Children in Need might be a British institution, but it’s also very close to the heart of many expats in Spain. And at Villamartin Plaza they love raising cash for various good causes – so much so that their total for 2016 has now hit €15,000. That’s pretty impressive, and it proves what I’ve always said, the best way to get people to part with their cash is to put on some fun-raising. In other words, give them something to enjoy, and they’ll open their hearts and their wallets.
For Friday’s Children in Need show, Costa Blanca’s own Stevie Spit got together 15 class acts who agreed to perform for free while Stevie compered the show and talked the audience out of their spare Euros. It was quite a marathon, running from 1.00 pm until everyone got fed up and went home, with the official presentation at 9.00 pm. Clive Gray and Rai Woods of Siesta Productions were also there, filming for possible inclusion in the BBC telethon.
When Rai asked if I’d like to go along to do a piece about the function and chat to him and Clive about Siesta Productions and the making of The Cucaracha Club, I jumped at the chance. I love to have a good time and talk to interesting people, and it was pretty clear that was on the cards on Friday. And as anyone who’s ever been even slightly involved with filming will know, there’s lots of hanging about time, so I knew I’d have plenty of time to collect more material for the publicity campaign for The Cucaracha Club, which is awaiting classification by the BBFC so it can be shown in public and the production team can start to see a return on their investment and build up the budget for The Cucaracha Club 2. More about that in the next couple of blog posts.
Obviously the satnav didn’t share my enthusiasm for the trip, because when I put in Villamartin, it told me it would take over 5 hours to get there. Now I’m directionally challenged at the best of times – which is why I have the ironic nickname Satnav Sandra – but even I knew it shouldn’t take 5 hours to get to the other side of San Miguel from Algorfa. As the route emerged, it turned out I was going somewhere near Gibraltar. They may well have had a Children in Need function there, but I was pretty certain Rai, Clive and Stevie wouldn’t be waiting for me, so much as I fancied a road trip to Gibraltar, the satnav went back in its case.
So what’s a girl to do? When the satnav won’t play, and you haven’t got a clue where you’re going, the best thing to do is phone a friend, because there’s no audience to ask, and to stand a chance of a winning on a 50/50, you need something to discard. I phoned Rai, expecting him to give me clear, crisp directions and calm down my frazzled nerves. He might have done, if he’d heard the phone over the music and the appreciation of the crowds. I wracked my brain to think who else to ask and decided on Alex and Bev, who are always whizzing around the Costa Blanca in various amateur dramatics productions.They happened to be in a bar in Alicante with friends, and the raucous laughter that greeted my request for directions almost drowned out Alex’s instructions. They were pretty good too, because just 15 minutes later I rocked up at the plaza.
There was a raffle and tombola on the go as well as the entertainment, and each trip around the plaza with the change bucket resulted in a satisfying chink of coins. Stevie was confident we’d hit €1,500, and you couldn’t really argue – the Villamartin crowd are very generous, and they were enjoying themselves, so they were quite prepared to dig deep.
I’ve been in the audience many times, but this was the first time I’d been working with the crew, as it were, and it gives you a totally different perspective on things, because you can’t sit swilling wine because you’re working and driving, and there’s a lot of waiting around, so you’ve got plenty of time to people watch. Rai, Clive and I found a quiet spot to chat about The Cucaracha Club once they’d worked out what they were going to film and when and where it was going to happen. Something we all noticed was that every time someone walked past, they looked hard at all of us. We worked out that because I was sitting with a notebook on my knee and asking questions, the passers by were trying to work out who I was interviewing, and where they’d seen them before. They wouldn’t have got very far, because the guys are much happier behind the cameras than in front of them.
Something else that was rather funny was the way people behaved around the cameras – even when they weren’t working. Some people really played to the gallery, while others were almost apologetic. I dubbed one couple ‘Mr and Mrs Sorry,’ because every time they came within 10 yards of the camera, they did a sort of limbo to duck under the lens, then said ‘Sorry’ in a very sheepish tone of voice. The thing was, they saw the green lights on the camera, and equated it to traffic lights, whereas you don’t walk in front of it when the red light is working. Not unless you want a good spanking. Well, that’s what Rai and Clive threatened me with, and I wasn’t going to test the theory in front of all those people!
As the afternoon and evening progressed, and Stevie gave regular updates, the crowd became even more generous. At around 7.00 pm, when the total was €1,455 – just €45 short of Stevie’s target, a lovely lady called Winnie came forward with a €50 note to take the pot over €1,500.
As well as being a great singer and a very funny comedian, Stevie also does a drag act, and although he was in civvies to compere the show, lots of people wanted to see him flouncing around in a frock. He said that if enough money went in the bucket, he’d do it, and the magnificent response was another €215. The money just kept pouring in.
Before the official presentation, as well as getting lots of great photos I managed to get dragged onto the dance floor several times, encased in headphones and photographed with Elvis before he left the building. All in all, a great day out which seemed way too enjoyable to count as work. The final total on the ‘cheque’ was €2,020, but another €200 came in after that when Declan of Jameson’s bar asked for Louise ‘Tiny Lou’ Morgan to sing. I missed that – and Stevie in his frock – because I had an early start on Saturday to report on a Psychic Development Workshop run by the lovely Alison Wynne-Ryder. That’s what I love about my job – no two days are ever the same.
As it happens, the clip wasn’t shown on BBC, even though Rai and Clive dashed back to the studio to edit it and send it to London. Still, a great time was had by all – as you can see from the photos. Lots of money was raised for a great cause, and Stevie Spit, Siesta Productions and all the artists who gave their time for free did a fantastic job. And DJ Snoopy manned the sound systems and made sure Villa Martin Plaza was a feedback free zone. Thank you all – looking forward to the next time!