Whilst I was with the Band of the Grenadier Guards Band, one of the highlights of the job was performing at events all over the world.
We had been planning to tour Australia with a serious of tattoos and shows starting in Perth, then Sydney finishing off in Brisbane. The shows involved us, The Rifles Band, the Tongan Army band, but strangely enough, no contingent from the Australian services, as we were to find out why later.
During the shows rehearsals in Perth we had quite a bit of free time, which was lovely for me as I had relatives that lived in Perth. I had been given a few phone numbers before I went out there and met up with family and had a lovely day out, being shown all around the city & beautiful coastline.
After a fantastic week in Perth the show went ahead and for all intents and purposes it was a success. It featured at the time 2 ‘stars’ that had won an Australian version of X Factor so the show had pretty much sold out on the back of the ‘fame’ factor as well as a military show.
Perth is a beautiful city, I suppose the obvious choices to visit in Australia would be Sydney but from my experience Perth is so much more homely & very much more laid back. I’d quite happily go and live there given the chance. The seafood is amazing!
We packed down, checked out of our hotels and made our way to the airport where we were to fly on to Sydney. This was the first time we became aware that something was a little odd! As we were all flying together (or should have been) generally we travelled as a unit to avoid losing anyone, but this time for some reason we were placed on different flights with different airlines at different times.
The best bit though…. We were booked on the flights alphabetically, I was the first (from ‘S’ onwards) to get ‘the posh’ flight. Everyone from A to S were put on the later flight with ‘air good luck‘ or whatever the Australian budget airline was whilst us lucky few from S onwards had the Quantas 747 flight with all the meals, drinks & as many peanuts as you could eat. You should have seen the faces of the ‘budget’ airline travellers in the band when they arrived in Sydney! I enjoyed my wine on my flight. They weren’t too keen on their cattle truck transport!
We arrived late in the evening to our hotel in Sydney and did the ‘usual’ musicians trick of finding the ‘all night’ bar to settle in. I think they were just waiting to close for the night but on being invaded by 20 or so thirsty English musicians who had just been given their expenses for the week they decided that it might be a good idea to stay open till the early hours.
Rehearsals were due to start in a few days at a large arena in Sydney so luckily we had a few days to do some sight seeing. Obviously being in the fantastic city of Sydney I did the Harbour Bridge walk, visited the opera house, went to the beach, visited the Botanical Gardens with it’s resident giant fruit bats (actually known as flying foxes), had a barbeque and explored the zoo. Basically all the typical ‘tourist abroad’ visits.
We all arrived a few days later at a huge arena on the outskirts of Sydney and awaited the arrival of our gear for the rehearsals of the shows.
and we waited
and waited some more
Phone calls were made to try and find out where all our gear was? Our gear, our instruments & uniforms were still in Perth!
All the shows gear & equipment had been impounded in Perth by the shows investors & sponsors because they hadn’t been paid! Producers of the tattoo said they had to cancel the shows because they were unable to pay their bills, leaving up to 500 cast and crew without a job.
After a whole day wasted at the stadium we returned to our hotel to find out we had all been locked out of our rooms as the producers didn’t have the money to pay the hotels bills. Now, this created a little bit of an ‘international incident’ The British Embassy in Canberra were called and quickly became involved and tried to find out what had happened! Funnily enough, once the hotel had a visit from the embassy the rooms were unlocked!
It turned out that the Organiser Kerry Jewel had failed to pay the supply & production companies. This left us all without a job to do. This also left us with flights that didn’t return to the UK!
Negotiations between the Australian government, the British Embassy & the military were soon on the cards. We had to meet at breakfast every morning to find out when and if we were going home. Who was going to pay?
So every morning we had the news that ‘we are waiting’ to be then told ‘come back tomorrow’. By this time there had been an agreement that at least the hotel was been paid for by the British Embassy & Australian Government. The standard of food at breakfast and evening meal improved somewhat!
This gave us all chance for some more sight seeing. We now had to pay for our ‘holiday’ with our own money instead of ‘day to day expenses’ as we were not involved in the event which had obviously been completely cancelled.
The highlight for me was that a group of 6 of us hired a car and drove into the Blue Mountains region of New South Wales just 2 hours inland from Sydney. This was such an amazing trip out. We chose our own route & visited lots of little villages, drove through the woods, over the mountains. It was an amazing day out and something I shall remember for the rest of my life.
We spent a week in Sydney without work to do. I couldn’t think of anywhere else in the world I’d rather be stuck though. Obviously flights were eventually sorted out and I got home but the band was not going to Australia for a while after this fiasco!