sculpture by Bryan Abbott
Knockengorroch, May: Cold nights, sunny days; few midges this year. The burner in the berber tent burned bright, we tested out a new orientation of tents and invented gluten-free "chocolate explosions". The music was sublime and the folk were friendly as ever. Home from home, what a wonderful start to every season.
Glastonbury, June: Once more we lit tents, hats and trees with sparkling, glowing LED lights. Our corner of the Green Crafts field was full of first-time solderers, DIY enthusiasts and full-time tinkerers.
The Green Gathering, August: We downsized for GG this year, popped our small tent onto the side of the magnificent Speakers' Forum and were entertained by erudite thinkers by day, great bands and DJs by night. It must've been good, because we were persuaded to join the crew and to help organise GG 2014!
Wilderness Festival, August: A new one for us, we went as LEDfantastic in the Green Crafts area. The best bit was swimming in the lake, but the whole site was beautifully laid out and decorated, stuffed full with entertainment and eateries and markets. The sun shone, and shone. Campfire evenings beneath the stars won out over bands and dance tents, time and again.
Solfest, August: Weirdigans was 10 this year and so was Solfest! We celebrated in style, with an extended acoustic tent surrounded by gigantic haybales - rustic sound-proofing which not only worked a treat but looked fantastic and kept the place snug, too. Possibly the best Solfest since the early days. The LoveShack was in fine fettle, serving brunchtime Bloody Mary's which hit the spot just right. Solfest is having a year off in 2014; have a good rest, Solfest crew.
Alchemy, September: We took the Ideal Dome Exhibition and taught folks about low impact living. Camped up next to Kaplick Solar Stage, we could practically see the bands from our front step. Loved the woodland groves and the cycle stage. Loved the old-skool vibe. Loved that it was still sunny at the autumn equinox. What a summer!
Solfest - August 2012
My highlight was Billy Bragg on the Saturday night, talking politics between songs and signing my cd afterwards. I invited him to Weirdigans but he had to leave site before midnight.
My other highlight was managing to drive off site without being ingloriously towed through the mud.
The Loveshack was bigger, better and more shiny than before and again DJ Dave Weirdigan filled the dancefloor.
As always, I loved the good vibe Solfest people, their appreciation of us and their wacky costumes. The organisers are great too, and a special thankyou goes to the milk delivery people who went out of their way to get us organic milk when, apparently, Cumbria had run out!
The Green Gathering - August 2012
Beautiful site, stormy weather with splashes of sunshine and plenty of rainbows. The Occupy camp was a great success, as was LEDisco (again). Spent most of my time in the Speakers' Forum learning things and being inspired. Drank mead. The kids' area was great. The 'dance tent' was very small and a long way away from anything else (phew!). The Permaculture bar was one of the great places to be (for fine ale), the Transition marquee was educational and the campaigns tent was a constant hub (or hive?) of activist activity. And there were tipis.
Beat-Herder - June/July 2012
This was the summer in full swing, complete with proper old fashioned festival mud. Better than ever, Beat-Herder improves every year due to the total dedication of its organising crew.
And LEDisco really took off this year.
Knockengorroch World Ceilidh - June 2012
Midges, mead, music and moonlight. Woodburning sauna, skinny dips in river. The Moulettes were a new find.
Knockengorroch at its best (apart from the nets everyone wore over their heads to reduce the number of midges dying in eyes and throats).
Nuts in May - May 2012
A new festival to kick off the season and well kicked it was.
Ice on tents by night gave way to blue sky sunny days. A fab mixture of family-friendly, anarchistically old-skool and community-oriented... This wee Cumbrian bank holiday weekender played host to Morris dancers; a Maypole; a traditional brass band (who played Abba covers); punk, folk, cover bands and young up-n-coming talent; 'eighties heart-throbs Nik Kershaw and Hazel O'Connor; acoustic fiddledy-dee sessions; a much-used Open Mic stage; a deep, dark, pungent reggae tent; a hidden woodland-glade stage; a Soul disco with wooden indoor and outdoor dancefloors; renewably-powered kids' area; a small selection of quality market stalls and a thoroughly laid-back atmosphere.
One to watch - be there next year or miss out big time!
Alchemy - September 2011 Pics
Up there with the best.
A real festival, just the right size, on a lovely site. Well-organised... but with a delicious streak of anarchy running through it. Like The Green Gathering, this one made me feel like I'd come home. Everyone partied hard but didn't stop caring about each other or the environment. There was great music - I'd never heard of most of the bands and DJs, but I danced plenty. I especially loved the Kaplick Solar Stage - lucky, because I was pitched right next to it and could watch the bands from the door of our van! Blessed with sunshine and rainbows, this was a fantastic end to the season.
Cheers for the invite, Alchemy, and cheers to everyone who stumbled across the 'Ideal Dome' or was drawn in by my twinkly LED lights and stopped in for a blether and a breather - it was lovely to meet or re-meet you!
