Friars founder Robin Pike writes on his long-standing dedication to dressing room flowers and how a bouquet even managed to calm down Johnny Rotten!
In a special column for The Bucks Herald, Friars founder Robin Pike writes about a lesser-known aspect of putting on concerts...
All venues have Dressing Rooms and these are usually drab cramped spaces. Even prestigious venues like the Eventim Hammersmith have tiny Rooms with absolutely no character. So in July 1972 when David Bowie played for Friars Aylesbury at the Assembly Hall (aka the Grosvenor) I decided that he would need some flowers!
It is customary in theatrical circles to have flowers in the Dressing Rooms for First Nights and as a theatre person I decided to adopt the practice for the gig. On this occasion my enthusiasm ran away with me somewhat!
Having bought an awful lot of carnations at Covent Garden Market the previous night I “flew” them above the stage in upturned benches to enhance the theatrical effect of his performance as Ziggy Stardust.
Subsequently, the Friars Dressing Rooms have usually had floral decoration. In the mad world of rock and roll, flowers are not generally expected in venues. However they seem to exert a calming effect on even the most highly strung artistes, and this was certainly true of John Lydon in 1983.
Flowers have even been known to reduce some people to tears. I remember one time when an American guest came into the Dressing Room after a show and burst into tears on seeing freesias. She told me that her dad had always given her freesias when he returned from working away.
Of course it can be hard work to provide flowers, especially if they have been bought from New Covent Garden Market at 4am! The Market is another world with its own landscape of thousands of varieties of flowers and foliage.
Away gigs like Wembley Arena and the Manchester Apollo present special challenges with travelling and storage needed, often at unsuitably high temperatures. Vases are also required of course. I think these should be glass and of simple design. I always return to the venue early the next day so as to reclaim them before any go missing!
Dressing Rooms at the Waterside Theatre are a far cry from the dingy broom cupboard that served a purpose in the old Assembly Hall. Yet modern Dressing Rooms still love the sight and scent of flowers.