The sun shone, the sky was blue and I know Guy was up there smiling down on us.
GUYfest 2009 had been a year in the planning – a special event to celebrate the life and passions of my beautiful twin son, Guy Evans, who died of a suspected sudden heart arrhythmia in a motorbike accident last August.
The idea behind GUYfest came from two friends with whom he had worked as a volunteer at the Vibe Youth Centre in Didcot, organising monthly rock gigs.
From modest beginnings, GUYfest soon snowballed into a day-long event at Cornerstone, the town’s new arts centre, on Saturday August 22nd 2009.
The day began officially at noon with a procession of motorbikes riding into the town from the village where we live, bright red GUYfest pennants fluttering from their sides.
The bikers – all close mates, three of whom were with Guy on the night he died – roared up to the entrance to Cornerstone, revving their engines as loudly as they could to make sure we got off to a very noisy and conspicuous start!
The bikers then joined friends, family and onlookers on the forecourt, where the MP for Wantage and Didcot, Ed Vaizey, performed the official opening.
We’d fixed up a big red and white ribbon and bow (the colours of Guy’s Yamaha motorbike and leathers) across the main entrance and Ed managed to snip the ribbon first time with great aplomb!
From then on, more than 400 people came in and out during the day to remember Guy, have some fun and raise some money for CRY and the Child Bereavement Charity.
A contingent of his mates settled themselves into the X-Box room to play games projected onto two big screens on the wall and chill out on some comfy sofas borrowed from the Vibe youth centre. There was a fantastic motorbike display on Cornerstone’s forecourt, with bike safety videos and safety awareness sessions.
There was non-stop music in Cornerstone’s cafe/bar – Couture@Cornerstone – where Guy’s friends took it in turns to play 20-minute “bar gigs”, including an extraordinary young man who produced some terrific rap music using just his voicebox and the microphone!
Guy was everywhere.
A giant exhibition stand and two pop-up banner stands featuring lots of pictures of him made a colourful backdrop to the activities.
We hung up 20 giant posters around the venue – Guy hugging his girlfriends, playing the drums, larking about with his mates, posing with members of one of his favourite bands.
There were some simple portraits too, lovely pictures taken by his friend Henry as part of his photography course at school.
In a side room, St John Ambulance volunteers did a roaring trade in getting people to try their hand at some basic first aid techniques – until one of Guy’s mates decided the armless resuscitation torso need a quick comfort break and propped him up in the bar for a drink!
Upstairs in the dance studio, we set up a “quiet room” with a small exhibition of some of Guy’s favourite things – the hand drum and hookah pipe he bartered for in Tunis on a family cruise, a MacDonalds bag of chicken nuggets (he virtually lived on them), his set of Jack Daniels shot glasses (sneaked into my shopping basket on a trip to Tesco), the snare drum from his performance kit, the mug he used at Sainsbury’s Petrol Station where he had a part-time job, suitably inscribed with his name in big bold letters.
And there were more picture boards – the ones we’d had made for his funeral the year before – and mementoes from his childhood and life such as his X-Box, his leaving trophy from primary school, the iPod and mobile phone which never left his pockets, and his moped helmet and jacket.
We set up a big round table in the middle of the room and covered it with posters and flyers together with newspaper cuttings – reports of the night he died in a motorbike accident, the inquest which concluded he had suffered a heart arrhythmia, and the subsequent campaign we ran to get improvements in the way 999 operators respond to motorbike accidents. We placed his book of remembrance on the table for people to sign and write messages. We had comfy seats for people to sit and swap memories and two tables carried literature and posters from CRY and the Child Bereavement Charity to help people understand what had happened and to point to sources of support.
Alongside all this there was a “GUYfeast” in the cafe –a special menu featuring Guy’s favourite foods such as chips, burgers and lasagne, sticky toffee pudding and trifle!
Throughout the day, people wandered in and out, sat and chatted and enjoyed the music, bought raffle tickets and put in bids for various biker accessories in the Silent Auction. The star auction prize – a day filming with BBC TV’s Top Gear programme plus a ride round the track with the Stig and tickets to the show – proved a big draw and people came from Oxford and beyond for a chance to win it.
The afternoon’s activities came to an end at around 5.30 p.m. when we drew the raffle of more than 30 raffle prizes generously donated by local businesses and individuals.
Special items included a watercolour painted by Guy’s 84-year-old grandfather, a set of jewellery made especially for the event by a friend at work, and merchandise and tickets for gigs donated by Guy’s favourite rock bands.
But the day wasn’t over – as we began clearing away the exhibitions, the evening rock gig got underway in the auditorium, the stage dominated by a massive GUYfest banner and the space lit up by a light show and lasers. Motion in Colour – a band Guy knew well through working at the Vibe – kicked off the gig, including performing “Close Your Eyes” a haunting and moving song written specially for Guy by singer Adam Barnes.
They were followed by Oxford band, Phantom Theory and then London hip hop singer and martial artist, Mr Shaodow, took to the stage for an equally energetic performance. The gig finished with a terrific drum and bass performance by DJ Marcus Taylor from Wantage – a close friend of Guy’s who has now set up his own record label.
And just to make it extra special we gave everyone GUYfest balloons and a “goody bag” filled with his favourite Haribo sweets, chocolate, badges and a souvenir postcard.
By 11 p.m. we were all completely exhausted – it had been an incredibly long day after a long year of careful planning and organisation involving many people. But we were really happy that the day had gone so well. It was everything we’d hoped it would be – full of fun and laughter, as well as some tears, a lovely party atmosphere and a wonderful tribute to the special young man who was only with us for 17 years but who made such an impact on so many lives.
My darling Guy – I really hope you enjoyed it too.
GUYfest Photographs by Peter Greenland