When the acclaimed director of Australia's National Folk Festival was appointed to take over at Cecil Sharp House, The Donkey decided to put out a few feelers Down Under. The result makes interesting reading.
Phil Wilson may be a joker, but he's also earned a lot of respect. The hope now is that he sticks around at EFDSS longer than some of the previous chief executives.
We started our inquiries by contacting Lee Hopson, bagman of the Canberra Morris Men.
"Phil was one of those guys you run into over ten years and have brief conversations with," Lee replied. "I didn't know him that well. Apparently the new guy that has replaced him is also called Phil but has never been to a folk festival. You figure it, because I can't.
"Anyway, I ran into an old girlfriend of Phil's. She was pretty amazed that Phil Wilson is now the president or El Supreme of the EFDSS. Phil from memory was a passable button box player. He has an identical twin brother some where. He always stood out as an expatriate in Australia because of his strong accent. I first met him over 10 years ago when he was dancing with the Moreton Bay Morris in Brisbane. Either he or his twin brother used to do a very clever one-man mummers play."
Intrigued, The Donkey contacted Donald Barnes, Squire of the Australian Morris Ring. He put the word out. A few days later, Kim Brown came back with the full story. He tells it here:
"Well (wrote Kim), I've only known him about 10 years but I'll try and remember a few things... leaving out the nitty gritty imflamatory bits!
"He's from a Lancashire family of six boys (three of whom are or were morris men and all three living in Brisbane). All those Wilsons look the same, they just vary in height, the youngest being the shortest ...what does that say? Yes, they are all shiny on top.
"One of the brothers came out to the National one year. There was so much confusion between the two that the brother (not sure if it was Mark or Simon ...i can't tell!) had to wear a name tag saying, 'NO, I'M NOT PHIL WILSON!'
"He was one of the founding members of the Moreton Bay Morris of Brisbane, in about 79/80, and over the years became Squire, Foreman, Fool and Muso (As did his brother Paul).
"To help raise money for the morris to go one of the interstate festivals, he and few others formed the Champion Moreton Bay Band, an Anglo-Aussie bush-cum-ceili band, in the early 80s, which was the main Brisbane bush dance band for many, many, probably too many years (they're still going!).
"The band played for Expo 88 in Brisbane, as did the morris. The band also did a tour of Japan in the late 80s and were treated like royalty!
"I think he even danced for Queen Liz once. They did a rapper dance where Phil was a very amusing Betty complete with old lady's hat and handbag. The hat and wig fell off during one of the final figures ...ever seen a bald old lady?
"He's been on the telly on more than one occassion with the morris for May day, expounding lots of truths and untruths about morris. They even appeared on a kids' show called Wombat once.
"He can belt out tunes on any number of instruments, such as gutair, bass, melodeon, concertina, trombone and that bloody tuba! Jack of all trades, master of none says his brother Nick ...which I think is a bit unkind, but then that's his brother.
"He's great with a beer and in a session, especially singing sessions! He knows all the songs.
"And apart from all that he's a very funny lad and never far from a joke, practical or otherwise. If you feel a wet finger in your ear, there's a good chance it's Phil.
"We were dancing in the Queen Street mall in Brisbane once, without a permit, when a security guard came up to hassle Phil who was muso. The guard had his back to the dancers and it went a bit like this:
G: "You can't busk here."
P: "We're not busking."
G: "Look, you can't busk here!"
P: "But we're not busking." he says calmly.
....the foreman hears this conversation and calls the next figure as Runaway, and the side does, unbeknowns to the guard.
G: "Well then, you can't dance here!"
P: "They aren't dancing."
G: "What do call that?" The guard pionts behind himself.
P: "But there's no one there."
The guard turns around and Phil runs off. All that's left is a laughing cheering crowd and one lone, embarrassed guard.
"As for his more personal life, what can I say - he's an ex-morris man! If you come across him in the pub and he's drinking beer and eating pickled eggs and onions ...don't stand down wind. What can you expect from a man who owns a t-shirt that says Beenz Meenz Fartz?
"His track record as a festival organiser is proven. He's turned a typical, mostly trad and dreary festival into an interesting, fun, multicutural event without losing sight of the grass roots. The crowds swelled. And the people were happy!
"Once, he and his good mate Terry Jacob (from the morris and band) conned me into playing a bracket of singalong songs at the folk club one night. We practised the bracket every thing was fine, we got on stage and those two bastards launched into an entirely different bracket of stuff I didn't know! It turned into an extremely funny event, and no one knew it was unrehearsed ....I think.
"He also does an amazing and very funny one-man mummers play that involves many hats, silly voices and a lot of running about. ....and we won't even mention monologues.
"Well there you go Simon, hope this is a bit of help. He's been the instigator of some very silly things since I've known him and I could go on for ages. Ooroo - Kim Brown."
©2000 Simon Pipe, Mark Rogers, The Outside Capering Crew