A tale of the kindness of strangers and the serendipity of Twitter

I did not get tickets to see Kate Bush when they went on sale on the morning of 28th March – I was at work, unable to be on the eventim website. For the next few months I tried not to think about the fact that I would not be at one of the concerts, apart from the occasional futile attempt to pick up tickets as they briefly flashed up on the eventim website in the early hours on several nights in early August. Throughout this time my friend, Minnie, continued to suggest ideas and encourage me not to give up. Early last week Minnie went along to the Hammersmith Apollo and stood in the returns queue, getting a returned ticket at the last minute and suddenly I realised it was possible and that the number of chances I had to see Kate Bush live were running out.

the view from the returns queue at the Hammersmith Apollo

the view from the returns queue at the Hammersmith Apollo

So last Wednesday (24th Sept)  I booked half a day of annual leave and after teaching in Milton Keynes in the morning I got a train for London. I arrived at the Hammersmith Apollo at 2.30pm and joined the returns queue with about twenty people ahead of me. I was lucky to be standing with two great people who had joined the queue separately at around 2pm – Barbara and Dimitri, and with Barrie who joined the queue shortly after I arrived. Dimitri had been in the queue the previous day only to get to the front and there be no tickets left.We also had the moral support of a man from Plymouth who had a ticket and come along early to experience the atmosphere of such a unique occasion.

It was a warm, sunny day and although I had taken a book to read to pass the time, I didn’t need to read it as we all chatted about music, concerts, and Kate Bush, always returning to the possibility of getting a ticket that evening. At around 4pm one of the 2014-09-24 16.17.56security guards gave each of us a raffle ticket so that any returns could be offered out fairly in order. Other staff began to set out the barriers to guide the audience in to the concert and people arrived to collect their tickets from the box office. As the sun set it got colder and some people from the front of the queue began to be offered returns, others gave up and left and by 7.30pm we four were at the front of the queue, but increasingly cold and despondent. This was exacerbated by the entire audience filing past us to get in. Some gave us sympathetic looks but most were so excited and keen to get in to the venue they probably didn’t notice us.

2014-09-24 19.30.26This is a photo of my fellow Kate Bush fans, still hopeful at that point. But at 7.55pm the security guard came out again and told us that there were no tickets at all left and that it was time to go. Frustratingly some ticket holders were appearing, late and with no sense of urgency although we could hear the ‘take your seats’ announcement from inside. Somewhat unable to believe that we hadn’t been successful we left and made our separate ways home. Barrie talked of returning on Friday but I knew that I was working in London and would be busy until 4.30pm.

tweet kbAt that point I felt that I had tried everything as there were only four concerts left and I would not be able to go early and stand in the queue again. As a last hope I tweeted this (see right).

On Thursday evening Michael, a Kate Bush fan on Twitter, tweeted to ask if I wanted two tickets he could not use due to family illness. It seemed too good to be true, but still, it reawakened hope but it couldn’t be organised with the box office until the next day. I went to London to an interesting day of art education activity and at lunchtime I got the great news that Michael had been able to give the tickets to me, wanting only face value for them. This time I went to the Hammersmith Apollo in a very different frame of mind – full of excitement, yet hardly believing it could be true. When I got there at around 6.15pm I was able to collect the tickets and even better, I was able to find Barrie, third in the returns queue and offer him the other ticket. He had been in the queue since 9am and no-one had been offered any returns at all.

someone's photo from 26th September - we are on it accidentally

@bradtubb’s photo from 26th September – we are on it accidentally, with thanks

We went straight in to the Hammersmith Apollo, almost unable to believe it, having stood outside for so long. On the tickets was printed ‘rear circle standing, restricted view’ but when we got in the attendant showed us to the stairs and we were able to occupy the third and fourth steps in the circle with a great overview of the entire stage. And there we stood as time moved slowly – until an announcement came that the concert would be delayed due to a power failure! After an hour we began to feel that after all we had gone through we were destined not to see Kate perform after all. Eventually it was announced that the concert would start at 9.20, finish after midnight and refunds were offered. Needless to say, most of the audience stayed!

The concert was unique, captivating and such a privilege to be present at. The next day I found this wonderful account of it: cup of assam I took a risk and stayed til the end as I could not leave whilst Kate was on the stage. This did result in an unexpected night in London but I would not have missed a note for anything!

The whole experience was made possible by the kindness of a stranger in the person of Michael and the serendipity of Twitter to connect us and I was glad to be able to pass that kindness on to Barrie. I must also thank Minnie for her continued encouragement and optimism. My only regrets are that my friend Jo, who I go to big concerts with could not come and that Barbara and Dimitri did not, as far as I know, get to see Kate Bush – if this was a film script, somehow they would have been there too! There are still two concerts left (Tuesday and Wednesday next week) so maybe its not too late for them…

6 Responses to Diary

  1. Lovely tale of perseverance, altruism and generosity. Can I apologise for walking past you all on Wednesday (a fact made worse by the fact that it was my second visit!)

    I’ve heard the audience was quite pumped up (or pissed) by the time Kate made it on stage on Friday. How ecstatic was it? And more importantly did you cry?

    I’ve no idea how you managed to stand through the show though, my legs wouldn’t have coped, esp when she ‘And Dream of Sheep’ in the cold water.

    • Not to worry, we understood the excitement of those going in! It was a bit galling to see everyone of you though, because of the positioning of the barriers. There was two waves of clapping before but not enough people joined in for them to be sustained. As soon as she came on it was like it hadn’t happened as we were so absorbed and she herself apologised at the beginning and again at the end, saying she hoped we all got home safely because of the lateness. I was moved by both the whole experience but when I tell it, it’s the bit where Michael offers me the ticket that really brings a tear to the eye, and sometimes not just me but whoever I’m telling, as well!

  2. Charlotte Heppell says:

    What a fab story Jean; it had me hooked 🙂

  3. Emma Davies says:

    Hi Jean,

    What a wonderful story. We (my husband and I) were also at that gig but were lucky enough to have tickets. We only had ours via a stroke of luck through connections of connections and lots of waiting – after having tried and failed to get them at the first rush and sell out. We did say to each other that we wouldn’t have wanted to be in ‘that queue’ and how lucky we were! What an amazing night – the whole venue experiencing the same emotions from despair to delight. We sat by a lovely couple (their second time!) and we all shared the evening together, the extreme lows and then the extreme highs.
    We were very skint due to paying the top price for tickets, but what an amazing privilege to be at the front and by the aisle – as Ms KB was carried aloft right past us.
    We too had an interesting night in London – knowing we had missed the last train home, we enjoyed the delights of London at night – the Night Bus, McDonalds at Kings Cross, then relaxing in St Pancras station all night listening to people as they played the pianos there. Caught our very early morning train home and then with only 1 hours sleep, my husband went to work for a 12 hour shift.
    An experience I will never forget.

    • Yes, I got talking to some lovely people too! I was a bit daunted by ending up in London alone and I wish I had stayed on the train til St Pancras but I changed at Leicester Square and then there were no more trains! Your night sounds fun! And the whole thing was unforgettable.

  4. honeypears says:

    I loved your story of perseverance Jean! I wish Kate would release the concert DVD. I came down from Glasgow to see the gig, but I honestly don’t remember much if it that well because of the sheer emotion of it. I think I had tears streaming down my face after the first minute and then for much of the concert – embarrassing but true. Liking and listening to Kate Bush has always been a very personal experience – not in the sense of exclusivity, I mean, I knew others liked her! – but it had never been a communal experience because there was nowhere to commune really! Hence the floodgates I think.

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