Well, where shall I start? So much has happened over the last couple of days. I drove down from Norfolk on Friday - got down to the Brighton centre in mufti and with beard undressed to get myself registered and meet some of my fellow contestants - plus take part in a live local news segment for ITV Meridian (we were told it would be available for viewing at www.itv.com/local/meridian
from Monday 3rd September) - I was standing next to the couple of guys they interviewed so may have got my mug on the box.
Then on Saturday, I was up early to give myself plenty of time to get my styling right. From my practice runs I'd realised that my upper cheek growth needed to go - it was rather wispy and just distracted from my design - but the thing was, this then involved a bit of shaving for the first time in a year - not something I approached without nervousness. I managed to avoid any major disasters and this is what I ended up with:
This is not at all what I thought I was going to turn out like a couple of weeks ago - a mix of running out of time and having to work with what I'd got rather than what I'd like. I was very fortunate to be able to talk firm-hold hair-styling with Johnny, one of the regulars at the library, who used to sport a triumphant mohecan - his product of choice was gelatine but I wasn't sure that was within the rules and so he pointed me towards Dax Wax and Silvikrin extra firm hold hairspray - and a bloody sticky concoction ensued which pretty well did the trick (though, because the span-to-weight ratio was not in my favour, I did have significant droop problems throughout the day - but enough of my personal problems...).
I arrived at the Brighton Centre at about half nine and went straight into the pre-judging - a process that is necessary to ensure competitors are entered in the correct category. Having shaved my upper cheeks, I knew I was no longer full beard, so I changed category to Partial Beard Freestyle - and then it was loads of milling around looking at all the fantastic facial appendages and an almost endless variety of costumes - with not many the same, which is quite something with 250 competitors. I didn't take a camera with me - but you don't need me to show you what everyone looked like - there was an incredible concentration of photographic equipment and already a load of pictures are up at http://www.flickr.com/
(search for "world beard" and choose to view with the most recent first).
After a call to muster from the town crier, we all headed off to the Town Hall to see the morris dancers and then to start the parade through the lanes back to the Brighton Centre. It was brilliant to see the smiles and laughter all along the route - in fact, anywhere you went during the day, people looked happy and full of life. I had some lovely chats with many friendly people, including a lovely interviewer from a local internet TV station.
And then the real action began as the judging for the first moustache category got underway. Unfortunately for a lot of the spectators it was difficult to see the detail of the follicular constructions (maybe next time they'll consider having a video camera at the front of the stage and a projector showing things on a big screen) and there were some inevitable delays whilst scores for each category were collated, but overall things went pretty smoothly and as the afternoon went on and the beer flowed and the hall filled (it was a complete sell-out of 2300 tickets), the audience got more and more involved - shouting out the ID numbers of their favourites in each category, and bantering with the comperes. The atmosphere when my category came on stage was brilliant - people love the freestyle sections and there really were some class acts on view (not only in terms of some of the most extraordinary beards in the whole event, but also the nearly-nude silver glitter space alien
- maybe not the premier beard on display but an absolutely tremendous sight - a more outrageous piece of rampant exhibitionism I do not think I have ever seen and my God that guy's laughter muscles are going to be killing him today). My Sis videoed us all parading around (to go along with the footage of the parade of every competitor passing by in the street earlier in the day) - and when we've grappled with the technology (which may be a couple of weeks), I'll stick it up on YouTube for all to see. In the meantime, you can see the top three from the 23 in my category in Alison Millar's Flickr stream
. I am proud of the fact that I had the only intentionally asymmetrical facial hair design at the championships (I think) but maybe the beard world is not ready for asymmetry (certainly a few fellow competitors pointed out with concern that my lefthand side was disconnected and dropping...). Whatever, there is no debate that the top two were in different class from the rest of us - professionals amid many amateurs.
After we came off stage, there were more photos - as a group and then upstairs for individual studio shots - some for individual photographers who wanted to expand their portfolios but a couple are going to be producing books and so there was a bit of interviewing to go with the photos - and then an "after" interview with the same TV girl I talked to earlier.
I managed to get back down to the hall for the start of the Full Beard Natural - in some ways this is the blue riband event, and you could see that in the large number of entries (there were something like 40 massive growths on show) and in the fact that the crowd was going absolutely bananas. Fantastic.
By the time the judging and prize-giving ended I was pretty shattered. As I was sitting up on one of the balconies mentally preparing myself to leave, a couple came up and asked to have their photo taken with me. They said they'd been rooting for me and I want to thank them for giving me a perfect ending to the day.
And now here I am on the day after. I haven't shaved the thing off - in times past my beards have come and gone in a fairly impulsive way, and I'm not sure I have the level of obsession necessary to grow for years and years and years (this one was 16 months for the longest bits) - but it would be good to have another go and with more material. I can't see myself going to the next World Championships in Alaska in 2009, but presuming the next one two years after that is in Europe somewhere, well, who knows?
Labels: world beard moustache championship brighton facial hair freestyle