Solfest - August 2011 Pics
Wow! Another great festival, another great Solfest.
There were a few changes this year - and they worked. The Love Shack/House of Joy area was a delight. The Mad Monk's music tent heaved. Dougal's solar-powered LED gate lights were a huge improvement on last year's blinding floodlights. The dance tent was perhaps a wee bit quieter. The Drystone Stage was perhaps bigger and better. Helen's Healing Garden was a little more established.
Other things remained the same; and we were glad. Abbott's metal sculptures were back, the Northern Green Gathering crew spun their anarchic eco magic, stories were told in The Green Shee. The Wierdstring Band played tirelessly and the Acoustic Wierdspace Tent was full and toasty warm.
Solfest people are fabulous. Saturday was Wonderland-themed and, as Athene of the 3 Daft Monkeys put in when she gazed out at the crowd from the Drystone: "I'm not quite sure what the theme is... Mad Hatters tea-party? If so you lot have a very interesting interpretation of it!"
The 3 Daft Monkeys were on particularly fine form and were a personal musical highlight, even better than Pikey Beatz and Bombskare. Dave Weirdigan DJ'd in the Love Shack twice (abetted on Sunday by Northern Soul Stu); he filled the dance-floor and returned to the cafe, retro record-box tucked under his arm, beaming and gleeful.
Late ticket-sales surpassed all expectations. Despite a scramble to beef up the infrastructure to cope with the sudden influx, the loos were mostly clean and well-stocked and there was plenty to eat and drink and do. The sun shone (apart from during Saturday's downpour, and even that culminated in a delicious rainbow). Sunsets over the Solway were awesome.
There were rumours that Solfest wouldn't make it this year - well, they were utterly unfounded! It made it and surpassed itself and was a delight to be part of. Here's to many more...
The Green Gathering: 'Skill up for Power Down' - July 2011 Pics
Narrowly pipping Alchemy, Beat-Herder and Solfest to be best gig of 2011, TGG was a joy to be part of.
This is what festivals should be like. Everyone - crew, traders, performers, organisers, 'punters' - were on the same side, supporting and appreciating each other, working and playing alongside each other, simultaneously creating and treasuring the magic of the land and the event and each other.
Breath-taking views, woodland, lush rolling meadows and a dilapidated manor house set the scene. Gardens, sacred spaces, grottoes and site art enhanced what was already one of the most gorgeous festival sites imaginable. Skill-shares, workshops and a Speakers' Forum provided information, education and advice on green technologies, traditional crafts, permaculture, Transition, herbal medicine, nomadic living etc. Stages, cafes and bars were small, intimate, non-commercial.
Our Ideal Dome Exhibition had its first outing and was much-loved; Dave Weirdigan explained and advised on the latest LED technology while my geodesic dome twinkled and shone, a show-case of solar-powered, energy-efficient lighting. Weirdigans chai, cake and carpets were appreciated as ever.
The weather was hot and sunny. SAMs wood-fired sauna and showers kept everyone clean. Hare Krishnas danced, chanted and gave away food. There was a solar-powered internet cafe; a huge kids' area with climbing wall and hand-powered carousel; massage for donations in the Healing Field.
Tarantism were our musical highlight... but this was about so much more than music, so much more than the sum of the festival's individual parts. TGG was gently anarchic, genuinely friendly, relaxing, informative and fun. It restored our faith in festivals, fed our souls, fired our enthusiasm for continuing the struggle against greed and corruption.
The Green Gatherings are back, small yet powerful, unstoppable, unsquashable... this year's Gathering was a stepping stone... roll on 2012! (Tickets will be available soon!)
Secret Garden Party - July 2011 Pics
The good bits: A brand new very sturdy bridge over the lake; knitted jumpers for trees; Martha Reeves and the Vandellas on the Main Stage; the 'photo-booth'; the People's Living Room; Ginger's home-made ice cream (the marmalade toast flavour was utterly divine); the hidden Coyote Moon sauna which we only discovered late Sunday night; swimming in the lake on a sultry afternoon; Small World; the Wierdstring Band doing an impromptu gig on the bridge; lovely handmade and recycled clothes and accessories in the Pink Bazaar; Pete Loveday's pictures; the chameleon at the Guerilla Science Camp.
The bad bits: Too many clashing sound-systems (which made running our Acoustic Lounge impossible); unco-operative neighbouring traders; rude Party-goers; OTT Security; searches between campervan fields and the main arena; ineffectual trader-liasion people; wholesale 'tagging' of tents and vehicles; a general lack of love, appreciation and respect.
We had fun with our Battlestar Galactica theme. And more fun when Sten poured an irreplaceable component from our hummus-mincer into a giant waste-water container... then, using a bunch of magnets tied to a piece of string, managed to fish it out again.
But the feeling at the end of the gig was unanimous amongst us Weirdigans: SGP has become too big and too brash; it has lost its soul... and so... we've decided we won't be doing it again.
