Saturday, March 01, 2008


Many of us who attended Brigg County Primary School, in Glebe Road, during the 1960s were 'persuaded' to enter the verse speaking classes at the music festival at this time of year. You didn't say 'No' to the likes of Mrs Shemmings!
You had to learn a particular poem and run through your performance a few times with the hard-pressed class teacher, who probably had much better things to do with a class of well over 30 to look after.
Then, on the big day, you walked (with parent in tow) ever so nervously to the Corn Exchange - now sadly gone - and awaited your turn to perform.
Pitted against you would be children from Brigg Prep and the Catholic School, plus (and this was always a mystery to me) one or two from the tiny village of Nettleton (near Caistor).
Eventually, your turn would arrive and you had to climb wooden steps at the side of the hall before inching your way across to the exact centre of the stage to await your cue from the adjudicator.
He, or she, would be sitting some distance away - in the centre of the Corn Exchange - still busily writing comments about the last 'performer' onto a special sheet.
Then it was time to start your rendition - hoping desperately you did not 'dry' as the acting profession calls it - and have to be prompted with the next line.
For that would mean a swift end to any hopes of glory - a bit like hitting the kerb while trying a three-point turn on the driving test.
With the eyes of all those mums on you in the audience, it was a nerve-racking experience. Or perhaps, from an educational standpoint, a character-building exercise.
Either way, you just longed to get it over with and forget all about the festival for another 12 months.
I must have performed every year but can only remember the titles of two poems - The Donkey and Star Man - and no verses at all.
For one of those I somehow scraped third place, receiving a handsome certificate and having the moment captured for posterity by Bryan Robins, the Lincolnshire Times photographer. He photographed the winning group on the aforementioned steps leading up to the stage.
The image of grinning children must have appeared in the paper that Friday, with the black and white print being displayed in the window of the offices at 57 Wrawby Street. Mother must have gone in later to buy a copy, which she probably still has in a drawer, somewhere.
Glebe Road was often outshone, in terms of prizes, by children from the Prep school. But maybe we deserved more praise than we got from the adjudicator, as the kids from the council house estates had to try to cover up their natural North Lincs twang - at least for the performance. We did not normally talk 'proper' - unlike some of those whose parents paid for their education.
Years later, while working for the Lincolnshire Times, it was necessary to report on the music and drama festival, offering a complete results service, plus comments from the adjudicator. This was, after all, a major event for the entire area.
In the editorial department we worked hard - and some odd hours. But the reporters' only scheduled Saturday night 'diary job' of the entire year was the festival's all-winners' show. It was not a favourite!
There was a sneaky way round it, however. If the reporter could find someone, perhaps a relative or friend, who enjoyed such concerts you could leave them in the Corn Exchange and nip back later to get their thoughts on the highlights.
For many folk still living in Brigg, their main memories of the Corn Exchange will relate to the music and drama festival.
It was not the world's most attractive building, and not particularly old - only dating back to Victorian times. But it could stage big events...lots of room for 'bums on seats'.
Sadly, the cost of its upkeep tested the patience of district councillors to such an extent they finally decided it had to come down.
Maybe someone could write a poem, or song, dedicated to the old building and perform it at the Angel Suite during a future music and drama festival.

Did you know you can access scores of previous postings on Brigg Blog?
When you first visit the Blog you will see the words 'Nigel Fisher's Brigg Blog' in Blue, underneath the title to the Blog, and above the latest article posted.
Click on the words 'Nigel Fisher's Brigg Blog' and it will take you into the archive section, which has a search facility. You will also see the posts listed in date order on the right-hand side of the screen.

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