The man behind the (M)AskSimon

The man behind the M(AskSimon)

The Gathering Concierge. You can ask him anything!!

So who is this mysterious AskSimon? You send him a question about The Gathering and back comes an answer.  Is he real or just a very well designed App for the latest iphone?  Well he is in fact very real and quite normal.  Two arms, two legs, a body and a head and an Alarm fan.  Very much like most of you reading this article.  A lot of you have already met me at previous Gatherings.  I was the one with the AskSimon t-shirt on stood under the AskSimon poster and goes by the name Simon. For those of you who haven’t met me here is a brief history of how I got to this point in time in Alarm world.

Born in Stoke on Trent (and to this day an avid Stoke City fan), I moved to Prestatyn, North Wales at the age of 7.  Obviously not my choice, my parents pretty much controlled my life in my early years.  It was a good move, as I quickly fell in love with this area and living by the sea and to this day will sing its praise, well not sing, you don’t want to hear that.

I won’t bore you with tales of my school days but just move on to my time in the 6th form.  It is important at this point to note that one of my fellow students throughout my school years was a pretty girl by the name of Julie Jones, you may know her as Jules.  I was quite a studious and sporty person in school but already had a love of music and had already ready got the live gig bug.  It was always music that wasn’t the normal chart stuff.  I would spend ages in the local record shop talking to Simon Shaw who ran it (he designed some 7” single cover apparently).  I would buy obscure records and take them in to play on the 6th form record player (cds and mp3 having not been invented).  I usually got the same response and looks of bewilderment at what I was playing.  All the Duranies and Spandau fans (Jules) would soon remove my treasured 7” vinyl and replace with Relax or Two Tribes.  Certain records that got taken off eventually made it in to the charts and suddenly everyone liked it.  A certain “68 Guns” being one of them.

I did have a few allies and with one of these we used run the school magazine.  We used to use the music section to review records we liked or gigs we had been to.  Well school is all about education so we thought lets do it musically.  This led to a chat with the aforementioned Simon Shaw.  He knew Mike and arranged for us to interview him at his record shop.  Talk about excited.  Here was me about to interview the singer of one of my favourite bands who happened to live in my hometown.  What were the chances of that (to this day I still wish Kylie lived in Prestatyn)?

The interview is a bit of a blur now as it was really just a chat over coffee with Mike and Simon swapping stories.  I don’t think I took any of it in or said very little to Mike.  I did leave with the knowledge that Mike was a really nice, approachable guy.  I never thought I would get to be part of his world.

After leaving school and going to University I lost touch a bit with a lots of school friends and was amazed to see that a school friend of mine had not only been going out with the singer of one of my favourite bands, but had then married him.

I continued to follow The Alarm and went to many gigs including the Gatherings.  I kept bumping in to Jules at them and catching up. I loved that she always had time for me.  I also got to say hello to Mike on occasions.  The years passed and my cd collection and gig count grew

So where did the idea of AskSimon come from.  It was actually on a night out with Mike and Jules and a few other friends at an Indian restaurant that I first heard about it.  This was the year that The Gathering was leaving Llandudno and taking up its new home of Pontins, Prestatyn.  Julie said that as I grew up in Prestatyn and was an Alarm fan and was a very friendly, approachable, intelligent guy (hey I am writing this I can say what I want!!), wouldn’t it be good to have someone as a point of contact for questions about the area.  “Brilliant idea” I said.  The next day I set up the first AskSimon email address.

So what started off as something to do with questions about the area has developed in to something that is basically questions about the area, The Gathering and to a certain bunch of Irish lads, any question they want, “How long is a piece of string?” being a particularly memorable one. I now have my own little stand at The Gathering and my duties have extended to the bus tour and whatever else I can help out with. I hope that people find it useful pre, during and post Gathering.  I always aim to get an answer for you as quickly as I can and love the banter I have with some people on the emails.  I also love it when people come up to me and introduce themselves and tell me what question they asked.

I never thought all those years ago as a 6th former that I would be doing this.  I feel honoured to help out such wonderful people and being part of The Alarm family and meeting all the Alarm fans at The Gathering is a highlight of my year.

I will end this article with a little story about my high point as AskSimon.  Last year whilst walking to the office in Pontins to print out the Bus tour list, I bumped in to a certain Glen Matlock out for an early morning walk.  I introduced myself and we had a little chat.  I explained what I did as AskSimon, “In that case” he said, “how do I get to the beach”.  I knew the answer to this one and to this day bask in the glory that a Sex Pistol asked Simon and I knew the answer.