Beat-Herder - July 2011 Pics (by Elf, Mo, Helen)
Well, last year I said this could become the Glastonbury of the North... and this year I heard quite a few other people making that same comparison. Both are organic events, grown from humble beginnings, inspiring huge loyalty and requiring vast amounts of creative and practical effort, freely given, to make them what they are.
Wandering through the Toil Trees, Trailer Trash Field and Lazy Meadow I see the best bits of Pilton miniaturised, given a Northern twist and presented with a passion rarely seen at festivals in these days of 'Event Management'. Shangri-La, Lost Vagueness, Trash City, The Glade, Unfairground, Stone Circle, Rabbit Hole, Piano Bar... eat your hearts out. Beat-Herdershire has all that (but different) and more. With more soul.
Beat-Herder is non-commercial. It began a fair few years ago when a bunch of friends came together to throw a party and got a bit carried away. It was fun so they did it again. People loved it so they did it again... and again. The Beat-Herder crew are driven by a genuine love of music, dancing and off-beat art; they live to create a fantastical environment, to put on a wicked show and host like-minded souls for a few days of playful mayhem. It's down-to-earth and simultaneously mind-boggling.
Weirdigans appreciate all that.
So this year, we added a little twist of our own. Playing cards placed in tactical locations around the site gave clues to the location of our 'other dimension'. Through the Weirdigans secret tunnel and out into LEDisco; anyone clutching a card received prizes, surprises and a dab of disco glitter for good measure. DJs Dr Caramba, Northern-Soul-Stu and John-of-The-Snug provided eclectic grooves (from real vinyl). Dave Weirdigan's solar-powered sound system and light-show was a 12-volt miracle to behold. We had a lot of fun and further twisty ideas for 2012 are already flowing.
The cafe was a shady respite from the tropical weekend sun; we sold out of fruit juice and no-one wanted hot chocolate. Our hilltop location above the stone circle was ideal for panoramic views of the whole site and each evening we were host to hordes of sunset watchers.
We had a top Weirdigan crew and some very fine DJs for the LEDisco launch (thanks to you all). And from us all to the Beat-Herdians; hats off to yer.
Usually, when people ask which is my favourite festival I prevaricate a bit then say it's a toss-up between Knockengorroch and Glastonbury. This year, I think I'll be saying Beat-Herder. It's got the art and anarchy of the big G plus the earthy, old-skool, diy flavour of Knock. Spot on.
Knockengorroch World Ceilidh - May 2011 Pics
What a rollercoaster! Most Weirdigans have not yet recovered.
Just before the festival began, as we anchored our antique tent in gale-force winds and horizontal rain, Mo rang us from Edinburgh Casualty ward to say she was very, very sorry but she wouldn't be able to work due to the 10 brand new stitches across her palm. That meant serious overtime for the rest of us and so the festival passed in a dazed haze of sleep deprivation.
Our lovely new (flat! dry!) pitch, just across the stream from the revamped Longhouse.
The popularity of our Acoustic Wierdspace - there was standing room only at times, and sardine-style standing at that. Dave Weirdigan stoked the woodstove and a myriad musicians and songsters entertained the crowd, even drowning out the Wierdstring Band at times ;)
The appreciation of our customers. "Weirdigans chai is one of the main reasons I keep coming back to this festival" said one happy chap.
Musically - Lau, Bombskare, The Wierdstring Band, Roomful of Mirrors and the Windy Bottom Boys.
Weatherwise - our tent surviving 40mph winds; followed by bright sunshine on Sunday.
New crew Fim, Helen and Shirl put up with the wild weather and unsociable shift-patterns fantastically well. Mo let us know that her hand is healing nicely and should be fixed in time for Glastonbury. To the couple who found my lost boots (or, rather, found the guy who'd walked off in my boots, extracted him from my boots and then returned my boots!) - Thankyou so, so, so much.
This Knockengorroch was, as always, totally unique and earthily old-skool; a mud-drenched folk-punk riot; ridiculously friendly and seriously off-the-beaten-track. At least two Weirdigans say it is their favourite festival of all...
For more photos of festivals: Festival Galleries
MACfest - Sept 2010
This wasn't a Weirdigans gig as such... but a few of us went along to help out and we had our end-of-season crew party here.
MACfest (Mostly Acoustic Cumbria) is a teeny weeny festie, located in North Cumbria, run by friends of ours and - despite being on the site crew - it felt like a holiday. We put up marquees, hefted straw bales, built scaffold towers, strung up lights, litter-picked and packed it all away again at the end. Inbetween we danced a lot, drank a lot and ate some very fine food. There were barn parties, barbecues and bonfires as well as street theatre, face-painting and wicker lanterns. Sneaky sessions (of the musical and alcoholic varieties) in the local pub were enjoyed too.
Best bands, imho, were Unkle Carbunkle and the Wierdstring Band. The latter played a few new tunes that brought tears of silliness to my eyes. 'Too drunk to folk' and something about daleks... Hmmm... a few large glasses of Portuguese red had been quaffed by then. Indian Postal Service and Roomful of Mirrors were also rather good, I seem to remember.
