I wanted to do something a bit different for WiM 2015. It came a bit late, but here’s one person’s diary of events. I might have missed some things, but it should give you an idea of the sort of stuff we get up to at WiM.
In the past, WiM had always started on Saturday for me. This year was the first time I had been on team; the first time I had attempted more than the minimum amount of participation in any Rev event. That meant I had to arrive on Friday. I was already in uncharted waters. As I was taking my responsibilities very seriously, I left home a mere five minutes before I wanted to arrive at the venue. I also made my dad help carry my stuff from the car to the church. There are definite advantages to having WiM in your hometown.
Once I arrived, my local knowledge quickly proved vital. My first job was to explain how the recycling system worked and which rubbish had to go into which specially designated bin. As hunger started to spread through the ranks (that’s one thing that never changes – revvers are always hungry), I also had to volunteer my knowledge of local takeaways. Yes, it was an essential role. After a long, lazy evening of food and conversation, we all headed to bed. Well, to be fair, I headed to bed. I’m one of those slightly boring people who goes to bed at lights out during WiM. Other people might in the Late Night Room until 3am (or, at at least one point in the week, 6am), but I can’t really tell you what they get up to because I’ve never been there. Sorry. Still, Friday eventually came to an end and we prepared for the real beginning on Saturday.
I hadn’t been sure exactly what the extra day that team spent at the church would entail. On Friday evening, it had mostly involved food. On Saturday morning, we set to work with some serious (by Rev standards, not anyone else’s) meetings about our plans for the week. Well, first there was the unplanned evacuation of the church due to someone burning their toast and setting off a fire alarm, but we made it to the serious meetings. Let no one tell you revvers are not mature and well-organised when they need to be.
The meetings went fairly quickly as we put the finishing touches on already fairly well-established plans (we’d been preparing for months, after all). We still had some time before the general WiM population arrived, so my local knowledge was put to good use once again, this time in a quest for ice cream and the beach. The seaside was possibly the biggest reason Rev was excited to come to Weston. As for ice cream – people wanted to know if it could live up to the high standards of Luca’s, our RESITS ice-creamery of choice. (I think Weston’s ice cream is better than Luca’s, but I suppose some people might consider me biased).
We also made a brief trip to the supermarket, after which, just like at RESITS 2014, a bottle of Ribena was mysteriously stolen by someone who definitely wasn’t me (though the owner gave me the carrier bag with the Ribena to carry at one point – is that the behaviour of someone who doesn’t trust me? It’s lucky I’m not a Ribena thief).
Due to someone deciding that our seaside and supermarket trip should also include some geocaching, we arrived back at the church a little later than planned, when most WiMmers had already arrived. As team was a little on the large side and some people weren’t coming until later in the week, there wasn’t an overwhelming number of people, which was quite nice. It was much easier for introductions and it meant less rushing and stress. If someone wanted to find a quiet corner for a break, they could do so easily.
As well as ice breakers and bond group activities (more on them later) to welcome everyone, we did do some singing that afternoon. After all, we are a choir. We would be rehearsing for hours every day, but for now we just needed some songs to perform in the church service on Sunday morning. It’s a good way to introduce ourselves to the congregation and thank them for letting us stay in their church. It’s also when we start encouraging them to come to the concert, so it’s important to make a good impression. Luckily, the songs were ones most people were already familiar with, so they didn’t take too long to learn.
The day ended with a quiz. Questions ranged across all fields of human knowledge and into some things the quizmaster probably chose because no human could possibly know them. I narrowly escaped having my English degree confiscated when I barely remembered the answer to “which part of the frog did Macbeth’s witches use in their spell?” at the last possible moment. (It’s “toe of frog” if you’re curious. Remember that, it might be important.) It almost made up for our team not winning. Almost. Overall, it was a satisfying close to the first day.
Sunday mornings are always early ones when you’re staying in a church – for some reason there tends to be a lot going on. That goes double when it’s Easter Sunday. Luckily, students are notorious for their ability to get up early…
Well, we made it eventually, so you can’t complain. We even managed to sing the songs we’d learnt just yesterday in the church service (well, as mentioned, some people knew them already). The congregation was very welcoming and we were able to join them afterwards for some casual conversation with tea and coffee. They were all very excited to have us there and looking forwards to seeing our concert.
