Driving past Danson Park yesterday my mind immediately went back to those early July days throughout the mid-80’s and early 90’s when the Park was the venue for the annual Danson Festival, which was the highlight of the year in the borough of Bexley for some 30 years; before it was cancelled in 2014, apparently due to the ‘poor condition of the grounds’.
Before my career in commercial management in professional football, I spent 15 enjoyable years working for the Midland Bank (now the HSBC) and every July throughout the mid-1980’s (the first one was in July 1984), I used to organise the Midland Bank’s summer promotion at the ‘Danson Show’ or ‘Bexley Show’ as we called it, in Danson Park.
Every year some 50,000 people would attend the Show over the weekend and our ‘summer roadshow’ themed promotion – which always had pop music blasting out from our marquee courtesy of my friend Sam Daniels’ ‘Black Night Disco for all occasions’ equipment – was used to promote the Bank’s youth products and services. In the early days we also used to co-promote Thomas Cook holidays as, at that time, the company was owned by the Midland Bank. Sam, my friend John Fuller and myself, took turns throughout the weekend to ‘spin the discs’!
Our annual extravaganzas at Danson Park were staffed by a group of hard-working volunteers from the local Midland Bank branches who would spend the whole weekend resplendent in whatever promotional t-shirt the Bank wanted us to wear and handing out leaflets, stickers and promotional gifts and, when they weren’t doing that, they’d be dancing in the park with the huge number of people we always attracted around our marquee.
Although I left the Midland Bank in 1988 to join Charlton Athletic FC as Commercial Manager, I continued to organise these annual summer parties but now the focus was on promoting the Club, which at that time of course was ground-sharing Selhurst Park with Crystal Palace.
However, many of my former Bank colleagues joined me for the first ever Charlton Athletic Danson Show weekend in July 1988 and helped to staff our promotion, which was important when you consider that at that time Charlton Athletic had fewer than ten members of non-playing staff in total working at our portacabin office at Selhurst Park and at our Training Ground in New Eltham.
Subsequent Charlton Athletic promotions at the Danson Show saw collaborations with our then Club sponsors the Woolwich Equitable Building Society and our friends at the NewsShopper, which I wrote a weekly column for in those days called ‘Reds Review’.
Were you ever part of those Midland Bank or Charlton Athletic Danson Show teams of hard-working volunteers in the 80’s and early 90’s? If you were, I hope that these few notes bring back some special memories for you as they do for me, of happy times spent with great friends and colleagues and of line dancing outside a marquee in the middle of Danson Park to the interminable sound of Jingo’ by Candido!