It was the 23rd of August 2003 and Rebecca (my older sister) and I (Lisa) had woken early in the London hotel room that we shared. We had flown in from Holland the day before and we had a lot to do this morning. Fifteen minutes later, at six o’clock in the morning, Mirjam and Sarifa (two of our Dutch friends) came round to our room too. First, we put on our costumes and then we did our make-up and our hair. This took us about three hours and at nine o’clock we went down to breakfast. We got some very strange looks of course and I was quite embarrassed!!
Later, as we walked to the Hippodrome, even more people looked at us strangely. I just kept thinking that I wasn’t the only tribe fan in London!! I was relieved when we arrived and could stand with all the other fans in costumes. We had arrived early (to be sure of being there on time) and we had to wait another hour before the doors opened. While we were waiting, a programme was handed out describing what was going to happen during The Gathering. Quite a few people took photos of our costumes and someone even asked me if I’d made my costume myself! That was just great to hear!
At last the doors opened and we could go in. It was like trying to get into a crowded underground train. “PUSH!!!!” With a bit of luck, I managed to be one of the first fans inside and, after paying, I went with Rebecca, Sarifa and Mirjam to find a place close to the stage. A lady came up to us and asked if she could interview us for the magazine K-Zone. She asked us who we were and who we liked most in the tribe. So if you get K-zone, you can read my interview and see my photo!! We had to be patient for a while until everyone was inside but then it was finally time to yell our lungs out! A platform came up from under the stage and on it stood Caleb Ross, Meryl Cassie, Matt Robinson and Beth Allen. They were here!!!
They started by explaining what was going to happen during the day. Then they started talking about a red something or other. At first I didn’t understand what they were talking about but when I looked at my ticket, it became clear. The date on all the tickets were in different colours – in my case red. This was how you knew when it was your turn to meet the cast and get autographs.
When it was my turn, I got to meet Matt Robinson first!!! He gave me a signed photo of himself and he autographed my diary and my schoolbag. I wanted to take a photo of myself with Matt but my stupid camera wouldn’t work! Oh No! Luckily for me, Sarifa had taken a photo of us that I got later.
After Matt Robinson, I came to Caleb Ross!!!!!! When I was standing in front of Caleb, he kept looking at me for quite a while. I thought that there was something wrong with my costume or that my mascara had run. But finally, he said “great costume!” so I said “thanks!” Caleb autographed my diary and schoolbag too. I had a photo taken of me with him (three times in total during the Gathering because I just HAD to have a good photo of him!)
Then I came to Meryl Cassie!!!!! More signatures and photos, of course! At exactly that moment, one of the support staff gave Meryl a bar of chocolate and she asked me if wanted some too. I didn’t think twice and later I went to Rebecca (who was queuing to meet Beth Allen) and asked her if she wanted a piece of “Meryl chocolate”. She said “Huh?” and I said “chocolate that I got from Meryl!!” Funny, on the last tribe tour in Darmstadt (Germany) I got some chocolate from Tom Hern too!
Finally I came to Beth Allen, who also signed my diary and schoolbag. She said “Wow, you look awesome!” and of course I was really pleased to hear that from her.
Meanwhile, episode 25 of the fifth tribe series was being shown on the big screen. They also showed a film of the 2003 tour in which we could see Sarifa for a couple of seconds. Rebecca and I were there too but we weren’t on the film.
The next item on the programme was to choose the twenty best-dressed fans. Caleb chose first. He sat looking around as if he was searching for someone. And then Sarifa starting shouting “Caleb, Caleb, over here!!!!” So Caleb looked across at us and then he said “Ah, there she is: Tai-San!” He meant me!!!!!! I had no idea what to do so I walked up on the stage and stood there next to Caleb. When a few more fans had been chosen, I heard Matt say to Caleb “There’s a good Amber over there…” and they chose Rebecca. Each of the twenty fans that had been chosen received a CD (I got one from Meryl). Then the cast saw a boy who had come as Ebony and were so impressed that he got a CD too!
Then Meryl sang two songs for us: “Spinning” and “You belong to me”. I really enjoyed this part of the programme because these are two of my favourite songs and Meryl has a really good voice.
It was time for the cast to get something to eat so the lottery was held. Someone won the first item and I didn’t pay much attention but when they called out the second number, it sounded familiar. I looked at my ticket and asked Sarifa if this was the number they’d called. Sarifa shouted, “Yes, you’ve got it” and then we both started to shout together as loudly as we could. So I got to go up on stage again!! I won a Mallrat book and I had to pick the next number. As I walked off the stage, Caleb looked over at me (the cast had started signing again) and gave me a “thumbs-up” sign.
Then some kids from a drama school in England acted some tribe scenes featuring Ebony, KC, Amber, Salene and Lex.
Next we got a big speech about Unicef and about how all the money from the Gathering was being given to Unicef. I couldn’t understand a word of it and Rebecca had to translate it into Dutch for me.
Finally it was time to choose the two best-dressed fans (one boy and one girl). The cast members came on stage to say a few things. The prizes for the two best-dressed fans were a mosquito-mask and a techno-mask. And then they announced the two winners. Mark Rodgers from Ireland was chosen as the best-dressed boy for his tribe costume that he’d designed himself. Then it was time to choose the best-dressed girl. I was really nervous standing there at the edge of the stage because I realized that – as one of the twenty – I had a chance. As they started to make the announcement, Caleb looked at me and I thought, “don’t say they’ve chosen me?!!” but when Caleb said “Tai-San” I knew it was true! I had won!!!! So, for the third time that day, I walked up onto the stage. Lots of people took lots of photos of us and Mark received the techno-mask and I got the mosquito-mask. Meryl shook our hands and Caleb said, “Have a nice trip home”. I said “thank you”.
Then, unfortunately, it was time for everyone to go home. Walking back to our hotel I didn’t care any more whether people stared at me because I looked strange. I was just so happy! It was the happiest day of my life!!!!!