In the afternoon it was time for the first bond group activity, and the one I was most looking forwards to – the scavenger hunt. This may be because I designed the challenge myself and was therefore the only person who knew where all the targets were – even the environment team responsible for bond group activities didn’t know the settings of the photographs I’d taken weeks before. They’d asked me to organise it all myself. Hilarity ensued.
I am reliably informed, and very happy to say, that no one found all of scavenger hunt targets. My bond group will tell you they did, but that’s only because I pointed out the one they missed. Well, to be more exact, I let them walk past it, twice (once going up the very big, very steep hill; once going down) before telling them. I didn’t think they’d seriously decide to walk all the way back up the hill again just to find it. That was the day I learnt I should never underestimate our WiM Co-ordinator’s competitive streak (don’t get me started on the time I played mini-golf with her).
It wasn’t all about finding the targets though (unless you were WiM Co, apparently). It was about bond groups starting to get to know each other, having fun together and getting to explore the area around the church a little whilst on a break from rehearsing. After all, the whole point of a bond group is having a little family around you to support you through the week. In that sense, I think it was a success.
Later that day, being locally based came in useful again. A fellow WiMmer had become locked out of her car and because it was a bank holiday wouldn’t be able to get her lost keys back from the police station until Tuesday. It was time for a brief run home again, this time for a spare quilt so she had something to sleep on. It was good to know that being local had some serious advantages that weren’t food related.
On Monday, we had a very brief visit by two old revvers. One would be back later in the week for tech related things, but the other was only there for about half an hour. She still caused disruption wherever she went and brought that day’s splinter groups to a standstill. Hellos and goodbyes are very long-winded things in Rev. When you only see your fellow revvers a couple of times a year, the excitement can be overwhelming. When you see someone who very rarely comes to Rev events anymore, it’s even more so. It took quite a while for everyone to settle down again.
Splinter groups are another thing that happens every day at WiM. Part of Rev’s Aims and Values is the phrase “incorporating other performing arts.” That’s where splinter groups come in. We try and give attendees the chance to take part in as many different kinds of performance as possible. At this WiM, this meant drama, dance, production/tech, concert decoration and my personal favourite: sign language. All these groups got to put on their own performances in the concert. It’s a good way to learn new skills and try something you haven’t done before – I know an interesting mix of sign language words now, even if I’d have no chance in a proper conversation.
Slightly less exciting, but still popular by necessity, is study splinter. We will always be a primarily student focused choir and WiM takes place just before exam season starts at most universities. Study splinter is when those who have essays due in or revision to do to can go to a quiet room set aside just for that purpose. Even if you have more work than can be fitted in during a splinter session, we don’t mind you taking breaks from rehearsals and activities if that’s what you need. We want WiM to be as accessible as possible for all our members and that means accepting student requirements.
In the evening, it was time for bond group meals. There are silly games or craft activities every day for bond groups, but the biggest thing that brings each group together is the meal. This is when everyone goes out to eat as a group and will hopefully (again in the words of the Aims and Values) “form lasting friendships.” Some people stayed in Weston, but our bond group leader had a car. He drove the five of us to Bristol for an evening of food, conversation and companionship at TGI Fridays. It was an absolute delight. Even the death threats were kept to a minimum (he still thought I’d stolen his Ribena).
Tuesday it was time for busking, one of my favourite kinds of Rev performance. It’s always fun to run through a list of potential busking songs and realise only two of them are familiar to everyone in the current choir. Once we had scrambled together a set list that most people could at least blag their way through, we descended on Weston town centre to serenade whosoever should wish to listen to us. It wasn’t just for fun – we were also handing out leaflets to publicise the concert. We followed the public busking with a short session in a nursing home, where we had some lovely conversations with some old ladies who were delighted to see (and hear) us. Being able to engage with local communities is another part of what makes WiM special.
Revvy and civic duties done for the day, lots of people used Tuesday afternoon to go to the beach. Revvers – especially those who live miles from the sea – become very excited by the sight of sand and water. My favourite time to visit Weston seafront is December and January when there’s no one there and the wind and rain are biting, so I just strolled back to the church while the tourists were enjoying it. Earlier that morning, an exquisite cake from the best bakery in the entire world had arrived anonymously in front of me, just a day after I’d told a fellow revver just how perfect and exquisite Astill’s cakes are. It was most mysterious and impressive. Everyone else might want ice cream, but I was very much looking forward to eating my cake.
