Four and a half years into the studio journey and a bit of self indulgent reminiscing. I did say that top ten’s were important. Here I will talk you through them, some are just personal, some obvious, some bizarre. We will add them in chunks as time goes by.
Here are the first.
Friday 13th of October 2006 will remain as the single most important day in our history. The lead up had started some 18 months earlier and the final deal done with Orange in a Costa Coffee in Paddington Station (I kid you not) Only the stuff of films and legends, but it’s part of our history. Friday the 13th (Yes indeed!!) started with a text to everyone we knew who had supported us through the process, friends, colleagues, family. Two simple words DESTINY DAY.
But even as we walked into the Orange Studio for the last time, my phone rang and the agenda was set for what was going to be a far from straight forward day. The call was from our solicitors, Orange had entered some last minute changes to the lease, we did not agree with the changes made as some of them involved a reasonable amount of money that we simply didn’t have. We had no choice than to try and play it cool and play it hard. For the next 4 hours the deal was off. We knew that if we pulled out Orange would have no choice but to carry on the business as it was and in turn they had cancelled all of their existing contracts. It was an extremely nervy time but I expect not unusual in these kinds of deals. They made demands and we made counter demands. I even contacted Orange personnel to let them know that I would be returning to work as an Orange employee on Monday 16th October.
But by 3pm the deal was done and at 5pm the lease changed hands and the Studio Venue Company came into existence. Emma, Lawrence and I just shook hands in a very numb and polite way, but the real emotions were extraordinary. We were frustrated and angry at the last minute negotiations whilst being ecstatic that we had pulled it off, mix this with sheer terror and relief and you just about have it all. Everything came into focus when we pulled the team together and told them that we were in business. We saw huge smiles, felt genuinely huge hugs and even a few tears. It kind of made us realise that we weren’t the only ones that had been tense that day. For a while the future didn’t seem very bright and the way that day was going it may well have remained Orange. By 5.30 everyone had a glass of champagne, and so it had begun…
FLOOD DAY (One)
Yes there have in fact been 2 flood days in our history, but quite different. In August 2007 it rained and it rained and it rained. Emma and I unusually decided to drive in one Friday. I’m still not sure why as we had been travelling by train for the previous 6 months. We also decided to take my Land Rover Discovery, a car with 150K miles on the clock and a very dodgy turbo. It was raining!
By 5pm it had rained continuously all day and there was word at the Studio that trains were beginning to be disrupted by flood waters on the route to Bristol. We decided to make a move for home. What followed was quite simply the most remarkable journey that I have ever driven. We had to make several decisions about the route home as reports on the radio were already saying that the M5 near where we were heading was already closed. Little did we know that every route decision we took over the next couple of hours would take us, like the perfect storm, right to the epicentre of the problem. In hindsight there was at that stage nothing we could do. The end result was inevitable and the die had been cast long before we left The Studio. From 7pm onwards we were pretty much permanently driving through flooded roads. Abandon cars littered every highway and the lanes we attempted grew smaller and smaller. The Land Rover however kept marching on and despite at times having water coming over the bonnet she never missed a beat. By 9pm we knew that chances of us getting home were pretty much over and as the light began to fade we became keener on finding somewhere suitable to stop and wait. We had by this stage made it to Evesham via Redditch and our last option was to try and go across country to Worcester. At about 10pm the game was over. A bridge on this narrow road had been washed away and a number of vehicles were blocking the road. Fortunately it was right next to a pub with a large car park which was now full of cars. We stopped behind a large petrol lorry and for the first time since 5pm got out of the car and surveyed the missing bridge. There were rumours that cars had been washed away with it and the realisation that actually we had been and were in quite a serious and dangerous position began to dawn. We headed for the pub.
Inside was a scene of typical Britishness, people sat wall to wall on the floor, Blitz spirit in fall gusto. A conservatory had been turned into a family room and was full of parents and kids trying to get settled. Miraculously for us there was a settee on one side of the bar that was completely empty. May be it was a timing thing, but we took up the opportunity of a comfy seat and spent our last pennies on 2 halves of lager and 4 packets of crisps. The pub refused to take credit cards! The pub had stopped doing food and was fast running out of stocks of everything. As terribly British as they come we got our laptops out, sent off a few emails, finished the weeks figures and set about writing company health and safety policies.
Bizarrely at 1am the pub announced that anyone who hadn’t paid to stay would have to return to their cars. I have to say the scene of parents carrying sleeping children out into the pouring rain as the pub became increasingly forceful was one I will never forget. But being British no one complained and just accepted it. Even more bizarrely the landlady approached us and asked us if we would like a pot of tea “It’s just the kids I want out” she said, you can stay a while longer! She appeared quite pleased with herself and the tea was on the house! We accepted the tea but at 2am were also asked to return to our car. Talk about missed opportunity for the pub that night to be the hero’s of the hour. As we left the owner was on the phone shouting at her baker because he had suggested her morning delivery may be delayed. I wonder if they even realised what was going on in the world outside.
One of the questions Emma and I are most often asked is whether we have ever slept together, the answer of course is yes, once and this was that night, it is of course far from the romantic story people may wish for and the truth is Emma didn’t sleep but strangely me, a man who famously never sleeps, did manage to drift off for an hour in the Land Rover and allegedly snored over the noise of the generator from the lorry in front!
By 5am it was getting light and we decided to turn the car around, let’s face it we couldn’t go forward and heading back to Evesham where we felt we could at least get some breakfast and review our options seemed like a good idea, the pub was clearly out of food!. Within those few hours of darkness the waters had subsided enough for us to plough on all the way back to Ashchurch station and by 6.30am on that Saturday morning Emma was home. The journey for me would continue for another 6 hours before I would finally make it home to Ledbury via Worcester, Kidderminster and Bromyard with Carol continually on the phone listening to the news and directing me as to which roads to take. I arrived home at 12.30pm needless to say the Landy got a bit of a kiss and a pat. We must have passed 1000 ruined cars that night, but the Landy “made it through the rain”