Merry pseudo Christmas

A couple of months ago, I ‘celebrated’ Christmas early, with fake snow, over excited young women and cold tents. To be honest, it wasn’t much of a celebration – I didn’t get any presents, there wasn’t any booze and only the quality (and quantity) of food and the presence of friends helped to redeem the situation. This isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about this escapade – I did so in the immediate aftermath, but couldn’t mention the specifics as I was sworn to secrecy until today.

As I write, A Very JLS Christmas is being broadcast on Sky 1. I don’t have Sky and therefore cannot watch it, but there is a small possibility that I may appear in it. I’m not a massive JLS fan, but, as I said at the time, this was a case of ‘have an enhanced CRB, have exceedingly random adventure’. Well, it was slightly more than that – more a case of ‘have a friend who has friends who produce music videos who need chaperones for a Christmas special’.

It’s not every day that you get a message from a friend asking if you’d be free during half term to sleep in a tipi with a load of JLS fans. I was initially unsure, till I found out about the fake snow and campfire. I’m a sucker for a bit of fake precipitation and a singalong.

Watching the campfire. See the fake snow? Apparently it’s some sort of fat. Nice.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to hear that this adventure wasn’t anywhere near as glamourous as it might have seemed it would be. There were moments of ridiculousness and excitement, but they were interspersed with very long periods of nothing-ness (other than UNO and chatting), combined with cold and unpredictable weather, and absolutely crazy boyband fans.

The concept was a simple one. JLS would perform a secret gig in the middle of a forest somewhere beyond Uxbridge. The night before, a selected group of their biggest fans would gather for a singalong, meet and greet, and spend the night sleeping in tipis. All this would be filmed and turned into a festive special. However, it was realised during the shoot’s planning that the fans couldn’t be left unsupervised overnight (even though the few under 18s all had adults with them), and thus, the need for chaperones or ‘tipi hosts’ as we became known, was identified. How on earth would they find seven women with enhanced CRB’s who would be free to spend up to two days in a forest in the middle of the week?

Luckily, the producer had a good friend who was a teacher – complete with CRB – who would be on half-term that week. This friend also had other teacher/CRB equipped friends who they had met, and who might be up for a bit of an adventure. And thus, four teachers, one nurse, a social worker and a trainee vicar came to be key staff on a music video shoot…

Adventure #1: Catching a golf buggy from the car park to the secret location…
The whole thing was something of a mystery to us. Had we ever been crazy boyband fans? No. Had we ever worked on something so shrouded in secrecy? No. Had we ever been responsible for a hoard of excitable young adults? Fortunately yes, yes we had. But there were other mysteries…
Firstly, why were so few of the girls dressed appropriately for the weather and the festive season? The fans knew that they’d be outdoors and that it was Christmas themed, and had been told to dress accordingly. Did they? Did they heck! But then, if you were a crazy boyband fan and had a chance to meet them, would you want to be wearing a thick coat, boats, scarf and hat? We’d come prepared partly because we’re sensible and hate being cold, but also because we’d been warned of what the conditions were like. Amusingly, while the fans were being assembled around the campfire, the director approached us and complimented our look, inviting us to take a spot near the front – at which point we had to explain that we were crew, not fans. [I’m not sure how I would have lived that down!]
The second mystery was also clothing related. Never, in all my life, had I ever seen so many onesies in one place (aside from on a group of babies in a creche, but that’s an appropriate onesie context). In case you’re not familiar with this phenomenon, it’s recently become ‘acceptable’ for grown ups to wear all-in-ones, or baby-grows. They’re particularly popular amongst girls in their teens and apparently are also available in JLS colours. Every member of my tipi had one and gleefully got into them after the singalong and before the meet & greet with the band. In fact, if you do watch the special, the chaperones will be the ones wearing normal clothes.

The tipis were pretty, but not warm.
The third mystery was the band themselves. Of course we’d heard of JLS (though I suspect not all my readers have), but did we know their entire back catalogue or even their names? Not so much. At one point we were forced to consult Wikipedia during one of long waits, just so we didn’t make idiots of ourselves in front of the fans (who were so crazy that we didn’t want to risk being mobbed). It’s probably lucky that we did, as every one of us ended up coming face to face with at least two of the band. I even got a hug from the only one whose name I knew before arriving. (The littlest one – Aston.) Ask me nothing else about them though, because I simply don’t know (and don’t care).
We will say little of the health and safety issues, the cold and the tipi that flooded in the middle of the night, but suffice to say it was an Experience. (And yes, that is experience with a capital E.) In the mean time, should you be in need of some experienced chaperones for your celebrity event, let me know – we’re thinking of setting up a business.