Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Classic" Occasions

The bank holiday weekend looms - normally heralded as the final fling of the summer holidays before the days start to shorten and autumn rolls in - and hopefully the weather (at least in the south) will support a "classic" british bank holiday for everyone - assuming of course that the extensive road works and predicted traffic congestion around the country will allow anyone to get anywhere!!

Our "classic" event here at Blenheim Palace is a two day Classic Car Show on the Sunday and Monday - a fantastic line-up each day of iconic vehicles evoking memories of a past era. The event is organised by Andrew Greenwood - a wonderful Yorkshireman who I have known for many many years as we used to stage similar events during my time at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire during the 80's and 90's - indeed this is the first year that we are looking to repeat a very success formula as the classic car shows at Knebworth over the August Bank Holiday weekend were always very popular and well attended.

The National Feast of Lanterns (organised by The Camping and Caravanning Club) took place last weekend and they should virtually be clear and off site by close of play today. This very "classic" british event - with 2,500 units and around 8,000 people - was a huge success and I was very honoured to be asked to give the official opening address at their ceremony to declare the rally open last Friday.

That ceremony was then followed by the Club Chairman's Dinner in the Indian Room at the Palace - a very "classic" setting by the Water Terraces - and I had the immense pleasure of sitting next to David Bellamy OBE who is the President of The Camping and Caravanning Club. David is a fascinating man to sit next to - very engaging, very interesting and great fun. At 76 he is still very active across the globe promoting and progressing his variety of issues - many environmentally based - and indeed he was off to Australia a few days after we met. He has written at least 45 books, he is President, Vice-President, Trustee or Patron of at least 28 organisations and he has a variety of Honorary Degrees and Awards - not a bad collection for someone who trained as a botanist at Durham University! A very "classic" british author, broadcaster and campaigner and it was a joy to meet him.

To more mundane matters - Spurs still sit at the very top of the Premiership - 3 games, 3 wins - but how much longer will it last? Memories are being evoked back to the "classic" double winning Spurs side in the 1960/61 season (Danny Blanchflower, Dave Mackay, Jimmy Greaves et al) as that was the last time Spurs won three games on the trot at the start of a new campaign .......... I wonder if League and Cup glory beckon in 2009/10 - we can but dream!

And finally my lovely wife and little girls have returned from a two week trip to America where they were staying with my wife's sisters - lovely to have them all back home!

Enjoy the bank holiday weekend and make it a truly "classic" occasion by visiting Blenheim Palace.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Sunshine (and showers!)

So much for the blisteringly hot summer that we were promised earlier in the year - even this week we have ebbed between a very hot mini heatwave on Wednesday into a breezy, wet and almost chilly Thursday - it could only happen in England. The impact on our numbers is huge - over 3,000 on Wednesday and less than 1,500 on Thursday - very hard to get staffing levels right with such extreme variances!

Many will feel cheated having been lulled by the forecast, by the exchange rate and by the credit crunch into a "staycation" summer - but still I sense that spirits generally are positive and that everyone is out there determined to make the best of it and to have a good time.

This weather - as long as it does not get too wet (and then muddy!) - works reasonably well for us as the forecast is not strong enough to drive people onto the coast or onto the sun lounger in the back garden but it is good enough to support a fun family day out - just somewhere like Blenheim Palace!

We have traded well through August with some busy weekends and with some exceptionally busy weekdays. We are enjoying seeing many of our annual pass holders returning frequently to connect with us and we now have well over 60,000 members with that total growing daily.

How we manage that database going forward is an interesting new challenge for us and we are looking to fill a new post - Head of Membership - as we go into 2010 and beyond. Details of the role can be found on our website and we hope that there will be someone out there with strong experience in this field who can drive this forward for us with regard to membership retention and membership gowth.

This weekend we are hosting the Camping and Caravanning Club Annual Rally - the National Feast of Lanterns - with over 2,500 caravans (and an estimated 8,000 people) on site. This has been 5 years in the planning and I am sure they will have a great weekend based here in the Park - they have a varied programme of events and activities and the northern end of the Park is a sea of caravans and motor homes. Hopefully the weather will be kind as the last time we hosted a major caravan rally - for The Caravan Club - the event was virtually washed out by heavy rain and the whole area became a sea of mud!

The southern end of the Park is already changing appearance as the early preparations for the International Horse Trials get underway - this prestigious and important event takes place from 10 to 13 September and we hope to avoid any repetition of the cancellation last year due to persistent rain and dangerous conditions.

Before the Horse Trials and in the centre of park between the two larger event areas, we have the August Bank Holiday weekend with a two day Classic Car and Motorcycle Show - always popular to see such stunning vehicles lined up on display.

All these memories of bad weather after past events are depressing - a positive attitude is required in order to push away the rain clouds and to secure good weather for these important events. They say lightning doesn't strike twice - fingers crossed!

Impossible to close this blog without a quick glance at the Premier League table - as a life long Spurs supporter the sight of Spurs at the top of the table (albeit after only 2 games!) is pleasing on the eye - probably won't last long but still better that last season when they were bottom. How quickly fortunes can change - as long as of course several millions have been spent in the transfer window!

Enjoy the weekend ahead and enjoy whats left of the summer - and don't forget to include a visit to Blenheim Palace within your "staycation" plans.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Woodstock - 40 years on!

