[This is the first article ever submitted to The Key Frame by e-mail -Ed]
Once again, the first weekend in August meant a trip to the excellent Nottingham Riverside
Festival. Organised by Nottingham City Council, in association with local showmen, the Riverside
Festival has become an important feature of the calendar.
This event takes place on the banks of the River Trent on the riverside Embankment, and extends
for over a quarter of a mile. The basic layout is to have the organs at each end, with the
commercial and charity trade stands, while separating them is a continuous line of fairground
amusements, on both sides of the path, thus creating an avenue. A first this year was the
appearance of Lawrence Bishton's No. 2 Gallopers, with 48-key organ. This set, which was brand new
in recent years, owes much to the work of Frederick Savage. On a modern centre truck, with fibre
glass shutters and horses, the spinning frame builds in the traditional way with chamfered wooden
swifts and quarterings.
The suspension bridge end of the embankment is a sight to behold. A line-up of seven fairground
organs, interspersed with trade stands and the majority attended by showman's engines extends the
appearance of the fairground line up and results in a sight and sound not repeated anywhere else.
The line-up is reminiscent of old photographs of all the shows together at the Goose Fair before it
moved from the city centre, and each organ is close enough to its neighbour to create the visual
effect, but distanced enough to enable each instrument to be heard individually from in front.
At this end, starting from the end of the fairground, we had Mr WT Hunt's 'Wonderland' 98-key
Marenghi, fully built up and still proudly carrying the name of Pat Collins, in whose ownership it
was no stranger to Nottingham. This organ was accompanied all weekend by Mrs Wendy Thompson's 5NHP
Foster showman's engine 'Victoria', which was generating the electricity. Next to 'Wonderland',
Colin and Liz Bullock's 46-key Alfred Bruder organ was playing as part of the 'Heartlink' charity
stand, raising money for this excellent cause.
Further up the line Mrs Susan Varley's 115-key Verbeeck 'Centenary' Organ was playing its own
excellent and unique style of music, while accompanied by Wendy Thompson's other delightful little
engine. This is the little 4 NHP Foster 'Wellington' Tractor 'Maid Marian'. Next organ along, we
had Herbert Epton's art-nouveau fronted 89-key Marenghi, accompanied by yet another Foster, the
4NHP 'Wellington' Tractor 'John Michael'. This organ was acquired by the Epton family from
Drakeley's yard, Stechford, Birmingham, in 1960, and its restoration by Chiappa Ltd was reputedly
the first rebuild by Victor Chiappa for a preservation owner.
Next to them, the Show Organ Society had White's 'Mammoth' Gavioli playing. Following attention
by Mr Norman Smith and team during the winter, this organ is performing better than ever; a real
treat to listen to. It is also one of the few organs still in the ownership of the same family to
whom it was new in 1909. 'White's' was accompanied and powered by the Burrell Scenic 'Dragon',
presented as immaculately as ever by Bill Gale, on behalf of the Chamberlain family.
Next to White's, an organ that I had not seen before was presented in what appeared to be a
brand new truck body. This was a Verbeeck; judging by its size, it would be around 72-key scale and
a very pleasant sounding organ. Unfortunately, on my time-limited excursions to the end of the line
up, I did not have a chance to talk to the people presenting it.
Last but not least, at the end of the line was one of my favourite dance organs. Mrs Jean Watts'
91-key Mortier 'Neptunus' was a pleasure to listen to. Also present at this end were Tony and
Maureen Harrison, doing an excellent job with the Society sales stand, relieving all passers-by of
their hard-earned cash in exchange for goods!
Going the other way, back past 'Wonderland' and through the fair, there were more organs to be
seen and heard. Sam Price's Bruder replica 'Lioness' was playing outside the entrance to the
memorial gardens, deep in the heart of the fairground, while further up, Don and Dorothy Robinson's
89-key Gavioli was playing. This organ, driven by Don and Dorothy's fine 1910 Burrell 7NHP
showman's engine 'The Bailie', was doing excellent duty fronting a show provided by the Pauline
Reader dancers from Derby, and excellently compered by none other than our Society Chairman, Mr
Also here could be found, as mentioned, the 48-key organ in Bishton's Gallopers. I know nothing
about the origins of this organ except that it is new and I am given to understand that it plays on
Mark Waltham's Odeon disk player system. It seems very appropriate that a brand new ride should
make the best use of up-to-date mechanical organ technology in a brand new organ and it sounds
quite pleasant: infinitely preferable to the alternative which is amplified modern 'music'.
Also up here were George Dawson and sons' Limonaire, accompanied by the Foster 'Wellington'
tractor 'Endeavour'. This organ is always pleasant, with the light, delicate voicing of its
pipework so typical of the marque. The last organ that I found there was the large McCarthy organ
belonging to Micky Green. The line-up of 12 quality instruments was smaller in number than had been
present in previous years, but all the organs that were present were of a high standard, and were
representative of the old and the new. In addition, to have 12 organs, with no less than five of
them driven by showman's engines, is a sight not often seen these days.
The Saturday night always concludes with a vast fireworks display outside the County Hall in
West Bridgford, just over the river, and this year's show was no exception. The Saturday night
atmosphere is unique, with thousands of people out to enjoy themselves. All age groups gather here
and, for one brief weekend, our organs become part of contemporary entertainment for the masses
again. For the fourth successive year we have attended as exhibitors and, once again, enjoyed a
very good show. For those who have never been, it is a wonderful weekend of entertainment; a show
like no other. Unfortunately, during the weekend, the dates for next year were announced and it
will clash with the Pickering Steam rally.