I mentioned last week I have been looking after my friends who have been visiting London for a few days before they continue their travels.
I have realized I make a pretty good tour guide. I am very safety conscious and road conscious. My handbag is a Mary Poppins model. It contains everything a tour guide would ever need. Bug repellent, plasters, sun block, paperback A-Z of London (because technology is not always reliable) and a couple of spare Oyster cards to use on London public transport.
As my inspiration, I draw on “Tour Guide Barbie” who made me laugh down to my toes in “Toy Story 2”.
Since my friends are quite keen on tennis, they wanted to visit the AELTC – All England Lawn Tennis Club… which is home to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships which will begin on 2nd July this year. Yes…the ccountdown to Wimbledon is on! Which means that my Aunt Carol will not be answering her telephone. She is one of the devotees that like to watch every moment broadcast and she fills up her fridge with strawberries and cream and during important matches she might indulge in some Pimms except for the final when she has Prosecco. She has done that for years. She loves it!
I have to admit, for my own part, I rarely make time to sit down for more than ten minutes to watch sports these days. However, even I found it interesting to visit the club and see how busy the preparations are for the upcoming Championships.
Apparently, tennis players have already started to arrive in the Wimbledon area. What looked to me like stalls from which they will be selling strawberries (perhaps for extortionate prices) are being erected at this very moment!
Beautiful flower baskets are hanging from posts outside the club. It is all starting to look rather lovely and even I could detect the excitement building.
Part of my interest is merely on account that I have been involved in the setting up and dismantling of large scale events many times over the years. I have helped with the physical work of unloading lorries and then transporting needed equipment to all corners of a venue that would be needed by various departments.
In addition I have worked during events, sometimes as a first aider, sometimes as a steward, sometimes on security, I have worked on making props for stages and helped with administration duties. I have sometimes in catering and as part of an army of cleaners. Countless training sessions!! What stands out in my mind is especially the setting up and dismantling. They were always very exciting projects to be involved in. Sometimes we have worked all night after an event has finished to clear the venue of equipment. Happy memories of being part of a team who had to go to every nook and cranny of these massive arenas and stadiums to make sure everything was retrieved.
As a steward we had some memorable events. On two occasions we had “bomb scares” and had to evacuate thousands of people from massive venues. One venue where that happened was the Manchester Evening News Arena (I think at the time it was known as the Nynex Arena). We managed to evacuate 10,000 people in 8 minutes, before the suspicious package was investigated by an expert team. It was very distressing to see the bombing last year at that venue.
Another event I worked at had a lot of parents with children in attendance. We had three reports within an hour of a man trying to approach children near a part of the venue that as well as having public toilets and facilities for baby changing, was very close to a tunnel that led to the unloading bays and straight out onto a busy main road in the city and was also a few minutes from a national railway station. In response, they put two tall and wide male stewards on the doors that led from the tunnel into the loading bay and a I was one of team of female stewards who were posted in this area and we had to watch everyone. We were trained to approach anyone that we felt was lingering and looked a bit suspicious and ask them if they knew their way back to the seats. During that event four men were “escorted” away from the event by large male stewards on account of their dubious steps. The security team had been watching them and it was clear they were not there to enjoy the entertainment, they were there for other reasons that made their presence a concern.
You may have worked at large scale public events and be nodding your head in agreement because can well imagine all the things that go on “behind the scenes”. If you have not worked at an event, but have made up a member of the audience, you might find it interesting to know how much planning, organization, training, equipment is needed to hold an event.
So while my friends enthusiastically mused over everything tennis related… I reminisced about all the work that goes on to make these events possible. It is exciting to be part of the workforce behind these events. But it’s not all strawberries and cream you know!