That evening’s entertainment was a ceilidh. Not really my kind of thing, but I watched the dancing chaos with some enjoyment through the window. I did some writing as well – in fact, I wrote more fiction during this WiM as a whole than I did in the whole month beforehand. I’m not sure what that says about my writing methods. Loud music and full schedules don’t look like they should be a good background to a quiet and solitary activity, especially somewhere like WiM where there isn’t normally any free time. I think that’s quite impressive, personally.
On Wednesday came what tends to be the highlight of every WiM – the workshop. We’re not a professional choir by any means, so having the chance to work with professionals is incredibly exciting. This year it was run by Ken Burton, who you might have seen on various choir related television programmes. He came and worked with us for several hours, teaching us some basic gospel singing techniques as well as adding two new songs to our concert set list. Sometimes it was hard to learn the songs because I kept being distracted by how good his singing was, but the day was well worth it.
It was also exhausting. I’m sure many of you who’ve been on long events like WiM before know what it’s like to reach that point in the week when you just can’t do anything else. You’re physically and mentally drained. It’s something that always happens to me when I spend too much time with other people, even when they’re close friends. This WiM the worst point was on Wednesday afternoon. When the workshop had finished, rather than a short break followed by bond group activities, I went to bed for a couple of hours. It provided me with some much needed recharging time.
Admittedly, I didn’t mean to sleep quite as long as I did. I didn’t just miss bond groups but dinner, and ended up eating mine whilst sat at an already half-finished Open Forum. Open Forum is less formal than our quarterly meetings and is a chance for everyone to talk about what’s currently happening in the choir, including the upcoming National Co-ordinator election (which has since happened) in a fairly relaxed way. Some points we raised to talk about at Forum proper and everyone got to give their opinions on what Rev’s doing these days, both as a national charity and as individual choirs.
Open Forum overran slightly (which I don’t think surprised anyone involved) so some of us missed parts of that evening’s social: The Generation Game. Luckily, we were in time for the cuddly toy. We then got to watch people try to eat messy food whilst blindfolded, which caused complete chaos. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world. The week was half way done, but half was still to go.
Thursday was exciting for me because it was the day one of my cousins came to her first Rev event, enticed by the stories I’d told her. I didn’t actually see much of her once she arrived, because she disappeared into dance splinter whilst I was in sign language and she joined the altos whilst I was in my normal soprano home, but it was good to have her there. I’m taking the lack of contact with me as a sign that she was enjoying herself and making lots of friends.
In the evening was another great Rev tradition and highlight of WiM – Cabaret. I thought it was impressive when someone else who arrived that morning allowed herself to be dragged on stage for a sign language performance (she said she wasn’t planning to do much that WiM – she ended up in three splinter groups as well as the concert), until a guy who arrived during Cabaret was immediately escorted to the stage by his partner in crime for a hilarious song. There were a few more emotional moments as well, but mostly I remember that Cabaret as a time of laughter.
By the time Friday came, things were speeding up and relaxation was becoming rarer. It was time for the dress rehearsal, which meant rapidly intensifying levels of bedlam and panic. The sign language splinter was having particular fun, as not even the teacher had learnt all the signs yet. She had to consult with a deaf friend via Skype, which proved tricky when the video kept freezing up.
There was still time for silliness though. An attempt to build towers of spaghetti and marshmallows as a bond group exercise was slightly undermined when one person by herself managed to build a monolith that none of the teams could match. It slightly undermined the theme of “Stand Together” that was meant to be guiding the week.
In the evening, there was another more serious but fascinating event. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I forget Rev has “Christian-based organisation” as part of the Aims and Values. I know we sing religious songs, that we spend a lot of time in churches, that other people pray and talk about God, but it’s easy for me (as an agnostic) to avoid the more religious parts of the choir. Still, I’ve always found religion fascinating, so when we had a question and answer session on Christianity that evening I was eager to attend. We talked about the historical accuracy of the Bible, the nature of sin, the different denominations of Christianity and several other questions that people raised. We managed to have a really enjoyable, well-thought out discussion with no yelling or judgement. Being able to talk about Christianity – whether you’re Christian or non-Christian – is part of what Rev’s about and I have to congratulate our Prayer Co-ordinator for making it so easy.
