Never was the phrase “laugh riot” more appropriate.
It was the day of the Royal Wedding, and no-one in Glasgow gave a fuck. The only arranged street party was cancelled due to a lack of interest, as reported by various media – one example of which can be found here. The day was a bank holiday, and the BBC whitewashed their news coverage for weeks beforehand with tales of this truly boring union of two people I don’t know and will never meet. Weddings are such a massively overpriced rigmarole anyway, and this one came at the expense of the taxpayer – at a time when everything else is being cut back at the expense of jobs, healthcare, and so on. Evidently, much of Glasgow agrees – although there is also the issue in this city that if you fly the union flag the red, white and blue associates you with a certain football team. And god knows it’s not worth associating yourself with a football team in Glasgow – it’s just not worth the risk. I remember as a kid hearing about people being stabbed and killed for wearing the “wrong” shirt in the wrong part of town. Fuck that! I decided it wasn’t for me, and became interested in music instead. To each their own.
This sketch from Man Stroke Woman explains perfectly my view of weddings. I got the DVD in Poundland, an absolute bargain.
Our leading twat, David Cameron, issued a public verbal warning to local authorities who were documented interfering with various street parties on dubious “health and safety” grounds – banning the eating of homemade cakes and preventing the hanging of bunting being two notable examples. He said explicitly that if you wanted to hold a street party to hold one, without fear of reprisal and that was his word as Prime Minister. Some Glasgow chancer pounced upon this, and immediately organised a “street party” in the Kelvingrove Park, via the medium of facebook and similar sites.
Obviously, the Park is not a street, which means it has the potential to hold (and attract) significantly greater numbers than your average cul-de-sac. Add sunshine, alcohol and neds into this equation, and it was clear to even the blindest observer that this would only end one way – in carnage. When I first saw the event page on FB, there were a few thousand “attendees”, and so I politely declined using the “Not Attending” button. Over the course of the week, more and more people responded to it, keeping it constantly in my “News Feed” on that site, until there were 10,000 people attending. Bear in mind there are no public toilets in the KG (Kelvingrove Park), so that in itself is a realistic safety consideration – despite the repeated dissemination of Cameron’s words as a watertight argument by the pro-partyists. By the end of the week, the page had 14,000 people “attending” and the BBC and STV published reports quoting the council and the police warning people not to attend. The picture used to illustrate this article was taken from the website linked to the FB page, and was effectively a poster with the place, time and date on it. That’s the media for you, though – “Don’t attend this party at Kelvingrove at 11am on Friday 29th April.” Evidence.
At some point on the Thursday, it was decided that Pop-Up Comedy would make an appearance in the park, since the forecast was for a beautiful day and the KG was destined to attract far more people than usual. The organisers had arranged a PA and music, the resident ice cream van must have had an orgasm and has has probably retired by now, and even with the predicted outcome it sounded like it could be quite fun. For my part, I decided that it would undoubtedly be fun to try and perform in this environment, and with the expectation that it would be a disaster on all fronts I figured we would have a laugh regardless. Malky brought a portable amp and one of his banners, a mic and a stand, and having met outside The Halt we headed as a motley crew into the park – the pair of us, Joe Hullait, Ross Main, Alan Scott, Scott Brown, Scott Horner, Ed Whitley, Adam Struth, John McGovern and Tom O’Donnell, former proprietor of the Victoria Bar. We were joined by others throughout the day, notably photographer Ian McFarlane, and audience regulars Nix and Matt.
Walking into the park from the Gibson Street entrance, we walked past the normally deserted Slope which was bouncing with the PA and hundreds of dancing neds (a value judgement, granted), and headed on towards the Hill. These are the main areas on the route through the KG – the Slope, the Hill (or Big Hill), and the Fountain. There is also the Skate Park but, not being fourteen, we avoided that. The Slope runs from the main thoroughfare down towards the river, while the Hill is a large open area running from the main thoroughfare up towards Park Circus. The Fountain is a large ornate memorial fountain that I should probably know more about, since it is in my favourite park.
We set up in a small triangle of grass, between points 7 and 8 at the bottom of the map above, tying the banner to a convenient tree and weighting it at the bottom with our bags. Having attracted no audience whatsoever, we all sat on the grass the other side of the path and let Scott Horner do intermittent “Comedy here in five minutes” announcements to bemused sunbathers. Looking around at the vast number of small children in our presence, most of us realised with instant clarity just how unsuitable our material is for such an audience. Ed Whitley had brought a red cape (which was more of a full-length gown), augmenting his already-conspicuous trombone. He proceeded to intersperse well-known tunes with much enthusiastic leaping, eventually taking the mic and doing ten minutes or so of material. A few people paid attention and compliments, but none of us were particularly inspired to follow him. And so he kept going, and had us all in absolute stitches. It was a joy to watch, and you should go out of your way to see him live sometime soon. We hurt from laughing.
Malky eventually bit the bullet, and began just chatting to passers-by – of which there were many. He began walking alongside them, and when the cable reached full stretch, Scott Horner picked up the amp and followed him. Which led to the funny sight of Malky sitting down next to a couple of sunbathing girls and chatting to them through the mic a good twenty yards or so from the rest of us. I suspect we were more amused than anyone else at this point though. Upon returning, Ed went up and did some more, attracting the attentions of numerous small people who began chasing him. Being highly energetic, dressed in a flowing red cape and wielding a trombone, he led them all round the fountain, running and playing as he went. Eventually, he returned to the mic, by which time Joe Hullait was (as I recall) doing…something (I don’t recall that well.) The kids were asked if they wanted a shot, if they knew any jokes, and after shyly backing away the girl of the group came forward. She was only nine or so, and Joe handed her the mic to tell her joke into. “There are these two lesbians” she began, and we all fell about crying with laughter, because here we were worried about the inappropriateness of our material and this is the joke she knows.
