BFBS Live Events has been entertaining troops worldwide since 1946 - and here we take a look at some of their more recent successes as a reminder of what live entertainment looks like for all those in lockdown indoors.
No matter the budget or location the Live Events team, formally known as CSE, are always up for a challenge.
Nothing stops them from putting on a great show - apart from perhaps a global pandemic that places restrictions on mass gatherings.
While the world waits for quarantine to be lifted, we take a look back at the an impressive moment as they organised historic first-ever live entertainment shows performed for the British Forces in Brunei.
In the summer of 2019, top entertainers travelled 8000 miles from the UK to perform in front of 2,000 people at Tuker Lines, Seria Garrison.
The event was a rare opportunity for the military community, in a location where there is very little if any public entertainment within Brunei due to it being a state-controlled by Sharia Law.
The British Army in Brunei is made up of an infantry battalion of Gurkhas plus an Army Air Corps Flight of Bell 212 helicopters.
The Jungle Warfare Division runs courses for all members of the British Army in a tropical climate and terrain suited to this type of jungle training.
The majority of the training offered here is extremely specialist and many of the soldiers spend extended periods in the forests teaching jungle warfare.
Soldiers stationed in Brunei will serve at least two years away from extended family and friends.
Posted far from home for a long time, the morale boost BFBS Live Events (formerly CSE) delivered was very much considered a welfare need for the military community.
Commander BFB and Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles, Dave Pack said:
“I’m desperate to do it again.
"It’s the welfare difference that it makes, particularly to the dependents so to access something like this you’d need to get on a flight and go to Singapore, you’d need to go to Thailand, you cannot get this in Brunei. And it’s a really important part of what people miss back home in the UK.”
BFBS Live Events delivered two shows for the garrison’s 'Party in the Park' event, which were attended by a mixture of serving military and their families, as well as locally employed contractors.
The two-day long event looked to promote an inclusive 'one-Garrison' concept while highlighting the variety of diverse cultures that make up the heart of British Forces Brunei, by allowing the whole community to enjoy a multicultural family event together while reconnecting with UK and Nepali culture.
The event also aimed to create a greater sense of community spirit, cohesion for the future and inclusion between Gurkha and British soldiers and their families, by giving them the opportunity to socialise together in a safe environment.
It was very important for the content to play to both cultures.
This brief was very much at the forefront of BFBS Live Events (CSE) planning when putting together the bespoke entertainment package.
Maj Raj Kamil Rai, Gurkha Major, 2 RGR, said that it was "one of the best days for the whole of British Forces Brunei", adding:
“Compared to the UK, there’s far less entertainment here for the boys because of the country itself, the rules, the regulations and there are some restrictions - but within the camp, if you have the CSE show, it’s a good opportunity for our soldiers to have a bit of entertainment themselves.”
The shows were headlined by Nepali popstar Sudip Gurung, who delivered a magical set with the prominently Nepali audience singing along to all his well-known hits and filming every moment on their phones.
Sudip proved very popular and excited queues formed after his performances for the chance to meet him and enjoy a photo opportunity.
Lt Col Dave Pack said:
“Sudip coming out, I personally hadn’t heard of him, the boys have been talking about him for the last fortnight and the rush of the Gurkha wives to the stage when he got up last night was something to behold, he nearly got swamped and I think to be able to offer something that speaks to 60/70% of my community, it’s amazing.”
Bringing a more traditional Forces entertainment feel to the live music were seasoned Forces performers Hotshots.
Jay Rawlings, recently seen breaking a Guinness World Record on ITV's Britain’s Got Talent, completed the line-up with some cheeky slapstick style magic and balancing, not only giving a jaw-dropping stage performance but getting up-close and personal with the audience with some walkabout magic.
One of the highlights of the second show was the Gurkha Rap Battle, complimented beautifully by comedian Barry Castagnola.
There was even a special appearance by a Minion.
Alongside the BFBS Live Events acts, Gurkha band R&R played the biggest stage of their lives and the Garrison also booked solo singer Simon Walker and DJ Zac.
Lt Col Dave Pack said:
“We’re a pretty eclectic bunch here in Brunei, I’ve got over 600 Gurkhas and their families, I’ve got Army Air Corp pilots, I’ve got REME technicians, I’ve got engineers, I’ve got locally engaged civilians I’ve got civil servants, I’ve got teachers, all the variety that brings.
"What CSE have done is put together a package that appeals to everyone, they’ve put together something that the children can take so much from and the smiles on people’s faces today as I look at the variety of entertainment, everyone is gonna take something away from it."
There was a compelling welfare need for this type of event and entertainment, which was recognised by Captain Michael Bage who undertook the main planning alongside BFBS Live Events.
Lt Col Dave Pack explained how socialising outside of camp can be challenging. He said:
“We’re a really big garrison of over 2,000 people, and we’re in a country that’s 8,000 miles away from the UK and public entertainment is something that’s really difficult to get access to in Brunei and I’ve got a lot of different dependents - over a 1,000 wives and children who are accompanying their husbands while they’re serving.
"Putting something on like this would just be really special and make a massive difference to the welfare provision that we lay on for the community."
"We’re in a country where there’s no alcohol outside of the wire so you can’t go out to socialize, you can’t really integrate in the local community. If you want to go out and want to see any live entertainment you’ve got to go into another country.
"You’ve got an hour and a half's drive to go over the border if you head west or if you’ve got even further if you go east, or you’ve got to go to the capital and get a flight to somewhere else in South-East Asia.
"So by having something that’s internal to the garrison that’s on our own doorstep, it means everyone gets access to it, everyone can come to it together at the same time and it's bringing the whole community together, it’s an amazing thing to have and as commander.
"I’m just so pleased to have people who are working so hard to lay stuff like this on."
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As a not-for-profit organisation, any surplus we make from our commercial projects goes directly into our Beneficiary Fund, which aims to improve morale and welfare of British Armed Forces personnel and their families through a variety of event and entertainment solutions.
If you are in the military or are part of the wider military community and have a welfare requirement contact us for more information about the BFBS Beneficiary Fund and/or an application form