Dick Hewett muses on his experiences of organising Choir social activities

After sixteen years of direct involvement in Choir Holidays and the organisation of other social activities for the choir and supporters, I have decided to step down and take a rest for a while. It has been a very satisfying task, and there have been many highlights. What do I remember in particular?

At the heart of my involvement have been the sixteen choir holidays for which I have organised the non-musical arrangements. This has included accommodation, travel, outings, and entertainment. There has always been support from a wide range of people.

One such memory is of David Bennett, curate whilst we were at Gloucester in 1987, and the now notorious incident where I (amongst others) returned from the pub having had some refreshment during the evening, and the police arrived to question whether I should be on the inside of the gates at Kings School. I was rescued by David with those immortal words: “It’s alright officer, I’m a clergyman!”

Other memories of earlier choir holidays include getting very cut feet on Cromer beach (Norwich 1988); Anthony Burns-Cox and the ‘frisbee’ he thought he’d been given – it was a wine bottle stand (Bristol 1990); and the pub at Terrington that never seemed to close (York, 1992).

Neill Beasley produced the first Choir Holiday video when we went to Exeter in 1989. The following year I assisted him and have led the making of choir holiday videos ever since (sometimes on my own, but also with many very late nights editing at Neill’s house and, more recently, with Marcus Johnson). Highlights include the opening and closing of the 1991 Lichfield video (with Neill and myself in cassocks, facing each other in the traditional Alas Smith and Jones pose); the end of the 1997 Worcester video (sunset from the Malvern Hills to Howells’ Like as the hart); and O for a closer walk with God by Grayston Ives to accompany the visit to the Heights of Abraham (Southwell, 1998).

We have also had two trips to Holland. The first time included a trip through the Channel Tunnel, and the memorable visitation by St Nicholas during lunchtime with our Dutch hosts. Due to laryngitis, I struggled to sing with the choir during the first part of the concert, which finished memorably with Matthias’ As truly as God is our Father, then videoed the second half whilst Romsey joined the local choral society for Britten’s St Nicholas. The five-minute standing ovation at the end for our boys won’t be bettered. The thing that stands out in my memory from our second visit was having to take over the navigating from a local to get us out of Utrecht, a city I’d never been to before. Good map-reading skills and a natural good sense of direction can sometimes be more useful than having a local on the bus!

Choir outings were always a headache: where to take everyone which would suit both the boys and the men? Thorpe Park, a couple of trips to the Isle of Wight, stately homes such as Cricket St Thomas, Blenheim and Longleat, and a day out in Weymouth – none could beat the reliability of Butlins at Bognor. Memories include drying Trystan Williams’ clothes in the launderette there after he had fallen out of his boat on the boating lake; calling at a fish and chip shop in Cosham without warning, and ordering cod and chips x 40; and the last time I saw Derek Batson before he died.

Three visits to Westminster Abbey all went remarkably smoothly – apart from having to cope with a broken down coach, and a late arrival back from Greenwich. And local events have included numerous Fun Days, where Marcus had a habit of getting injured playing rounders; skittles at East Tytherley when there had been a power cut and we could only have selections from the menu which could be cooked on gas; and of course numerous Epiphany Suppers. Oh! – the videos of past Entertainments get played on a regular basis in the Hewett household, with too many highlights even to start.

So what do I think is the secret to organising events such as these? I see it as a simple process:

  • do some initial homework;
  • invest in plenty of preparation;
  • pay attention to detail;
  • lots of communication with those involved; and then
  • expect the unexpected and cope with it calmly.

Has that worked? I’ll let everyone else be the judge of that. I’m going to sit back and let others get on with it – if I can!