Mixing it up with Macmillan's Big Mix
Andrew Mickel21 June 2011
Laura Adshead heads to a rainy Shoreditch to take in East London's music and comedy mega charity event.
So, June is the new October. Or so it would seem, given the outstanding weather we haven’t been having. Despite this, on Saturday just gone, I forced my way through the inevitable weekend tube closures, down to The Macmillan Big Mix (formally Brick Lane Takeover), to see what the charity event had to offer.
The first thing that instils a little bit of joy is its location; you have to be a pretty special kind of person to visit Shoreditch on any given day and not find something to do. On rifling through my programme, and finding an abundance of entertainment in some of my favourite London venues, I was excited by the prospects of the day: even after my friend had abandoned me, instead, curling up under the duvet with a (possibly terminal) case of man flu.
For the course of the event, Macmillan have based themselves in Spitalfields Market, selling cupcakes and the like, in spitting distance of the outdoor stage. This seems as good a place as any to start the day, and so I settle near the front with a bagel, and peruse some of the musical acts on offer. The overcast weather seems to be affecting some of the crowds’ staying power though, and there’s a steady flow of people stopping, before making their way to somewhere less wet and windy. After a while, I had to concede that my bones were getting cold, so I plodded onto the Queen of Hoxton.
Managing to catch the end of one act and start of another, I took in the stylings of Alex Brindle Johnson and Matt Trakker according to the programme. The main reason I had chosen to wander to the Queen, was the fact that I had espied Silent Disco on the menu. Silent Disco is one of my favourite forms of entertainment, and the roof of the Queen of Hoxton is somewhere I’ve whiled away many hours before, although I had a small dilemma or two: it was raining, and windy (if I hadn’t mentioned before) and secondly, my dancing leaves something to be desired, and since I hadn’t been plying myself with alcohol for the previous 2 hours and was alone, I sadly had to give in, and assert that today was not the day for my silent shapes...
A little saddened, the Spitalfields stage was my destination again; I really wanted to see the New Town Kings, a 9 piece ska band, I’d managed to catch before, but couldn’t remember where... They were, as I remembered, upbeat and a lot of fun, and through divine intervention, or some kind of mystical dance, they’d managed to bring the sun out. Resultantly, there was a larger crowd, many of them on their feet and dancing (any record of me doing so has been sealed in concrete and buried at sea).
This was exactly the kind of atmosphere I’d come for, and it was beginning to really feel like the mini-festival I’d been expecting. Even better – they’d gone on early, so had a chance for an extra song at the end. I really should’ve considered eating at this point, but so wrapped up was I in trying to cram in everything I wanted to see, it passed me by.
I knew now, It was getting close to the start of the comedy bill. Or at least close to when I would inevitably have to queue to get in – with Kevin Eldon on the bill, why wouldn’t everyone with a wristband descend on Concrete for doors at 5.45? Pushing 5 o’clock, I hot footed it up to Shoreditch High Street. There was no one here. No one. Fair enough, I’m pretty adept at finding my way round this area, so off to Vibe Bar, to stick my head in for half an hour, and see who’s DJing.
I foot tapped along for a while, conscious of the fact that I was clock watching – I hate missing things, and perhaps had been a bit enthusiastic, arriving 40 minutes early and expecting a queue, but still, I was a bit put out that no one seemed to be as keen as me...Eventually, I decided 5 minutes early was a more respectable time to arrive, and dashed through the downpour; This time I was greeted by door staff and Macmillan volunteers, much to my relief.
There are five audience members, me included. This is disappointing. I’m clock watching again, it definitely says 6pm start, and it’s now 5.56. The venue isn’t hard to find, it’s a bit of a bunker, but there’s a bar, seats, a stage – in many ways, the perfect ingredients for comedy, minus a comedian.
So now I really am on edge – I don’t want to get picked on (I’m ginger with tattoos; a walking target), and am dreading the pleas to move forward to the front rows. Looking around for somewhere to hide, I am distracted for a moment.
Then, as if someone heard me, the room began to fill with people. I’ve no idea where they’d been hiding, but my heart rate started to return to normal, and my paranoia was sated. The seats quickly filled, and in minutes, the compere had taken the stage.
The audience were somewhat noisy, and the bar being at the back of the room provided the usual problem – if a comedy audience can see alcohol, they will buy alcohol, even during a set, but it was a pleasant enough turn from Matt Richardson, and a short set from Diane Spencer. Kevin Eldon, as expected, was a triumph.
As subtle as he is in your face, I could’ve spent the rest of the night happily just watching him, something the rest of the crowd seemed to agree with.
That is a tiny bit of a lie if I’m honest, I was more than intrigued by Rufus Hound. Because he’s off the telly isn’t he, and that’s why I should see him isn’t it? It definitely isn’t, but at least he’s honest – he had nothing for us, he’s ‘just a bloke from the panel shows’.
All the panel shows. He seems as perplexed as us as to why he’s here. He’s amiable and funny enough, but after twenty minutes, I’m pretty glad it’s only twenty minutes, and he seems so too. I don’t dislike him, but he’s definitely chosen the right medium in being ‘the bloke from the panel shows’. That, and he was 25 minutes late, and I was getting a bit tired of waiting based on intrigue.
By this time, I realised I’d been at the all day event for about 8 hours, and I was starting to feel it, and so the time came for me to wend my merry way. Cutting back via Brick Lane, I did manage to pop into 93 Feet East for half an hour, staving off tiredness and hunger (when did I last eat?!), and bop along to music there, but I really knew it was time to leave when the hipsters approached en masse. I can’t grow a moustache, and have no intention of trying (being a girl doesn’t help), so I decided to cut my losses, and hop on the tube.
A thoroughly enjoyable event, and all for a good cause, the Big Mix has everything you’d expect from an event of its kind.
The weather (as if I haven’t mentioned it enough) was a big downer, but the venues are close enough together to be able to outrun a downpour, there’s enough stuff to do in between acts, and enough people to talk to, that even if you do get abandoned to the day alone, you certainly won’t be lonely! Just get an idea of who you want to see beforehand; otherwise you’ll waste most of your day staring at the programme.
Your rating: None
- Secret Edinburgh: Vikki Stone recommends a bar you can't visit
- The Top 100 most influential people in comedy
- Adam McKay
- Lucy Trodd
- Nicholas Parsons
- Shameless star recreates American Beauty strip pic for Comic Relief
- Peckham's finest comedy shorts night, Brain Wrap: what you need to know
- Simon Pegg and Nick Frost hint at possible NZ film
- Monty Python