Donna for keeping me sane and helping to keep it all together. Monies raised so far, 9k and climbing.
By Eck it was a belter…