Convention Thoughts

by Chris Cooper

You know, anyone who knows me can tell you that I like things to be spontaneous. From my interests in music to the way I work. I find I get bored with things easier these days. I mention that because I am recently back from ďJG3Ē thatís John Green Day 3 to the uninitiated. Three events smacks of familiarity so there would reasonably be more reason to get bored here to. When we first started this venture I am not entirely sure whoís idea it was now) I knew they were a good idea, but to be honest I never fully expected them to be happening every year. Sure, that was the stated plan but an annual Dylan Convention? I donít believe there has been this kind of run in the UK since they started. There are lots of things to stop that happening. Coming up with new material. New ďactsĒ new themes. Itís hard to see us doing that with enthusiasm indefinitely. Well I thought so anyway.

JRS and I had had plenty of chats in that direction and I must say it felt like we were nearing the end. Two week later we meet with Keith Agar to consider plans for a JG4! So I guess its not over yet.

These days I seem to be cutting back on a lot of my Dylan-type activities, partly due to work commitments and partly because I feel itís time to do so. Yet I confess I am as ready for JG4 now as I can be. So what changes the mind of a seasoned old collector like me? What is there new to do?

Lots of things go wrong at Conventions, most are not seen by the public, I could recite them all now. I wonít. Letís leave the mistakes and the errors behind us and look at what went right. There were certainly plenty of things.

The Services
Three years at the Moat House and things remain fine; we would be hard pressed to find more suitable accommodation. But we all knew that. 

The Family
Ever present and always good to see (though I wish Alison would not cry when we meet). Itís a link with the past with the Kidda. It does me good to remember why we are there, this one always works for me. 

The Crowd
This was, I believe our best attended year yet. But it isnít about numbers. But about faces, about meeting people you know who have become friends. About meeting old friends that you just donít see enough. About hanging out with like minded people. People who donít baulk at me for mentioning Bob Dylan more than once every 30 minutes. I wish sometimes there was more time to chat with people. There is never enough time, I seem to spend a lot of time rushing from place to place and always being wanted somewhere else! 

The Cast
Freewheeliní was/is a family. At times this is less obvious these days as we have had many members come and go since we last had a Lincoln-style gathering. One is long overdue, but at these events we get the biggest concentration of members in one place. Thanks Paula, Richard, Jim, CP, and of course John. Itís good to see you. If only the rest of you could be there too? Thereís always next time you know.

A mention of Jan the sound man is in order too, and whilst we had some technical problems at first Jan was responsible. In fact, for me he made the day a much easier and relaxed event. And judging by his dancing around in Carolyn Hesterís set he had  a great time too. Of course we cannot forget Keith Agar, but more on him later. 

The Atmosphere
JG Day really is like no Convention I have ever attended, there is a relaxed informality which would be very hard to beat. It really is a happy friendly day. Some people excel, some people get emotional. I though Al M delivered a wonderful little speech in the evening, summing up John Green well when he thanked him for now passing on his friends as well as the tapes. It was a nice moment that captures things well. 

The Performers
These obviously make up a major part of the atmosphere of the day. This year we kept the music all to the evening, which certainly worked better for me. But lets briefly name check everyone.

KEITH AGAR, our irrepressible MC Keith plays a huge part in creating the atmosphere. He seemed to be working endlessly throughout the day and the smooth passage of events was very much down to Keithís marvellous delivery. His enthusiasm helps a lot too.

ANDREW MUIR  of course was first speaker (seems to be his permanent place). Andrew gave us tales from his new book ďTroubadourĒ which he was signing there. I think itís a lovely tradition we have set up of new ďDylan itemsĒ being released at our events. He also included a currently uncirculated early recording.

CP LEE remains quite unique in style and manner. I always enjoy his efforts, I thought this year's talk may well have been the best he has given yet. I confess I never did that much of GED KEILTYíS quiz this year. But Gedís dry, infectious humour was nice to see again.

CAROLYN HESTER gave  a talk and commentary on the Westinghouse Broadcast. This closed the first half, as the planned panel discussion never took place for various reasons. I expected Carolyn to be easy going, as I had interviewed her before. I expected her to recall a few titbits when she watched the video. But her entire manner was so in keeping with our event. She seemed to remember so much and was such a lady. The crowd warmed very much to her. I could see she was genuinely pleasantly surprised by the people asking for autographs after her talk. When she left the room at the interval I felt sure we had done the right thing in booking her.

The music started with DYLANESQUE a group from up north who have often played at our Cambridge meeting as a duo. This was the band and they got the evening off to a good start.

The next group COLD OVERTURE I had been looking forward to. They had been the big surprise at JG2. They never let us down, their self assured confidence and spirited delivery really got things going. Marks violin playing was excellent as was there new guitarist. This group is one you should see. Once again they were a positive high spot.

But not as high as CAROLYN HESTER & DAVID BLUME. Carolyn was friendly and chatty, but uncompromising. She only played one Dylan song, closing her set with Blowin In The Wind, with others from Cold Overture and more joining in.  By the crowds reaction the lack of Dylan songs was no problem, as she went down very well. To hear her play some of those old songs from her DOT albums, and the tracks she had done with Dylan was a thrill. A great lady and a great singer we could not have chosen a better act to close the event. It was left to CP LEE to stir the crowd up for singing the night away as JG3 drew to a close.

So, there it was. Yes we will probably do it again. It was better than I expected or hoped. It was not just good, it was fun. 

And Kidda there were a few Bacardi and Cokes in for you. 

John was my friend more than he was a fellow collector. And thatís what made that event special. Friendship, it was a palpable thing that day. And itís one I donít find boring yet. 

Till Next Year

Some images of JG3


Carolyn Hester
Carolyn Hester

C. P. Lee
C. P. Lee

Cold Overture
Cold Overture

Keith Agar
Keith Agar

Andrew Muir
Andrew Muir