The Oxford Imps are seven years old. Seven is the age, in humans, where you start getting your adult teeth and start to understand the progression of time.
I thought my friend Excel might like to contribute to the conversation at this point: the combined age of all the imps currently in the troupe is 605. The combined age of all the imps there have ever been is 2688, which makes us older than the plough.
I was looking through old emails from 2003 and 2004 to pinpoint exactly when the first-ever imps show was. I could have used deduction and looked it up on an old online calendar such as my trusty friend dateandtime.com, but I didn't realise this till after the fact. And stumbling through old emails in my helpfully named gmail label 'Imps' was much more fun. The first unofficial show was in St Peter's Music Room, on Monday the 1st of December 2003. There were more imps than audience members: we were so scared of how the show would go that none of us invited our friends, all relying on other imps to bring their mates. This was a valuable lesson and subsequently we all heavily guilt-groped each other... and our first official show in January 2004, in the Wheatsheaf, was filled with buddies and mates galore.
Seven years later, we are still in the Wheatsheaf on Mondays, but there are some things that have changed other than the faces onstage. A minor example, is that in our first year, we used to have a reception-style bell that the MC would ding for a scene change (rather than clap). But, it got stolen during a show. Stolen. Not once. But three times I tell you. Thrice. During the shows. Those bells were twelve quid each... So we gave up on having a bell as it was so emotionally and financially painful each time we parted with one. If anyone reading this walks into a house one day and sees three golden dingy bells on a mantelpiece, please pap them with your phone and email us so we can run an international exposé on this very website.
Other traditions lost include the weekly ritual of imps putting powder in their underwear backstage before a show to prevent itchy balls; one imp standing on a box at the back of the stage throughout the whole show turning a single light switch on and off between games, as we had no lighting desk; and the weekly joke of spelling 'compere' a different way in our Monday morning emails to each other.
There are some things that have stayed the same. These include those who originate from across the pond, finding themselves in a game or scene, the basic tenant of which is a word they have never heard of. This tradition started in 2004 with a 20 minute pledge break game because our beloved Canadian Jim had never heard of the word 'spanner'. Our lovely New Yorker Lee got 'powerboat' in a guessing game after a whopping 14 minutes, and the patient Californian Brad spending a painful 12 minutes guessing 'abattoir', after having come so close with 'pope war' 'priest battle' 'and 'cardinal gun'.
And one other thing has always stayed the same - that the Wheatsheaf is filled with our buddies and mates. Whether we know you personally or not, you are our friends – and we'd have been an infant mortality statistic without you.