Next year MACfest may grow a little. All kinds of plans are being hatched... in barns, yurts, caravans and pubs across Cumbria. Watch this space...
Eden Festival - Sept 2010
A lovely site. Flat, with lush grass and graceful old trees. A river to bathe in. Very accessible and yet it felt like the middle of nowhere.
The people who found us loved our chai and were the friendliest bunch of folk you could wish for. Unfortunately, not that many people did visit us because there were rather too many venues and cafes for the number of tickets sold.
On the bright side this meant I had time to dance a lot and explore the far reaches of the site. Diddley Squat on the main stage were my musical highlight. The wood-fuelled sauna in the wilderness, with river to jump in afterwards, was my other favourite Eden experience.
The Balkan Bandits came and played a rather fine warm-up set in our Acoustic WierdSpace tent; placid horses pulled traps laden with camping gear; a bicycle-powered sound-system did the rounds; and there was a naked half hour in My Giddy Aunt's despite the almost-autumnal nip in the air.
A festie with a lot of potential that went ahead despite some serious infrastructure mishaps (the organisers hired a site with plumbing, only to find when they arrived to set up that the pipes had been removed and they had to start from scratch bringing in water...).
I'm not sure Weirdigans could afford to do this one again - it cost us money to be there, business being so slow - but if someone were to sponsor us... we'd be back in a flash!
Solfest - August 2010
Yet again Solfest was better than anyone expected. Back to that classic seaside Solfest weather - sunny with a fresh breeze and scudding 'laal fluffy clouds'.
My favourite venue this year was My Giddy Aunt's cabaret tent. Run by the totally gorgeous Alex TentMaker and Ben of Diddley Squat, it was a good-times cosy space to rival our own. They had amplified music and dancing space; we had fireside sessions and cake. They were almost next door to us and people flowed back and forth between the two venues throughout the night. 'The Windy Bottom Boys' (a recent incarnation of the Wierdstring Band) and 'Paddy's Random Band' both played to full flailing crowds in Giddy Aunt's before heading to Weirdigans for tea and mellower tunes.
While bands such as Alabama 3, the Peatbog Faeries and Pikey Beatz were fantastic, it's the people that make Solfest such a special festival. Organisers, venue-providers, stewards, musicians, site crew, traders and punters all work together to create something bloody marvellous. Fancy dress and friendliness to blow your mind.
If Solfest disappeared the North's festie scene would lose its biggest, brightest party. Don't let it happen - show your support on festie forums, vote for them in UK Festival Awards and buy next year's ticket as soon as they're available. In the current climate, with non-commercial festivals being squeezed out north-south-east-and-west, we've got to support gems like Solfest.
Secret Garden Party - July 2010
Not so Secret anymore... bigger, bolder, brasher, more messy and bizarre than ever before, this year's Secret Garden Party saw us providing THE most chilled-out safe haven of a carpeted comfort zone. Saved a few people's sanity.
Foolish antics, saucy spankings, artful badgers, airships, punts and carriages. Butlers and strumpets with crumpets, kissing tents, tree swings, silly string, simply surreal things.
There's something about this festival that makes people dress up in even more ridiculous garb than usual. Stall-holders and site crew were wearing animal ears and body-paint as early as Tuesday. Our Kate alternately sported a hand-made fawn costume and her cosy flannel pyjamas. Kristen was a fluffy parrot when he wasn't wearing a stripy towelling djellaba. Fin covered his face with glitter, Imogen was a naughty angel, Woody wore a tasselled squaw suit, even Stuart donned his tiny-bling sequins. Gillie got posh with flowers in her up-do, I went leopard-print-all-over and Smiley D wore his handmade coat-of-many-colours.
Dressing up and people watching were two of the main activities of the festival.
The burning blimp was spectacular; toe-nibbling fish got fat on festie-goers' dead skin; 'shit-faced Shakespeare' ended when the leading actress passed out. A helter-skelter and big wheel provided all the fun of the fair. Haystacks were climbed and cavorted on; free gin was enjoyed; serious sea-legs were required to tackle the wobbly bridge across the lake (especially tricky after the free gin). The highlight for me may've been swimming in the lake on the day after the festival officially ended. Silky smooth water on a sticky humid day cleansed body and soul. I'll do that again next year.
Beat-Herder - July 2010
Really good. Really really good. More solid, colourful, vibrant and varied than last year and we loved our spot at the top end of the site, looking out over the stone circle towards the infamous Toil Trees and beyond, to hills and flamboyant sunsets. Aaahhhh. Sighs of delight mingled with exhaustion.
Beat Herder is a noisy festival but this year the sound-clash between venues seemed less clashy. Better positioning of speakers, mayhaps.
Lovely people, tip-top creativity, a great site. Music... not right up my street but I heard a few bits I liked, 'specially in John's Snug (funky soul) and Smoky Tentacles (verging on reggae).