It seems impossible not to write today about the 4oth anniversary of the Woodstock Festival which was held from 15th to 18th August 1969 - not actually at Woodstock but at Bethel in Sullivan County some 43 miles southwest of Woodstock, New York.

The iconic and now infamous event - billed as "The Woodstock Music and Art Fair presents An Aquarian Exposition in White Lake, NY - 3 days of Peace and Music" - was set-up with the expectation of selling around 80,00o tickets; it actually sold around 186,000 tickets; but an estimated 672,000 attended as the fences and controls failed to handle the crowds that arrived. Reportedly over a million people had to turn back because of traffic chaos and congestion!

3 days of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll followed as those present enjoyed 32 acts (some of the greatest names in rock) - Jimi Hendrix closed Woodstock with a memorable performance of The Star-Spangled Banner but this took place at 9am on a Monday morning as the event horribly overran due to a multitude of delays and poor weather - sadly many had therefore left by then and missed what was called "the greatest single moment of the sixties" by the New York Post.

The success - or perhaps that should be notoriety - of the festival has arguably fuelled every outdoor rock event since 1969 - it was the precursor for Glastonbury (now in it's 39th year) and it no doubt inspired Freddie Bannister to persuade David and Christine Cobbold to host their first concerts at Knebworth in 1974 with his "Bucolic Frolic" event headlined by The Allman Brothers Band.

My time at Knebworth (from early 1985 to late 1997) enabled me to engage with some amazing events and some entertaining people. The first concert that I was involved with was the Deep Purple event in Summer 1985 - my last was the two day Oasis event attended by 125,000 people each day. I learnt - and saw - a great deal; certainly a chapter or two in my memoirs if ever written!

I am now here at Blenheim Palace alongside this Woodstock - it still amuses us that people get the two confused - there must be an opportunity to capitalise on the linkage more than we do - now there's a project for the 50th year anniversary in 2019!

Everyone has heard of "that" Woodstock - around the world it had an impact on social behaviour that still has influence today - indeed the recent inauguration of Barack Obama got the headlines "Washington's Woodstock"!

Back to 1969, Chip Monck was the lighting director for the festival and became the last-minute master of ceremonies when Michael Lang (the co-promoter/organiser) clapped him on the back and said "We haven't hired an MC - you're it!". Amazingly his first act was to get over 500,000 people to pick up all their belongings and move back 10 steps - some metal sticks and a clothes line were then erected as the stage front barrier and remarkably this flimsy barrier was not breached over the whole three days of the event - such was the "relaxed" nature of the event throughout. Not sure that the same could be achieved today.

For those who attended back in 1969 and for those whose lives were changed by the greatest music festival in rock 'n roll history - enjoy the memories - even if they are somewhat hazy!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woodstock was a druken ,dope infested, sexual disgrace

August 14, 2009 at 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty much like Blenheim Palace then!

August 16, 2009 at 1:44 AM  
Anonymous John Hoy said...

Woodstock typified it time in the 60's - today it would be impossible and unlicensable for all of those reasons and more besides!

Such comments applied to Blenheim Palace are unjust and unwarrented - shame that the writer should choose to remain anonymous.


August 17, 2009 at 2:57 AM  

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Friday, August 7, 2009


Apologies for the long silence but now back from a relaxing two weeks on the Algarve where the weather was glorious - hardly a cloud in the sky - sadly the same cannot be said for the weather back here!

Portugal was glorious and we had a great time enjoying time by the pool; time on the beach; wonderful restaurants; and time out a two very busy water parks! As I hurtled town the Torpedo ride at "Splash and Slide" head first on a small rubber mat (yes it does conjure an interesting image!) I did wonder whether I was losing my senses but I survived - as did my little girls who seemed to have endless energy for every ride in the Park - however fast, twisty, dark or dangerous. The Water Park experience is quite an eye-opener - a sea of flesh with every size and shape on view - but everyone relaxed, good humoured and having fun under the clear blue sky and hot sun. Shame that the English climate does not really support such outdoor Parks!

We travelled back last Saturday and it was a very smooth and efficient journey. We left where we were staying around 5pm and via Faro Airport and courtesy of Easyjet we were landed back at Luton by 11.30pm and home soon after 1am. Very convenient and a sensibly short flight to find such fantastic beaches and such reliable weather - I am a fan of Portugal and the Algarve as it ticks so many boxes - if the lottery numbers come up then I would certainly look to buy something out there so that we could go down there more frequently. If only .....!

Blenheim Palace has traded well during my two weeks away despite the weather being decidely iffy on many days - yet again powerful evidence of the strength of our "Buy One Day - Get 12 Months Free!" offer. Tracking life on a blackberry down on the Algarve is actually quite comforting as you know what is happening day-to-day, you can help/comment if needed, and you don't come back to any horrors or surprises - and even my wife now tracks her emails and messages on her blackberry throughout our time away so I feel less guilty!

We go into our second Jousting weekend of the year with the "Knights of Royal England" performing two displays each day for the next three days - together with falconry displays and other attractions including archery and face-painting - it comprises one of the strongest offerings for a great family day out. The weather forecast is encouraging so we hope for a busy weekend.

Beyond this weekend we have much to look forward to as we head towards our late Summer, Autumn and Christmas programme - so having returned fully refreshed from Portugal we look forward to continued successful trading and to seeing lots of our Annual Pass Holders returning on many occasions to enjoy everything on offer.

And if you were expecting a postcard - then it must be caught up in the Royal Mail dispute!

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