After that, paper plate awards were handed out (they’re normally done at Cabaret, but as Cabaret was a day early this year there wasn’t enough time to get them decorated before) and we finished the day by watching Pitch Perfect together. It was our last quiet moment. Tomorrow, the concert.
As Press and Sponsorship Secretary, my official job on WiM team didn’t require much work actually during WiM. It had nearly all been done before hand (not done very well – every person I asked for sponsorship or press coverage ignored me – but still). I’d been pretty chilled all week, right until the head of the media team asked if the Media Secretary and I could put together a PowerPoint to have running in the foyer as people entered for the concert.
We needed to put together a PowerPoint. On the day of the concert. When the full extent of free time allocated for the day was half an hour. It took that half an hour just to find some pictures from the week to put in the presentation. We hadn’t got anywhere near choosing which photographs to use, let alone putting some pretty words around them.
Luckily enough, other sopranos kept randomly disappearing from the stage during rehearsal as well, so no one really missed us. It was an unfortunate necessity when so many people had last minute preparations to complete. The problem of not knowing the whole tune to some songs (or any of the tune, in the case of Misty Mountains) was slightly more pressing, but it was probably too late to fix that anyway. At least the PowerPoint was done with time to spare.
If I thought that was the end of my duties for the day, I was wrong. As the concert moved ever closer, I had some swift lessons in programme folding (yes, the programmes only got printed out an hour before the concert – someone couldn’t decide on a running order) and biscuit arranging. Luckily, some other old revvers turned up to take over tickets and refreshments, so we were able to head backstage just before the concert began.
I don’t know what to say about the concert itself. We sang, we smiled, the audience cheered. It can be hard to describe the atmosphere of something like that if you haven’t been there. That feeling when that song you’ve been practicing all week comes together for the first time, that moment when you look at your neighbour and the two of you are in that same bubble of music and atmosphere that you love so much, the sound of the band and the choir merging until you can’t imagine anything else in the world. We say concerts are a means to an end and not an end in themselves, but that doesn’t mean we don’t put everything into them.
But it does come to an end, as such always things do. The audience goes home, the stage empties, the towers of lights and speakers must come down before tomorrow’s church service. Revvers must eat cake, as is the post-concert tradition.
We always have a group photo after the concert as well – it’s the only opportunity to catch everyone together in the same place before we have to travel our separate ways. For this particular concert, we had to rush because one person needed to go home straight away. Of course, when any large group of revvers are together, music starts. Somehow, we ended up on stage again with a spontaneous singalong of that ever popular (unless you’re the one person who hates it with an unholy passion – sorry Sarai) Rev classic Eyes on the Prize. We had our cake and thank yous from our WiM Co. Then the less exciting tidy-up really began.
De-rig is something that starts on Saturday night and ends in the early hours of Sunday morning. It takes a week to set up all the equipment for the concert, but we have to take it down in just a few hours. It’s not all hard work though – eating pizza at one o’clock in the morning as things are finally coming to a close is a special experience.
It was a late night but there was no opportunity for lie-in. It was Sunday in church, after all. This time waking up early was even more important because of having to finish erasing all trace of us from the building before the service began. Yet again we performed a few songs in the service as a final thank you to the church. After that, Rev left Milton Baptist for the foreseeable future.
That didn’t mean WiM was over though. It was time for one of the most important parts of the week. The pub lunch. After a lot of effort and phone calls to practically every pub in Weston, we found one with both enough space for us and a varied enough menu to keep everyone happy. As one might expect, lots of laughter soon followed.
As the day wore on more and more people started to depart, but those left kept the joy coming. By five or six o’clock, there were only two of us left, one of whom lived in Weston (that’s me) and one who was spending the night in a hotel so she was rested before driving back to Lincolnshire. She gave me a lift home. It was only a few weeks until WiI – Rev’s first unofficial trip to Ireland (and great fun it was – if you couldn’t make it, we’re hoping to go again some time) but WiM was over until 2016. It was well worth the effort put into it. I hope to see you there sometime.