Highlights: crawling through 'Grandad's Tunnel' and creating a mini-disco in the middle of it, much to the bemusement of fellow crawlers; the sunsets; the ground-bound 'Red Arrows' (they made me laugh out loud quite a lot).
This could grow and grow... could become the Pilton of the North. 'Tis crazy enough. You heard it here...
Knockengorroch's World Ceilidh - May 2010
With only the one festival a year now, all at Knockengorroch Farm pulled together to create something really special. The sun shone, cold nights kept the midges at bay, swims in the River Deugh set us a-tingling and the musicians were truly awesome.
Sorrow mixed with joyous celebration as those who knew her said our Goodbyes to Natasha the Fire-Sprite who died this year. A memorial path, gardens, pool and cairn were built for her. Her spirit will surely visit this magical site during future festivals. The views over the valley and the festival from Tasha's Lookout are fabulous.
Viking Jeff completed his recycled-glass-igloo with the help of his hard-working litter crew and lit it with glowing lights creating a fascinating new feature en route to the Acoustic Village where the sessions rolled one into another day and night, night and day. Fireman Sam and Alasdair kept the burner warm into the wee hours while the Wierdstring Band entertained us and encouraged others to play along.
On the Main Stage: The Ukranians, Big Hand, Treacherous Orchestra and Sheelanigig were particularly enjoyed by the Weirdigan crew. Singing, dancing, drinking, catch-up chattering, campfire meals and beautiful bleary-eyed dawns kick-started the 2010 festival season perfectly. Yippee!
'Doonhame Hairth' - September '09
As usual, the friendliest festival of them all. Around site people are constantly introducing themselves to each other, shaking hands, having a blether, looking out for each other, passing around the whisky and ale and mead, borrowing and lending tools, telling jokes, working and playing together. Musicians strike up random tunes in just the same way as us non-musical types launch into spontaneous banter. This year, unusually, the skies were mostly clear: incredible blue-sky days encouraged bathing in the River Deugh; awesome star-strewn nights, cold and crisp, were perfect for huddling around campfires with old and new-found friends. This is a festival that feeds the soul. The amply stocked Free Shop ("shoplifters will not be prosecuted") and the Wierdstring Band's birthday tribute (with candle-lit cake presented on stage) were a couple of the simply lovely things that made my heart sing.
The Acoustic Wierdspace attached to our cafe was heated by a unique woodburner this festie... crafted from old metal things by Wierdstring James, this sculpture of a stove kept the tunesters' fingers limber and provided a fiery focus for listeners. James, you are a star - Thankyou!
probably the last Hairth (aka Autumn Knock)... but the Spring
version promises to be better than ever. See News for
Wow. Solfest seemed to burst from it's chrysalis this year, despite the 'severe weather warnings' translating onsite into a myriad broken tents and muddy trenches. Excessive wind and water did nothing to quell the exuberant costumery of Saturday - the 'best-dressed' crowd of ALL TIME at ANY FESTIVAL EVER (in the opinion of Elf Weirdigan). The humour, creativity, imagination, time and energy, preparedness to look extremely foolish and to be unable to feed oneself or walk in anything but a shuffle... these are the things that make Solfest fancy-dress special. That and the 'group themes'. Whole gangs and families subsuming their individuality for the sake of amusing and astounding passers-by. The Wallies (jumpers and hats knitted by Grandma) and the Monkey Family with Baby Banana deserve very big shiny trophies for their efforts.
The music was rather good too. The Beat had me dancing at the Main Stage (a rare occurrence, as I seem to have developed main-stage-o-phobia in recent years). The amphitheatre-style landscape means you get great views of the bands without having to squirm through crowds into the mosh-pit, which suits me very well indeed. The Wierdstring Band were particularly fine both in the Alhambra Tent and doing their regular Sunday afternoon Ceilidh on the Drystan. I missed Diddley Squat as I was on duty in the caf (gutted), but by all accounts they were totally brilliant. Likewise The Travelling Band. And Pikey Beatz. Wandering around site one stormy afternoon I was tickled to hear something like Bollywood tunes, glanced over and saw some guy wearing a golden Punjabi suit and bejewelled turban frolicking and grinning ear-to-ear on stage... next minute I was dragging Dave Weirdigan to the front of the crowd and dancing about joyfully myself, to what I later discovered was Dhol Foundation.
Creative Nonsense Network - a more evolved and twisted version of the Boudoir of Bedlam and Disco du Fromage - presented 'Madame Bibelot's House of Phantasmagorical Delights' (aka The Bra) - a visual, aural and oral all-day, all-night playground for spangly grown-ups. Awesome in every way. The best new venue I've seen at a festival all year. Loved the music, costumes, cabaret, decor, plays-on-words, velvet swags, fairground freaks, madly-rotating wind turbines and cure-all cocktails. Loved it all.
