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It began with an email,


June 2013,


an invitation to perform in Texas, in May 2015!




That’s a long time to wait.

tent in

TEXAS

In which we get

to visit

the Alamo

We were straight on the internet to check things out.

We agreed to go - and then got on with our work.

Well they were certainly building the thing...



...and even the Mayor seemed to be involved.

And - Kathy existed...


...which meant we could officially get excited.

First we had to sort out some technical issues, including - would we fit in the space?

Managed to track down this photo of construction work in our venue...

...and then a copy of the blueprints arrived.


Did some calculations.




Clearly we could fit.

For the next 18 months we continued to tour the incredibly wide range of venues

that the tent allows us to perform in.

From Schools...

...to grander places.

Portsmouth Guildhall

Sunderland Museum

From pretty venues...

The De Grey Rooms

York

...to unusual ones.

Left Bank

Leeds

And the odd exotic trip.

Tuen Mun.

Hong Kong

We checked out the Fine Arts Series and the Tobin Center websites on a pretty regular basis...

...and then got on with the practical arrangements for Texas.

There were to be several surprises.

An ATA Carnet is in essence a passport for the show. As we had just done one for Hong Kong we thought this should be straightforward.


Nope!

The rules had changed.


Long story short: our previous breakdown of the show into just over 100 items was no longer adequate. It needed to be far more detailed.......far, far more detailed.

Surprise 1. THE CARNET

The upshot: A great deal of work, and several fraught conversations with the Chamber of Commerce, to create a document they would approve.


A practical consequence was the tiresome job of having to label the “newly identified items” and re-label the rest.

Even faithful old 71, the brush we have used to sweep the floorcloth for over 20 years, had to become the soulless sounding “Item No. 297.”


It didn’t feel right.

Anyway, the ATA Carnet was approved and we were now transporting

373 items.


(same stuff that we took to Hong Kong except it now consisted of over 200 more bits)

Surprise 2. THE P1 VISA (part1)

Now we knew this would involve a bit of effort. In order to prove that we were an “internationally significant cultural group” (that’s the definition) we had to dig deep into the archives: reviews, quotes, Festival programmes etc. It took a while and we sent it all to Stacey, she was the nice lady in Texas who submitted the petition.


All done, but then the news came back - petition rejected!


While all this was going on along comes the next surprise.

Surprise 3. THE QUEEN

This arrived in the post.

Caused a bit of a stir in Jen’s hometown as this was her second meeting with the Queen.

So Jen went to London.

THE P1 VISA (part2)

Back home we discovered more about the Visa problem. One issue was the question of authenticity. The authorities involved in examining our case were not happy with quotes about our previous international work - they wanted to see the source material!!!!


Think 4 exclamation marks is over  the top?


It isn’t.


We are talking about finding original newspaper articles and Festival brochures from up to 17 years ago. Now our shows do not tend to generate vast amounts of publicity or even reviews, also, while we are generally good record keepers we don’t cut out and save every mention of the work in the press.


So, this was quite a challenge.

Surprise 4. BACK DOWN TO LONDON

NOTE: Why are we banging on about all this stuff?

We just wanted to give people some insight into the work

that can be involved in getting our little shows to distant places.

Very, very long story short-

We sent off everything we could find to Stacey and the news came back that it was all accepted.



We were relieved and so too, it appears, was Stacey.

Last time we worked in the States the Visa application was all done via email, fax and post. This time we had to take all our documentation to the American Embassy in London and be interviewed before the actual Visas could be issued.


No cliffhanger here, the Visas were issued and they arrived a week before we were due to fly out.

While we were in London it did give us a chance to check out a possible venue -For years we have dreamed about presenting “Landscapes” at The Natural History Museum.


We popped in...


...there were a large number of teenagers running around and screaming.


We would need to sort that out first.

Jen did spot this place.


The Royal Albert Hall.


Probably most famous for hosting

The Last Night of the Proms.

Clearly that’s never going to happen - but it would look pretty fantastic.

So everything was sorted and we set off for Texas.


We got there safe and sound

and on time.


This is the venue.


The rather remarkable, and brand new, Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

To be totally accurate this was our venue.


The East Rotunda.

Although we arrived on time the same was not true for the show.


Won’t bore you with the details here but for 3 nerve-racking days we were in San Antonio, our Freight agent was in New Orleans and the crates were in Houston.


Many Skype calls later and they were finally in the dock at the Tobin.

Now we were all ready to set up but that evening Greg Allman was performing in the main house.


What’s the problem with that?

After the gig Mr. Allman and his band were using our venue for their after-show party.



Rock & Roll.

Next day the crates were wheeled in,


we set up...

...and it looked pretty good.

Happy to report that the shows were sold out, the response to the work was all we could have hoped for, the staff at the Tobin were a delight to work with and everybody we encountered was incredibly polite.


Jen was particularly tickled by being called Ma’am.


Seating a small boy she asked “Are you comfortable there?”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“Are you sure?”

“Sure am Ma’am”

At first we were very excited with the “Awesome” responses.


We counted  over 20 during the first day.

That night  Jen had a choice of three different kinds of salad. She settled on the Garden Salad.

“Awesome” said the waitress.


We stopped counting.

The journey to work each day was pretty straightforward.

The East Rotunda

Our Hotel

The best bits about

El Tropicano?

What is described as the “Retro Hip” ambience...

...the 24 Hour Mexican music in the elevators...


...our night time view of the venue and the city...


...the ice machine outside our room...

...and the Terrace that overlooks...

...the San Antonio River.

The Riverwalk became our main artery through the city and we walked it from the Witte Museum in the North down to Padre Park in the South.

A great way to explore the city, pop up some steps and you are in the middle of town, next to a market, in a museum or out in a park.

One special encounter for us on the Riverwalk was coming across a hero of ours - sitting on some railway sleepers.

Mr. Buster Keaton.

When we did pop up from the Riverwalk we enjoyed sights and details that most locals probably take for granted.

In an open public space and you need to charge up your iPad?

Ride a bike - but you also want to use the bus?

Stick it on the rack at the front.

Mum, Dad, the kids and the dog are all out for a walk.





It’s a hot day, a drink of water would be nice.



Sorted - everybody’s happy.

Well, not quite everybody.

Talking of water,

and this was a surprise.


It rained quite a lot.

For people who have followed our travels it will come as no surprise to learn that the local cuisine was sampled and enjoyed.

And for the true aficionados -

On a personal note.


I can remember, as a young boy, sitting on the couch watching The Alamo film with my father.

During the film I would look at the screen, turn to look at him and then back at the film.


That was when I realised - “My Dad looks like John Wayne.”

One of the wonderful things about our little show is that because of it, many many years later, I get to remember that moment sitting on a wall

at The Alamo.

Finally, the highlight of the trip?

Simple - Meeting Kathy.


She created the Festival, wanted us to be part of it and she made it happen.

Kathy is charming, open, passionate and committed.


How appropriate that in the Lone Star State we should encounter such a singularly stellar Lady.

For example: Home-made tortillas, re-fried beans, Mexican scrambled eggs, fried potatoes and home-made salsa in a fantastic Mexican cafe straight out of the fifties.

Yes, Jen is still wearing that hat.