Basingstoke Pilgrimage 2001

Good ‘eavens I thought to myself, it’s been a year since last time already! I packed my cases and motored down to Reading to stay with our leader, Pete, for the weekend. Gently along the M40 I drove, sunglasses on, cigarette in hand, hair blowing in the gentle breeze; rather like Norma Desmond on a sunny afternoon as I arrived in Royal Berkshire for the bensilverstone.net pilgrimage 2001.

Peter was nervous and worried things might go wrong. Pacing the room like an expectant father and not a vodka in sight for most of the evening, which is unheard off. We chatted about the next day and what was to happen and slowly the excitement built to a fever pitch and off to bed we went dreaming of the next day and all the wonders it would give.

At the crack of dawn Pete was there waking us all up and shoving us in to cars so we would not be late and off to Basingstoke we went.

We arrived at the Anvil and set up for the guests. Once again we had beautiful weather and one by one the group came together over coffee and gossip from the last 12 months. Then the film started and I listened as people quietly laughed or sighed at their favourite bits of the film. In the darkness we were one and journeyed through the film feeling every nuance, ebb and tide as it drew to it’s ending.

Patrick Wilde and Simon Shore were again on hand to answer questions about the film and after a short break we had a glimpse of unused scenes which had the group in raptures and amazement at the skills of the actors, so young yet so talented.

There was a short Q&A about the scenes and then the biggest surprise of all was unleashed on the group – Ben Silverstone joined us for the remainder of the day. Unbeknown to the group Pete had worked hard over the months to get him to attend and all his hard work paid off. Suddenly there Ben was, looking shy and watching so many jaws hit the ground in unison must for him have been fun.

We retired to the upper area for a Q&A with Ben and, of course, the very lovely Stacy Hart. After every one had calmed down and decided they were not hallucinating after all, the questions began. There were so many I can’t now recall. Flash guns flashed like a Hollywood premiere and autographs were taken by the hungry mob anxious to exchange a few words with a man who had brought so much into their lives and to thank him (also Patrick, Simon and Stacy) for the experience the film had given them.

One of the best points was a telephone call from Canada from a member of the group. I am not sure who was the more surprised, Ben or the caller.

Pete wrapped up the Q&A session and off to the pub we went. The Millstone Pub is fab in the film, but in real life it is truly tranquil. Drinks and lunch went well and every one got a chance to shake hands and have a chat with Ben and the others. We settled down with the swans and the sunshine and spent a great afternoon chatting and being together. Sadly, all things must come to an end and Ben was off back to London. Graciously he made his farewells and left the group thinking how the hell can Pete beat this?

The rest of the afternoon was spent chatting to the group, Patrick, Simon and Stacy. Eventually alcohol got the best of us all and we sadly parted. Waving goodbye to everyone was sad but the memories linger on.

There are a number of people I would like to thank for the experience.

Ben Silverstone for making the effort to join us, being so kind and gracious throughout. It must have been difficult for him, as it is very unusual for an actor to attend a meet. He is a kind a gentle soul to whom I wish the best in life.

Patrick Wilde and Simon Shore for again taking time out to come and talk to us, keep us up to date with their work and lives.

Stacy Hart for again being there. She is truly great and very supportive.

All the members of the group who make it what it is, a friendly place to be.

Anne from Basingstoke Council for being herself, unselfish and considerate. She to has worked very hard behind the scenes and a round of applause is deserved.

Finally Pete without whom none of this would have been possible. I have watched him over the time the site has been going from the very beginning to this meet. He works hard and has managed to pull off a true coup by getting Ben along. I know he thinks the world of you all and a big hug from me is heading his way.

Next year? Well, we said we could not beat the first meet, the second was out of this worked and we will have to wait for the third and see what he pulls out of his hat…

Mike HR

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