Barry Gibb visited my kids’ primary school yesterday… Oswald Road in Chorlton. He’s an ex-pupil.
I’ve got 3 kids at the school but I only heard about the impending visitation because my 9-year-old muttered to me last Friday evening “We’re not supposed to tell you Mum but the Bee Gees are coming to school on Monday.”
“Well,” I said doubtfully, “There’s only one left… as far as I know…”
Then the penny dropped!
The Bee Gees photograph showcase which had materialised in the foyer… the unnerving explosion of Bee Gees related artwork on the school walls… and the Bee Gees lyrics which now donned the school stairs (and which I had failed to recognise)… It was a charm offensive… Barry Gibb must be heading our way…
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In 1977, when the Bee Gees were surfing Saturday Night Fever mania, we all thought they were from Australia! Aged 11, I danced to their songs at the Catholic youth club at St John’s Parish Centre, High Lane, Chorlton, and I was oblivious to any local connection. Obviously some local people knew… but nobody told us…
It wasn’t until the mid-80s that I heard about it.
I remember saying to my friend Danny: “I wonder where they lived in Chorlton?”
“Manley Road” he quipped… and for years I believed this, not realising Danny was poking fun at them.
We all knew The Beatles were from Liverpool… so why didn’t we know The Bee Gees were from Manchester?
And if we had known they were local, would we have proudly laid claim to those tanned, long-haired, somewhat effeminate disco divas… those ambassadors of urbane American hedonism?
Or would we have disowned them? Saturday Night Fever contrived to make disco seem “macho”, but the Bee Gees’ vibrato-laden falsetto delivery was always an easy target for piss-takers…
I loved many Bee Gees tunes (and bought their singles) but I wasn’t in love with their singing style which seemed to burden them with a particular sound… it seemed to be a limitation.
But The Bee Gees were just one of many vehicles for Barry Gibb’s prodigious songwriting talent. According to various websites: “The book of Guinness World Records lists Barry Gibb as the second most successful songwriter in history behind Paul McCartney.”
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Last Friday again…
I checked to see if Barry was in concert locally and he was… at the Phones4U Arena on Sunday night… £74 per ticket! I certainly couldn’t afford to go but it made the rumour of his visiting school on Monday highly likely to be true.
So what to do? If school were being super secretive then the management obviously wouldn’t want me there… but maybe I could try to sneak in… or just loiter outside…
Then Monday morning came and I had more pressing concerns… I had to take my eldest to the doctors. Then at 11.30 the school office called – I needed to pick up my youngest early. (He comes home for lunch). Apparently, lunch had been brought forward to accomodate an important event later in the day, but they wouldn’t say what!
I thought – Great! I can return to school after lunch and then accidentally, on purpose, stay in school and see Barry.
But it soon became clear that this simple-minded plan was doomed to fail…
Staff were hovering at the main door, over-dressed and sporting badges; a couple of PTA members were delivering trays of finger food and clearly felt hugely priveleged to be thus employed; Ms Flynn was guarding the entrance vigilantly with a grim and purposeful expression on her face… she kept peering across the street and up and down the fence…
I was begrudgingly allowed across the threshold with my 5-year-old, but was then frantically chased down the corridor by Ms Wright who didn’t want me to take my son to his classroom, even though I do this every other day of the week! I was apparently veiwed as a potential security hazard, even though there were no Gibbs in the building at this point…
I was bundled outside while PTA parents and staff chatted in an excited, expectant huddle not two feet away from me…
I considered camping out in my car which was parked on Oswald Road opposite the gate but now Ms Flynn was actually staring at me from her vantage point at the main door in an uncompromising way, so I chickened out and drove off.
For heaven’s sake! I thought. Barry Gibb is coming to my kids’ school and I’m slinking away as if I’m not worthy… I’ve a right to be interested… It’s fair enough…
I parked up at Morrisons and walked back via Keppel Road… maybe I’d glimpse the Gibb entourage at the family home? But all was quiet… I headed back towards school…
The kids were in the playground waiting – thank goodness it was sunny.
Then, at around 1pm, the Gibb convoy rolled into view and all the kids started chanting “Barry, Barry” – it was hilarious.
I watched through the railings as the Gibb family was escorted across the playground to where some children were waiting to play African drums. My 9-year-old was with them at this point. She says she shook Barry’s hand!
Then Barry’s entourage disappeared into the school building. My kids came over to the fence to talk to me through the railings. They told me the visitors were due to stay until 2.30… so I decided to do some food shopping rather than just stand around like a spare part.
When I came back an hour later, crowds of kids in the playground were poised for the big send-off.
It turns out that Barry Gibb came to officially open the new school annex building which was erected over the summer holiday – at the council’s expense as far as I know – i.e. paid for by us, not Barry Gibb – but please correct me if I’m wrong.
The kids enjoyed the excitement of Barry Gibb’s visit to their school. My 5-year-old still has no clue what the fuss was about but the older ones have discovered that fame is considered really valuable and makes people jump to attention! The significance of the music (i.e. that Barry wrote it) seems to have got a bit lost in translation… possibly because Barry wasn’t performing the music for the kids; it was the other way round and kids often sing and dance in school for important visitors.
The event was kept secret from the vast majority of parents, but in the meantime, various governors and members of staff got some of the best seats at the Phones4U Arena concert.
The rest of us received a letter at the end of yesterday from the Head Teacher which explained:
“We didn’t let you know before the event as Barry had requested it was focused purely on the children and had asked that we did not reveal his visit before he came.”
And Barry’s will was carried out without question, apparently.
Meanwhile, the school was sending out messages like this (also yesterday):
“Next week Year 1 will be tasting and handling fruit as part of their learning. If your child has any allergies or you have any concerns about your child taking part please speak to your childs teacher.”
So presumably, the school management’s view runs something like this:
Child in close proximity with fruit? Tell parents? YES
Child in close proximity with ageing pop music celebrity? Tell parents? NO
Child to be filmed by national TV? Tell parents? NO
The power of celebrity to distort people’s behaviour appears to be undiminished, despite recent scandals… We still haven’t learned to resist it!