A Triumph of bikers

In November 2018 I began to organise the NABD’s 28th annual national fundraising event, the You’ve Been Nabbed 28 Rally, which was to be held in a huge paddock at the eastern end of the Royal Cheshire Showground just off junction 19 of the M6 motorway, writes Rick Hulse.

Over the following five months, I and Julie Williams, the NABD’s office manager, sorted out the site plan, the marquees, the stages, the fire-fighting and safety equipment, the toilets, the radios, the security systems, the waste disposal infrastructure, the beer orders, the traders, the caterers, the bands, the comedians, the local authority licensing, advertising, ticket sales, and all sorts of policies and plans for everything from child protection to terrorist attack.

Meanwhile Tina Slesser, the NABD secretary and rally secretary, was amassing a list of 140-plus stalwart volunteer marshals, and organising a timetable of four-hour rotating shifts that’d’ve taken a highly paid civil servant and several ‘consultants’ a year and at least three ‘fact-finding missions’ to somewhere exotic at taxpayers’ expense. I have no idea of the total amount of hours we spent putting all of this together but, by April, we’d just about everything organised, and all we had to do was wait for Wednesday 8th May when the marquees would start going up.

Then, just two days before we were going on site to set up the event, I had a call from one of the showground directors saying: “Somebody has ‘accidentally’ ploughed the part of the showground where your event is to be held!” I’m still somewhat baffled as to how anybody manages to ‘accidentally’ plough any field but, at the time, we didn’t have the luxury of time to contemplate the possible causes of this somewhat surreal state of affairs. I had an emergency meeting with several of the showground directors just one day before our set-up was to begin, and it was agreed that we would move to the opposite end of the showground, which meant us using a new entrance more than a mile away from the one we’d used for the past two years and, of course, a whole new site-plan which I had to draw up from scratch!

At one point during our emergency one of the directors actually said they were thinking of fitting sat-nav systems to their tractors to avoid something like this happening again. My knee-jerk response was to blithely suggest that it might be cheaper to simply stop employing f*ckwits to drive the tractors in the first place!

Fortunately, over the past 28 years, some of us longer-standing NABD committee members’ve had quite a bit of practice at reacting to critical last-minute changes of plan, as attested to by a song written in our honour by NABD patron Stevie Simpson, aptly entitled The Kings of Winging It.

As dawn broke over my deeply furrowed brow on the morning of Thursday 9th May, I headed for the new site with much trepidation, and prepared for a hellish weekend of frantically reacting to anything and everything going wrong. Both of our big marquees’d been erected the previous day, with a certain amount of guesswork in their positioning, and with the help of our two wonderful ladies in the NABD office, we had spent the latter half of that previous day contacting everybody involved in the supply and setting up of the infrastructure to give them the details of the new site.

Other NABD committee members had been down to the site putting up diversion signs to lead people from the old entrance (and published postcode) to the new one, and a couple of stalwarts had even volunteered to camp at the site that previous night to catch any early traders before I got there at 7am to show them where to set up. I can honestly say I wasn’t really looking forward to what’d surely prove to be a weekend of stumbling from one major calamity to another. However, despite my 28 years of experience in organising and running large NABD events, I’d become so daunted by the task in front of us that I’d failed to factor in the outstanding quality of the people who volunteer to marshal at NABD events.

As I expected, we did face all sorts of problems and difficulties during the setting-up of the event infrastructure, and there were many more embuggerments waiting for us once the event was open to the public too, but each problem was dealt with in very timely fashion, and I can honestly say that, due to some heroic people going well above and beyond the call of duty, the event itself went fantastically well.

The feedback we have had from many of those who attended the rally’s been overwhelmingly positive, and many people even expressed a definite preference for the new site over the old one (which is just as well because a ploughed field can take ten years to become fit for event use again). The showground directors, and the local residents, also expressed their admiration for our handling of the event, and we’ve already booked the site again for next year (You’ve Been Nabbed 29: 8-10th May 2020).

I salute each and every one of those volunteers who worked so hard to make the event such a success this year; they proved to be a very timely reminder of the outstanding quality of the people we have supporting the NABD, and I was left feeling very humbled by their tireless efforts and indomitable good humour in the face of some extreme challenges. Many of our marshals and key personnel are people with disabilities, and none of them’ve ever received any payment for their valiant efforts at NABD events. When we finally sat down together for a drink on the Sunday evening, after a very arduous day of litter-picking and dismantling equipment, I can honestly say I have never been more proud to be a biker among bikers!

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