In Weirdigans and the Acoustic WierdSpace we had our loyal host of Solfest regulars - Bob and Janet managing to be first-in and last-out as usual - as well as plenty of fabulous freelance musicians, families, Solfest virgins, broken-tent refugees and long-lost friends. I really liked the two merrily sleeping babies on Saturday night and everyone reading the Sunday papers and doing crosswords the following morning. You Solfesters are uniquely lovely. Cheers for appreciating our carpets, taking your boots off and eating all our cake. Did you notice we managed to keep the chai flowing faster than ever this year? Sorry we ran out of hot chocolate though - you drank more in the first day than you usually do all weekend; I guess that was down to the bone-chilling weather.
The only things I didn't enjoy were the Dance Tent (but it worked as a wonderful holding pen for tweenies and teenagers) and the sound quality on the Main Stage - too much bass, too little vocals at times (others I spoke to had similar quibbles). Lots of us really missed SAMs sauna too. Small points though, in a glorious big picture.
the Solfest Crew
- Thankyou and Congratulations! You've grown a great festival, react
brilliantly to feedback and seem to really care about everyone's
enjoyment and well-being. Solfest now stands out from the crowd of
newish-smallish festivals, has developed its own spirit and identity
and really rocks. And the toilets are astonishingly clean. Yippeee!
Party - August '09
With a different hat on ... Smiley D, Em, Imogen and Kristen beetled down to South Wales for an LEDfantastic weekend. We ran workshops and demonstrations in low-energy lighting and helped folks build their own LED torches, fairy-lights, spotlights, head-dresses, tent/van/stall lights, lanterns and other customised lighting arrays. It was more exciting and rewarding than I could have imagined, with spontaneous applause, 'Oooohhh!'s, 'Wow!'s and 'You've lit up my life!'s emanating from what is usually our kitchen tent at regular intervals. Croissant Neuf itself is one of my favourite festivals of recent times. Green, friendly and fluffy with great stalls, crafts, kids' area, the cleanest portaloos you ever did see, a spectacular wooded hill-fort, hammocks in the trees, proper bar-in-a-barn... it was just a wee bit too quiet. Even for me! Imho it could've done with Small World Solar Stage/Cafe, SAMs sauna, another 1000 people and perhaps even Weirdigans... :-)
Music Festival -
Ooooh we were lucky with the weather! Days of sunshine with fluffy white clouds drifting lazily by. Moor Fest has a tinge of country fete about it - local bands for local people and great kiddy-rides. It felt wholesome and very relaxed, but perhaps a little lacking in that strange mix of Green-hippy-hedonistic-glamour that flavours most of the festivals on our circuit. However, imaginative site planning put us next to the Northern Green Gathering tent and Gremlin's recycled-bicycles, just across from Andy's yurts and not far from the very-trippy 'orgone-accumulator' with its hard-working crystal-enhanced cloud-buster... So we formed our own little iridescent bubble of alternative random-ness and the festie-goers and organisers seemed to like it. The Wierdstring Band did us proud, entertaining into the wee hours and beyond until none of us could stand up or form a coherent thought. The moon was big, full and silvery, then the sun rose fat and golden. It didn't come close to making up for the loss of BGG, but was a jolly fine weekend.
Garden Party -
Magical. We were sited in the Garden of Eden beside the bridge to Babylon, opposite the 'Laa of Soft Things' and a giant golden four-poster bed. From our backstage we had a fantastic view of the lake and the floating Tower of Babel. The costumes were spectacular, the humour rib-aching, the site-art awesome, the landscape a dream. As usual I didn't deliberately search out much music but what I stumbled across made me happy: The Glitzy Bag Hags at Small World; Arco-Iris Samba on the beautiful Musique-du-Monde stage; a bicycling pianist; and plenty of talented musicians and buskers who turned up to play spontaneous tunes in our Acoustic Garden-Lounge. Smiley D loved the Sonic Manipulator. We all loved our customers who waited patiently for their toast and practised the Weirdigan-yoga of removing shoes while balancing a cup of tea in one hand and a slice of sticky cake in the other.
is a very special festival. Shhhh! I won't say a word more... :-)
Mid-week injuries, vehicle mishaps and gone-awry food orders challenged the Weirdigan equilibrium and we limped into the Workhouse grounds feeling quite the worse for wear. Our spirits were lifted by the super-lovely organisers (huge respect to them) and the SUNSHINE. Don't think we've seen this valley un-muddy before. The weather fairies played a few games over the weekend but everyone still drove off site afterwards rather than being unceremoniously dragged through mud like in previous years.
friendlier than ever and it was great to see the fabulous work that's
been going into the gardens and buildings here. We had a
varied and talented bunch of musos passing through our Acoustic
WeirdSpace. Huge thanks to Paddy Rogan and Accordion Pete for
co-hosting; to Toe Jam Five for their high-energy 'stripped-down
acoustic set'; and to all the others who came, played, entertained and
collaborated. There were some brilliant wandering performers (see the
pics for evidence) but the general feeling seemed to be that the Main
Stage acts were a bit disappointing. Ticket-sales were down too -
perhaps people were put off by two mud-fests in a row - so we weren't
as busy as we'd have liked. Despite these small gripes I'd still
heartily recommend the Workhouse for
folk who like their festivals cosy, creative and
- July '09
Festivals like this can only evolve. Organically. With liberal trowelfuls of creative compost spread thickly over the years. BeatHerder is not your standard bought-off-a-shelf pedestrian festival. It was too noisy for me but I loved it anyway.
