Review: Happy Festival Bury

Our Bury reporter Gill spent a day out at the Happy Festival, an uplifting celebration inspired by comedian Victoria Wood.

“Where is Victoria Wood’s statue?” asks one visitor.

“Turn left out of the doors and she’s right in front you, on the other side of the road” explains one of my fellow volunteers on the help desk at Bury Art Museum. “Only it will be a bit noisy over there today”.

It will be indeed. There is a marquee erected just next to the statue in front of Bury’s Unitarian Church. The ukulele band has just finished and the samba band is about to start.

It is Happy, a Victoria Wood fan Day.

There is a gentle buzz about the place this morning. There are more people than normal here for a Saturday. Some people have just wandered into the gallery as part of what they might do any other weekend. Others have come especially for today’s event.

In any case photographer, Andy Hollingsworth’s morning talk is sold out even before the day begins. This event is followed by Andy taking photos in the gallery next door.

We are intrigued by a semi-formally dressed man who marches through the galleries, looking important. Who is he? Do we know him? Is he some sort of professor?

Someone else in a high-viz jacket keeps grinning at me. I feel I should know her, but I don’t remember her from the volunteers’ meeting. The professor speaks sharply to her. “Come on, get your job done.” But he smiles politely at me and invites me to sit down.

Then all is revealed. The “professor” is Karl, the uptight gallery assistant in Steve Cooper’s Hands Up, Who’s Happy? The other “volunteer” is his nemesis. She challenges his views on life, including climate change, gender, sexuality and even Victoria Wood’s statue. This is all done in a way that makes us laugh out loud, at ourselves perhaps as well, and the show is interspersed with plenty of happy songs. Karl reflects on the people who visit the gallery. “They spend five minutes looking at the exhibits,” he says, “before they head for Tina’s Tea Room.”

And oh yes, Tina’s Tea Room is full today. There is a mouth-watering selection of cakes.

Soon visitors are making their way through the tea shop and the art shop to listen to Doolally and Hannah Brackenbury. It’s a full house, with several more people watching from the shop doorway. Now we are treated to two more fun and polished performances.

The day continues with a Q & A session hosted by Jasper Rees, the author of Victoria Wood’s official biography. Whose Line is it Anyway, hosted by the Met and Notes on Notes on Camp – with Jez Dolan, Andree Pollard and Tom Guest.

There’s more music from Helen Brackenbury and Beth Allen and friends, who present us with some of Victoria Wood’s best-known songs. Lucky Bags showcase a dance piece which includes some of Wood’s most recognisable TV characters. This is especially created for Happy by Ruth Jones.

The day goes by quickly. When this is all over, Victoria Wood‘s statue will still gaze over towards the Bury Art Museum. She holds a mic in one hand and she is smiling. The aim was to create her in a pose from her younger days as she captivated her audience.

I wonder what she would have made of today’s goings–on. I think she may have actually quite liked them.

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