Rick Wakeman's Caped Crusades: going for the one prize

Cartoon of Rick Wakeman and Roy Hudd with two children in fancy dress
(Image: © Kevin February)

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely to be in the position of being asked to do things for worthy causes. If you happen to live in a village, one of these can be opening the village fête. I must admit, I love them and made the mistake of announcing this in a local newspaper back in 2005. Since then, the only thing I haven’t been asked to open is my neighbour’s mail.

A lot of my friends are in a similar boat and we often help each other out on fête days. One such close friend, and nearby village neighbour, is the comedian and actor Roy Hudd.

It was Roy who asked if I would open his local village fête a few years ago and I willingly accepted. It had
a great reputation for being a cracker, so I was looking forward to it.

I should explain that although you are only asked to “open” said proceedings, once you’re there, you’re their captive. This means you usually end up judging one or all of the competitions for home-made cakes, the most disgustingly-shaped vegetable (usually a cucumber or carrot), country dancing, flower arranging, and of course the fancy dress competition. On this particular occasion, it was this last one that Roy and I were asked to judge.

The first and only prize was a bag of sweets. There were two entrants.

The lady in charge explained that it was for children up to the age of six and that the first and only prize was a bag of sweets. Fair enough. So Roy asked how many entries there were.

“Two,” she said.

Roy and I tried our best to explain that with only two entries, you couldn’t have one poor little toddler bawling their eyes out because they came last. Couldn’t we have two bags of sweets?

“I’m afraid we’ve already spent our £2 budget on that bag of sweets,” she said.

Roy stepped in and instantly solved our first difficult hurdle by offering to buy another bag. “What we’ll do,” he said, “is to appear deep in thought and then say we can’t separate them and give them both first prize.”

“Genius,” I said. Let the judging commence.

The first child, a little boy, came magnificently dressed as Captain Hook. He wore
a stunning pirate costume made by his proud mum, who was standing nearby, giving admiring glances to the assembled throng.

“Yes,” she said, “it took over three weeks to make. I made the parrot too, and his cutlass.”

“Rather impressive,” I whispered.

“Let’s see the second entry, please,” said Roy.

To a somewhat muted applause, another little boy appeared with a cardboard box on his head. On the front of it, was a rectangle with a very crude felt-tip pen drawing inside.

“He’s a television,” the lady in charge told us.

“Oh, fuck!” muttered Roy.

We spent five minutes deliberating before we proclaimed them joint winners. The pirate’s mum threw a dizzy fit and accused us of taking bribes from the television kid’s mum. A small fight ensued, and I must admit, I was concerned for the welfare of the vegetable display.

I haven’t been invited back since.