The scene in the woods was reminiscent of an early 90's illegal rave. Or - if you swapped the mud for dust and the pines for palms and bamboo - like a mid-90's Goa-party. I'm not talking dance music genres here, just the visual impact and general vibe. The main arena, meanwhile, made me feel like a 13-year-old who'd climbed out of her bedroom window after bedtime to escape to the travelling Fairground; all loud clashing music, bright flashing lights, hot-dog stands and dangerous romance (can we have candy-floss next time too please?).
Site art-and-sculpture was fantastically interactive; you had to be there to experience the awe and humour of the climb-into mushrooms, the rusty metal tardis-lounge, the sword-in-the-stone, Grandpa's tunnel, the gigantic chair, the High Table in the woods, John's Snug, Angie's Underground Bar and all the rest. The 'ancient' stone circle and it's inhabitants provided us with non-stop theatre, Keris' garden was a haven of tranquility and the urinals should win awards (but what about us women?).
enough to make it a financial success but we're sorely tempted to try
again next year, if the Beat-Herders' want us back...
World Ceilidh at Knockengorroch - May '09By: Elf
Me and Dave Weirdigan managed to leave the cafe simultaneously on Friday evening of the World Ceilidh, just in time to see Orkestra del Sol on the main stage. We bopped and swayed merrily while bumping into friends, old and new, in the throng. That was definitely one of the highlights of the long weekend. The Orb evoked nostalgia with Little Fluffy Clouds but were otherwise a bit disappointing. Tetchi brought their aural wizardry to the Bar Stage and Banana Sessions injected equal parts of energy, humour and catchy tunefulness to the Longhouse. Meanwhile, collaborations and spontaneous performances by the Wierdstring Band, Banjo Bill and many other fine known and unknown musicians kept the Acoustic Tent buzzing melodically into the wee hours.
a permanent, timbered, turf-roofed main stage (that's got to be a first
in the festival world?) built largely by site crew and
hear Smiley Dave being interviewed by Jack from The Garden Sessions
(internet-based Scottish radio) go to www.gardensessions.co.uk/podcast_current.htm.
Dave's interview is about two-thirds of the way through the programme.
Thornborough Henge & Lime Tree Farm - May '09
Beneath wide blue skies Weirdigans (miniature version) nestled into the lush grassy Henge of Thornborough. A blustery wind tugged at velvet cloaks and flowery head-dresses as a disparate bunch of pagans gathered to celebrate the coming of Summer. Green Men, jesters and goddesses mingled with bikers, hikers and just-handfasted lovers. Outdoor theatre, drumming, a bagpiper-on-the-hill, ceremonial blessings and celebratory mead-quaffing ensued. Much cake was scoffed and warming beverages were imbibed. In the evening most folk meandered over to Lime Tree Farm for camping and continuing merriment. A fire sculpture, moonlit stones and music in the round-house rounded off a lovely weekend. Weirdigans is out of the box and on The Road now...
Knockengorroch - September '08
We started setting up in a swamp, which soon became a lake. Ample armfuls of straw, a few strategically-placed pallets, and bantering encouragement from the site crew kept our spirits mostly up and the water level mostly below wellie-tops. The weather improved for the festival itself, and by tat-down everything was dry as a bone and we were swanning about in our vests in warm, bright sunshine. After a summer such as we've had that was soooo welcome.
As usual at Knockengorroch we built faerie-lit 'tunnels' from Weirdigans to the replica iron-age Longhouse - venue for acoustic performances and fire-side story-telling - and to the Acoustic Tent - a musical session and singalong space hosted by the Wierdstring Band and friends. This year, with the help of Wierdstring Paddy's lovely new wife Sasha, we all put extra effort into making the 'Acoustic Village' cosier and more welcoming than ever. It must've worked because on Saturday night there were 3 fine sessions going on simultaneously; one in the Cafe, one int' Longhouse and one - which went on til dawn and beyond - in the Acoustic Tent. There was remarkably little sound-clash and the atmosphere was extraordinarily good, as it tends to be at Knockengorroch.
The creativity, diversity and ethical nature of the stalls at Knockengorroch also stands marvelling at. From Munchies, whose missions are to provide sticky puddings without gluten and to make sure no-one goes home to bed shivering without a cup of hot soup; to the Afghan School Charity; Caurnies' completely natural handmade soaps; Power-Pod's sustainable energy displays; beautifully bound recycled notebooks; and plenty others I've mentioned before... this remote Scottish glen is where I do my festival shopping.
