Glenn Moore, Jessica Fostekew and Geoff Norcott were just some of the comedians who joined magicians Pete Heat and Laura London to entertain Standing Joint Force Headquarters (SJFHQ) personnel and Officer Cadets at Sandhurst.
The troops were attending virtual comedy and magic shows, delivered free of charge thanks to BFBS Live Events (formerly CSE).
Wing Commander Wayne Dennis contacted BFBS Live Events to enquire about a virtual comedy night for SJFHQ, a rapidly deployable command and control component.
When he explained why they needed a morale boost, it was apparent they fell into the BFBS Live Events beneficiary criteria.
The event aimed to raise spirits across the three Headquarters of SJFHQ and was designed to bring the group together and enjoy a shared experience over Zoom.
Maj Gen Rupert Jones, Standing Joint Force Commander said:
“It was a real privilege for the SJFHQ Group to be the recipients of BFBS Live Events’ first virtual gig. After almost a year of working apart, it was great to be able to come together in this way and share this experience.
"You cannot underestimate the value of the contributions that these types of events make to the lives of Service personnel.”
SJFHQ personnel have been kept busy during the last 12 months with deployments to the Middle East, China, Peru, and supporting the COVID-19 response in the Caribbean.
Many have worked remotely since Britons were evacuated from China in January 2020 and personnel have endured regularly enforced isolations so that they could deploy overseas at short notice.
To make the show more connected, there was a virtual front row who could be heard and seen by the acts and heard by the rest of the audience. One audience member said:
"The virtual front row added another level to the whole thing.
"Listening in to them chat and laugh was a really good addition … we loved it."
This feature gave the audience a feeling of being ‘in the room’ as opposed to just watching a screen. It also added a layer of interaction for the comedians and was essential for the magicians.
Another audience member said:
"I think the two comedy acts including the host used zoom to best effect considering it is difficult to tell jokes to a wall of muted mic silence. The magic act was brilliant with good audience interaction and participation"
Zoom gigs have come a long way since the Coronavirus pandemic prompted a UK national lockdown in March 2020 and some acts have clocked up hundreds of online performances.
Seasoned forces entertainer and comedian Maff Brown regularly writes for TV and has appeared on the BBC’s satirical celebrity panel show 'Mock The Week'. He is also the first virtual compere for this new way of delivering forces entertainment, enhancing his delivery with the use of screen sharing to really help the audience visualise some of his gags. Something that would not necessarily be possible in the live world.
Magician Pete Heat is the star of several TV magic shows such as Amazon Prime’s 'Around the World in 80 Tricks' and was the sleight of hand consultant for Jude Law’s Dumbledore in the Harry Potter prequel 'Fantastic Beasts 2'. He managed to add a touch of magic to the event by getting several audience members involved with his tricks. His Instagram count even featured as a live part of the show - but our lips are sealed as to how.
Comedian Geoff Norcott, who has appeared on many BBC productions including 'Live At The Apollo', 'Mash Report', 'Mock the Week' and even 'Question Time', headlined the virtual event and used all his experience in performing to the forces over the years to still resonate with the audience, albeit down the lens.
A few days later, BFBS Live Events received a short-notice request from Major Cargill, The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) for a virtual show to boost morale for the personnel currently on officer training.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the officer cadets have been confined to the barracks in Berkshire while undertaking intensive training in the responsibilities of leading soldiers.
This time Laura London sparkled and stunned with her virtual magic tricks. There was also comedy from Glenn Moore and Jessica Fostekew, and Rich Wilson held the show together as an online compere.
It was Glenn Moore’s first gig for BFBS Live Events. As a regular face on TV, performing online was a world away from recording programmes such as 'Mock The Week', 'Rob Delaney’s Stand Up Central' on Comedy Central and ITV2's 'The Stand Up Sketch Show'. Glenn said:
"I had a great time at the event, and the audience was lovely; such a nice atmosphere."
After the event, Major Cargill said:
"As always, your team were friendly, brilliant and hugely professional.
"Not only did you provide another great virtual event to support our troops but you provided the next generation of young officers with the knowledge to be able to bring the benefits of BFBS to their soldiers and families once commissioned.
"A job well done."
BFBS Live Events were stood down for most of last year when COVID-19 restrictions prevented live entertainment shows from happening but the team are back and working on partnerships to deliver free edible goodies to personnel supporting Op Rescript, continuing to explore how to use the virtual space for entertainment and deliver morale to the military.
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