Friday, May 8, 2009

Storm clouds

Friday afternoon and we are sat here with fingers crossed that the clouds will clear and that the high winds will drop - all necessary to support the second night shoot in the Palace Great Court for the "Gulliver's Travels" production by Fox. They shot through the night last night and the weather did everything possible to conspire against them - wind + rain is far from ideal if you are filming a delicate banqueting scene outdoors and everyone is dressed in period costume with extensive hair and make-up creations! But they got through last night just about OK and we just hope that all of their hard work is rewarded this evening with workable conditions for what they require.

The Great Court looks absolutely amazing - very heavily dressed with additional trees and foliage and a massive banqueting table - and the Palace is very heavily lit with flambeau's on the roof to add atmosphere and effect. It is an absolutely stunning set and we are excited about the positive exposure that we will enjoy when the film finally launches next summer. It is a great fun production but the quality and professionalism of everyone (and there are lots and lots of them!) employed on set is amazing - an impressive industry and this is real five star top quality.

The "stars" appear very happy and their frequent appearances in Woodstock and around the Palace are hugely entertaining for visitors and for locals alike - they are with us through next week as well and we enjoy having them with us.

The week has raced by after the bank holiday weekend - despite all necessary prayers having been offered, the bank holiday weather was decidely dodgy - the sunshine on Saturday turned to rain and cold weather by the Monday but our numbers were very strongly up year-on-year mainly due to a large take-up from our annual pass holders. The connection with Blenheim Palace from this new "audience" is very powerful and we expected the jousting weekend to be popular - but probably not that popular as thousands arrived on the Sunday and Monday despite the less than perfect weather. We handled the crowds reasonably well (thanks to an amazing effort from everyone in Operations, Retail and Visitor Catering - well done and thanks to three great teams!) but there was still inevitable congestion from having so many people on site each day - we need to work on some logistical improvements for the next jousting tournaments in August 2009 in order to better cope across site and to deliver a better experience for everyone. That said, we have only had positive feedback from visitors with some wonderful unsolicited emails and letters - this means so much to everyone as it is all too often these days that we are quick to criticise but slow to praise. Thank you to those who took the trouble to give us this feedback.

The jousting entertainment went well with 6 shows over the three days - they do give it everything (as evidenced by the dislocated shoulder on the first day to one of the young knights!) and I am sure they go home black and blue. The knights that is - not the horses! The falconry shows are always an excellent curtain raiser for the jousting and hugely popular - but for the first time this year the first day saw the very first bird leave the handlers arm and diassapear out of sight over the distant trees like a rocket - not good for a spectator show and not a good start! Any amount of high pitched whistling and shouting failed to get it to return although various other high level passing birds were wrongly identified by the optimistic falconer as he tried to hold it together. It was eventually caught later on using a tracker device but not quite what was planned! That said, the overall quality of the 6 falconry shows was amazing and everyone was spellbound as bird after bird performed athletically (or should that be balletically) above their heads.

The week has seen the licence application for the "Festival for Heroes" Concert on Saturday 20 June 2009 granted by the local authority after a successful consultation period which attracted no objections from those in the locality - a very pleasing outcome and clear evidence that this well intentioned event (targetting to raise £1m for the Royal British Legion) has good local support. It now needs to drive its marketing awareness and to push ticket sales along towards the capacity limit of 29,999 persons attending - lots of activity to come on this front over the coming weeks.

And so will the storm clouds move away to support the filming - clouds appear to be moving - sadly still driven too fast by strong winds - but there is still time for the wind to drop.

If only we could control the weather - life would be so much easier - especially for the leisure industry!

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Anonymous James Hargreaves said...

can't wait til festival for heroes!

May 8, 2009 at 3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it so difficult to put your address and postcode on the website?.

May 10, 2009 at 4:31 AM  
Anonymous John Hoy said...

Many thanks for both comments.

The Festival for Heroes is an exciting and very worthy event that we hope will achieve + exceed it targets for the benefit of the Royal British Legion.

Our address and postcode is on every page of the website at the bottom other than on the blog pages. This is because these pages are hosted externally by Apologies for that inconvenience but we will see if we can get it rectified.

Thanks again for the feedback


May 15, 2009 at 4:41 AM  

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