“Two lesbians walk into a tanning salon and they come out a couple of baked beans.” I think the joke is meant to be a play on the pronunciation of les-beans for lesbians, whereas Joe and Malky are convinced it is a far more graphic reference to “flicking the bean”. None of us asked for clarification. Instead, we packed up and moved back towards the Hill, setting up near the ice cream van (I hope he’s retired somewhere nice) and in front of the pond – its surrounding bushes serving as a toilet. Most of the guys were drinking, though I wasn’t – I don’t drink much anyway, and drinking copious amounts of a known dehydrant in the sun has never really appealed. I also wanted to keep my wits about me because there was still the impending inevitability of something kicking off.
Malky’s son turned up and busked, his prowess on the guitar drawing a decent crowd for us to lose with our comedy – I think he made about forty quid, while we made nothing but fools of ourselves. A few idiots tried to start on Ed, which was another reason I was keen to stay mostly sober – being the biggest guy there I was prepared to intervene if I had to, although in the end it came to nothing and, despite trying to squirt him with raspberry sauce, both ended up posing for photos with him. Malky did a set and lost the crowd, his son busked again and attracted a new one. I decided I might as well go on, since I was here and it’d be an experience, and I’d found out my friend Marion was in the park. She’s never seen me do comedy yet, and technically still hasn’t… I found her and her pals, and coerced them into coming over to watch. Joe was compering belligerently by this time, casually calling passing neds “bell-ends” with no regard for his own safety. Brave man.
“When I’m dead I want to be known as that stupid compere bastard who got bottled on stage for calling some gangster a bellend.”
– Joe Hullait, on facebook the next day.
I went “on”, doing half-remembered material and being interrupted by all sorts. An orange plastic bag appeared at my feet, courtesy of the wind, and so I ad-libbed a whole load of shite about it being on my rider and that I wouldn’t perform unless I had an orange plastic bag, which I picked up and launched into the air. I got in a few one-liners, playing to a dozen people, and four mounted police passed me on their way to the Slope, causing the tiny crowd to disperse further. I made another [the same] joke about it being on my rider, and Malky made reference to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Which proved to be rather pertinent, as it turned out.
I quit while I was behind, rejoining Marion and her pal as they literally and pointedly backed away. After they’d left, I walked back over to the remaining comedians (many of them had slipped quietly away when the fun became more of an ordeal), and had no sooner done so than a good two or three hundred people got up almost simultaneously and began running hell-for-leather towards the Slope. I asked Tom if they were running from or to something, and he thought to – so being nosey bastards like three hundred others, we began legging it towards the slope, walking up the wooded part left of the Hill in order to gain a better vantage point. While we were walking, seven riot vans came wailing down the main thoroughfare, and we had to get out the way of a couple of police minibuses and some paramedics too. How exciting!
At the top of the hill, we could see the whole Slope, the riot vans stopping over by the entrance where we’d come in. The police leapt out, firing guns and shouting orders. Which is bullshit, they got out in their hi-vis which made them highly-visible, and walked slowly into the rapidly-dispersing crowd. Bored by the lack of action, we returned back to the Pop-Up guys and began packing up. It was just gone 5pm, and we’d arrived at 2pm.
Walking out of the park, I shouted “I survived the Kelvingrove Park party!”, which has now become the name of an unaffiliated facebook group and is probably destined to become a t-shirt slogan too. Although the media reported it as “an unofficial royal wedding party”, the truth is that it had fuck all to do with the wedding and everything to do with subverting authority and having a laugh. Many and loud were the chants of “Stick your royal wedding up your arse!” in the style of “You’re not singing any more.”
Varying reports and rumours suggest someone got stabbed or murdered, that the local Young Teams had arranged to meet up to settle scores or to disrupt the atmosphere, and the official reports said that police got injured and their vans had windows smashed. We didn’t see any of that, maybe nobody did. It ended up all over the news though, and became the most-read story on the BBC site. There was also an accident up near Anniesland – where I live – when a police van heading towards the KG hit a taxi. The taxi driver has since died, according to this very recent news report.
At the time, I posted on facebook saying that I was kind of proud of our city, for making it to the most read story on the BBC site on the day of the royal wedding. I justify that by saying, in response to a friend calling it an embarrassment, that “it was always gonna end this way, as embarrassing as it might be. But while the media whitewashed the news with reports of The Massive Distraction From Real News At The Expense Of The Taxpayer, Glasgow demonstrated that our country still has many underlying social problems which still need addressed.” My friend relented by agreeing that “When I heard about it I quite liked the idea initially, as, to me, it seemed like an anti-Royal Wedding party. It was also a nice way to mock ‘Dave’ Cameron and his bizarre quote encouraging people to break the law.”
Having left the park, we headed down to John McGovern’s flat, in Kelvinhaugh Street. From his balcony, we could see a dozen riot vans all lined up at the end of the street – one or two to begin with, before more gradually arrived, as did a couple of minibuses and squad cars. Not sure what that was all about. Frankly, I had a great day. And, owing to the lack of a TV box thing, with no radio, and by avoiding twitter on the morning of the 29th, I don’t know a single thing about the royal wedding – I managed to avoid the whole thing entirely. And that makes me really happy, because I genuinely don’t care. 🙂