Monday, June 13, 2011

DEVILISH TIMES AT THE COVENTRY ARTS UMBRELLA

One of the memories I and some others like Chris Jones have, is of the Umbrella seances that happened about 1970. I never took part in one but i remember this particular night -

One Saturday night, late after the pubs had closed and all the events of the Umbrella had finished except for the progressive disco in the upstairs room, with DJ's Al and Steve Varney, there was a seance in the coffee bar downstairs. The DJ's played a selection of the latest albums such as taste, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin to a small hippy crowd.

However on this occasion the coffee bar was the scene of a seance. There had been a few around that time, after midnight discussions in the coffee bar! There was a smallish group, some regular some not. Some participants had been rumoured to have been possessed. It was a bit scary - I never joined in!

Sometimes the DJ's upstairs engineered the music to be at it's most scary - turning up full, for example, Pink Floyd's Careful with that Axe Eugene with its harrowing screaming midway and playing Black Sabbath. The participants downstairs were not shaken however - the music was familiar to anyone who frequented the Umbrella on a Saturday night.



At some stage I went down stairs and was tinkering about on the piano and Al Docker's drums in the middle down stairs room. Anyone coming to the Umbrella and going to the coffee bar had to go past the door and I would see them. It was nearly 2 am in the morning and unlikely that anyone would come into the Umbrella at that time and I was bleary eyed by then. Suddenly I was sure i saw the devil walk past towards the coffee bar. Ok I thought - it's late at night and semi dark - no I couldn't have seen the devil - time to go home get some sleep! - and yet I distinctly remember it had horns, and devil's tail and fork -  a very conventional devil I must say! At first there was no sound so I did wonder if it had been my imagination and wrote it off  as a trick of the night!



Meanwhile things were getting very tense in the coffee bar with screams followed by calming voices of the occupants. They were calling up Rasputin - this was apparently quite dodgy. Then suddenly there was a devil of a collective scream that made even the drums shudder. I rushed into the coffee bar to see what had happened. Sure enough there was the devil in all his glory, tail and horns and people rushing past to the toilet in a great hurry!

It transpired it was an actor from the Belgrade Theatre who had heard on the grapevine about these seances and was a nonbeliever. So raiding the Belgrade's costume department, he decided to illustrate the point! Being an actor his timing was superb. After I'd seen him go past - he waited in the 'wings' as it were until just the right moment - and when he heard them calling up Rasputin and the glass had become animated - he stepped into the room. It was the stuff of Oscars! 

After that lights went on, coffee was made and the most heated of discussions ensued. I was mighty glad that it was an actor and that I hadn't been seeing things and i think there was a great feeling of relief all round.

I think they stopped after that!

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