Party In The Park 2015

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Party in the Park has become an established feature of the Mark Province of Kent. Historically, the weather has been good for this event and this year was no exception. With rain in the week leading up to the event and rain the day after, we were again blessed with a bright and very hot day on Saturday 11 July as some 300 Kent Mark Masons and their families and friends gathered at Luddesdown to enjoy a day of fun, refreshments and music.

The gates officially opened at 4pm but a good number of campers had arrived the night before or earlier in the day and it wasn’t long before we were using the overflow car park along the road. Before the entertainment started, visitors had ample time to visit the stalls or enjoy the various refreshments on sale as a very happy and enjoyable garden party atmosphere really got underway.

As the sun beat down upon the revellers, the entertainment started with Kent’s very own The Ancient Charges, who again opened the event with their most enjoyable, eclectic collection of numbers. As ever, the standard set from that moment was extremely high and everyone was sorry when their set came to an end. WBro Kurly Howells followed on with a selection of old and new numbers, delivered in his inimitable style in possibly the brightest clothing worn by anybody on the day! By the end of Kurly’s act, feet were tapping and everybody was ready for more music.

Our headline act for the evening, Billy West as Freddie Mercury, was up next for the first part of his performance. Nearly everyone present was of an age to have either grown up with Freddie Mercury or at least to have watched the career of Freddie Mercury and Queen as they evolved into mega-stars. With the day slowly passing into evening, Billy West delivered a series of numbers, which had the onlookers dancing and becoming ever more animated.

Between the two parts of the tribute act (and at very short notice!), Samantha-Louise stepped up to perform a series of solo numbers. She absolutely captivated the crowd with her voice and range of different songs. This was truly a short notice performance that blew the crowd away! As Sammy-Lou left the stage, everybody wanted more and we all agreed that we hope to see her performing solo for us again in the future.

As the light faded, Billy West performed the second part of his act. For many of us, the excellently performed songs brought back fond memories of Queen, Freddie Mercury and a time now lost to us all. At the end of the event, we had all been very clearly reminded why the Mark Degree is known as the Happy Degree. While a significant part of the day was to raise monies towards the 2020 Festival, it was equally as important that everyone had a good time. That was amply achieved and I can only urge those, who did not attend this year, to do their best to attend any such future event.

The biggest thanks for the event must go to WBro Kevin and Diana Bampton for once again allowing us to use their premises for this event. Kevin again played a big part in the build up to the event and made sure that a stage was available and set up as well as ensuring that we had the basic supplies of water and electricity. Kevin and Diana spend much time and energy allowing their premises to be used for charitable events and we are, again, very grateful to them for accommodating us.

Without our acts, the event would not happen. Very grateful thanks go to The Ancient Charges, Kurly Howells and Sammy-Lou for performing for us for no reason other than to help the event to be a success and raise money for the 2020 Festival! Thanks also, of course, to Billy West for performing so well as the late, great Freddie Mercury!
Every show needs a good compere; many thanks to WBro Jake Jackson, who compered the event throughout and made sure that all went smoothly. It only looked easy because Jake manages the role so well.

Thanks to WBros Keith Stoner and Adrian Wagstaff and the Golf Section, Paddock Wood Masonic Centre team, WBro Peter Hayler of Malling Abbey Mark and the team from the TLC Appeal for running stalls, WBro Bill Taylor for stocking and running the bar and WBro Peter Laker and the team from St Martin’s Mark for providing tea, coffee and cakes. You all played your part in making the day a success!

Thanks to WBro David Barden for sitting on the gate. A tedious job but it has to be done.

Last but not least, many, many thanks to WBros David Cantlon and Peter Martin for all their hard work in the build up to, and running of, the event. Without David, the acts would not have been there and there would have been no bar-b-q and no toilets. David had to manage a last minute problem with the supply of the toilets. Quietly behind the scenes, he salvaged the event! Peter managed the sale of entrance and raffle tickets and ran the very successful whiskey raffle on the day as well as taking on responsibility for all the difficult administrative tasks others might have sought to avoid. Peter conducted site visits and attended the venue the day before to make sure all was well. Both Peter and David were there early on the day and left late, having worked as stewards throughout the event. Peter was at the site clearing up the next day. This is against the backdrop of both Peter and David having difficult issues to manage away from the event. Without the efforts of Peter and David, there would have been no Party in the Park. Both truly demonstrated a determination, of which they (and we) should be rightly proud!

See you all next time...

WBro Ian Gallehawk PPGSwdB, Provincial Grand Charity Steward

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