Winners took it all…a report

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Well it was the climax of our fundraising efforts for the Hospice in the Weald with our prize draw and the winner taking it all with Björn Again

It was a lovely sunny Friday in Tunbridge Wells when I got a call from Andy the tour manager for them to say they had arrived at the Assembly Hall and they were looking forward to their dinner!

As I loaded up my car and set off for the Assembly Hall… It was the culmination of some four months of fundraising and as I set up for the supper in the bar area and awaited the arrival of David Cross, his wife Adele and friends Linda and John to the sound check I chatted with Rod Stephens the director and creator of the Abba show. They had been on their current tour of the UK since early March and had just a few more shows to give before a well -earned rest.

The crew was setting up lighting rigs, all the props required for their show as I attempted to get the oven lit in the kitchen - a simple task you would have thought -  to find it all a bit of a challenge. Some in-house assistance finally meant the oven was lit and their main course was in getting ready.

The VIP guests then arrived and Rod charmingly took over and whisked them off for a gander of their tour bus parked out the back… It has three lounges and sleeping berths for 12 people. They sleep on the coach as they move from one venue to the next… when you look at their schedule they sure clock up the miles. The night prior to Tunbridge Wells they had been in Milton Keynes and then the Saturday night they would be in Bath and Sunday night their last night of the Spring Break tour would be in Wycombe.

Table set and helper Amy from the Hospice now arrived we get a chance to watch a bit of the sound check and then promptly at 5pm the cast crew with their guests all sit down for their supper. I had previously cooked at the venue for them so knew a simple meal would go down best so they then tucked into a warm mixed vegetable frittata that was served on bed of salad leaves and then followed this with either a homemade cottage pie or homemade fish pie. To round it all off they had an Orange and Hazelnut Torte with a Marmalade Mascapone Cream or local Winterdale Shaw cheese and creamy Stichleton with our porridge oat biscuits.

They were all very appreciative of our efforts to feed them they had soon pretty much polished off all that we had prepared. As they dispersed to get themselves ready we cleared up, packed up and then begun to relax in the bar with a well-earned drink as the Assembly Hall begun to fill up.

Two volunteers Candy & JJ (their stage names) who were invited by the Hospice and tasked for a collection of loose change at the end of the show arrived in their full Abba get up. They had their photos taken with Rod and even gave him a quick demo of their singing skills hoping they would get a chance to appear on stage!!! He very politely was complimentary but very non committal!!!

The venue filled and more arrived dressed in their Abba style glad rags…the Tunbridge Wells atmosphere Rod described as being very unique as the crowd dance from the very first number as the stall seats are removed.

Just before the show had kicked off our prize winners had their photos taken with the cast backstage and then they settled in to enjoy the show David and John beside the lighting and sound console whilst the ladies sat back in their seats to enjoy!

The Hospice collection volunteers headed for the front of stage… Candy and JJ’s perfected moves certainly caught the eyes of the girls on stage as they bonded for a photograph at the interval backstage and it was spookily uncanny how alike they all looked (well almost!!!)

The second half of the show continued with all those classic Abba hits from Dancing Queen to Mamma Mia. The boys onstage even had fun with their version of Jump by Van Halen whilst the girls did another costume change. The shows finale was a great singalong encore with  “Thank You for the Music”.

The collection front of house was the final fundraising push and I hope to be able to reveal the final total including the bucket collection very soon.

David, Adele, John & Linda headed back to the Ramada Jarvis Hotel at Pembury as they had generously provided overnight accommodation for them as part of the total package where they could unwind and reflect upon their day’s experience …( I am led to believe they had a drink in the bar with the guitarist as he was also staying there!)

Candy & JJ the Fabba girls headed off for a well-earned bag of chips.

The cast and crew packed their set away and boarded the tour bus.

I headed home… to find I had left my cutlery behind in the kitchen so quickly returned to retrieve it as breakfast the next day would have been messy!!!… Seats back in the stalls and the stage virtually all cleared it had been a great night…

So my big thanks to all who had made it happen and donated or supported me it was all for a great cause and especially to Rod and all from Björn Again for their generous warmth and hospitality.

I also hope to have a few more pictures to provide a pictorial memory for you all as well.

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