I play in the local folk band, Pandemonium, and some months ago we had been asked by Jim Mitchell to play at the launch of the Wantage Betjeman festival (Sunday 11th September 2011). We were very honoured to accept his kind invitation.

The Wantage Betjeman Festival is the culmination of Jim’s vision and after a massive amount of hard work and careful planning, over a long period, the festival was about to happen. Fantastic! Hats off to Jim for making this unique and very special cccasion reality.

So having accepted the invitation, we had to put together a repertoire. Not so difficult actually, as the festival launch day was also National Heritage Day and Pandemonium played for this event in September 20http://www.wantage.com/wp. So based on this theme of heritage, we decided to play some very English acoustic folk music from the 16th and 17th centuries. And dress up in funny costumes too. That always helps :O)

On the Sunday, we turned up with all our gear; instruments, costumes and music. The stage was ready and so was the sound system (very kindly supplied and run by Carl from the Music Gallery in Wantage). And so were the rain clouds!

The event launch was due to start at 12.30 but beforehand we were treated to a selection of fine pieces from theWantage Silver Band. They really are very good indeed and always worth turning out to hear.

Shortly after 12.30 Jim gave a short introductory speech, then handed over to Sir Max Hastings who gave the opening address. Sir Max is an award-winning author, journalist and broadcaster, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an Honorary Fellow of King’s College, London and a lot more besides! He amused us all with personal tales of Sir John Betjeman.

Then as the heavens opened, Ed Vaizey MP made a very short address (thanks, Ed!) and declared the festival well and truely open.

Everyone ran for cover as the rainfall increased. Fortunately, the wind was out too and the rain didn’t last long and soon the Wantage Silver Band were back in place and the sound of jolly tunes was back, filling the damp air. It drizzled on and off, but the band played on! True professionals.

Then it was our turn. We set up our instruments, Carl took the plastic sheets off the sound system, we plugged in and… yes, the sun came out.

Pandemonium spent the next hour playing through our repertoire of very English tunes – many published by John Playford in 1651, some attributed to King Henry VIII (on pain of death to say otherwise I daresay) and some written by the ever popular Anon.

A splendid start to the festival and no mistake.

Once again – well done Jim (and your amazing team of organisers and supporters) – you did Wantage proud!