- August '08
5 years on, Solfest is still a fairly perfect little festie. This year it seemed to have grown a bit, with camping fields stretching towards the horizon, but that might've just been to allow for the increasingly large and sprawling tents accomodating the growing families that make Solfest their annual holiday. The 'punters' are still that unusual mix of locals, hippies, glamorous festie-folk, musos of all persuasions, children, parents, teenagers, grannies, teenagers dressed as grannies and grannies dressed as teenagers.
A few squally downpours saw us facing the first ever Solfest mud. It was mild for festival mud; wellies were barely necessary due to the sandy soil and huge efforts on the part of organisers, crew and local farmers to repair churned up gateways and keep both foot and vehicular traffic from sinking into mire. Mostly the sun shone and the wind blew and the sunsets were spectacular - in true Solfest style. Solar panels and wind turbines work well here and it'd be good to see more of them in the future (preferably with a corresponding reduction in generators).
With bands playing on the Main, Drystone, Bar and Dance stages, plus smaller venues such as Dogs in Space (chillout), the Alhambra Tent (folky), the Wierdspace attached to Weirdigans (acoustic) and other quirky little tents scattered about - the quality, quantity and variety of musical and non-musical entertainment packed into Solfest is amazing for a festival of it's size. Natural amphitheatres formed by hollows and hillocks prevent too much sound-clash and give great views.
Less well-known bands such as Ylem, the Bikini Beach Band, Swing Guitars, The Wierdstring Band, Tetchi, a fantastic 'renegade' reggae sound system and a whole host of storytellers entertained us Weirdigans so well that apart from a mass excursion to see Alabama 3 we rarely ventured to the Main Stage. Alabama 3 didn't disappoint. They had huge stage presence, leaping about all sparkly, dressed up and full of energy. I danced to the whole set and would've loved to hear more.
Fancy Dress Saturday was a riot of colour, creativity, wild imagination and alter-egos. Nowhere have I seen better, or crazier, costumes. Long live Solfest! And Big Thanks to all our Solfest regulars for your appreciation and lovely comments... for joining in the music... for freeing your feet... and for buying our tea and cake. You are all GREAT!
Gathering - 10th Birthday! - August '08
Very very good and very very green. NGG has definitely got its spirit back. A magical rural site and just about the right amount of people; seriously good quality services and entertainment; lots of fun and creativity balanced with plenty of environmental-awareness stuff to see and be involved in. The Camp Ball on Saturday saw blokes-in-frocks getting their knees and hairy cleavages out with frivolous and hilarious results. A fantastic little festival all round... We can't think of anything negative to say about it at all!
Weirdigan annexe hosted Richard's "Kinotastic Solar Cinema" in
the evenings and
First Aid and the Medical Herbalists were low-key but on the ball,
always friendly, always on call and working together to keep everyone
safe and well.
Weirdigans 'Best Ever' Awards for: Compost loos; food waste composting; women's urinals; recycling collection; gorgeous raggedy flags; permaculture garden & activities; plumbing; hot tubs...
everyone who has worked so hard during this and previous years to make
NGG such a lovely lovely place, time and thing. We really appreciate
Garden Party -
'Come the Revolutions!' - July '08
disturb the teddy
your inner child out
only you could...
Glade Festival, July '08
No mud! No mud! Just a light sprinkling of showers to keep the dust down. Oh bliss.
We dug ditches all around the tent just in case. Think that appeased the weather gods.
It was Glade's 5th birthday and Weirdigan's 5th birthday too.
It was a lovely Glade. Almost like the first one. A light, fluffy vibe. Fewer people, so more space to camp, to wander and play; more open views across the site. But of course, that was bad for business. The customers we had were utterly lovely and very appreciative of our cosy space and healthy comfort food... there just weren't enough of them to pay our expenses and huge pitch fee.
so, sadly, after 5 years in cahoots, we think Weirdigans at Glade may
be no longer feasible.
Workhouse Festival, July '08
Yes it's a lush green Welsh valley that thrives on rain, but we deserved better weather this year. We didn't get it. There were much improved toilets and trackways, so the mud wasn't as devastating as last year, but we had to abandon our famous Weirdigan carpets on Sunday, having been overwhelmed by an avalanching mountain of wellies on Saturday night.
On the bright side, the crazy maze of the Workhouse building has been bought and now all the money raised by this and other events on the site will go towards the project of renovating and using creatively this wonderful space. A cinema, museum, Healing Courtyard and Courtyard Stage nestled into the nooks and crannies the building harbours, giving an inkling of what the place may be like in the rosy future. Very exciting.
Kids were well-catered for, music was happening everywhere, the Green Crafts alleyway was a quirky delight reminiscent of bygone centuries, and the organisers were running around like proverbial blue-assed buzzy things sorting out everyone's problems and sporting Jim'll Fixit grins.
Apart from organisers, crew and traders, it felt like a very young festival - hordes of teenagers ran amok having the time of their lives and puking in the loos - but being compact and very well run the festival always felt safe and happy. A bit of a triumph in fairly trying circumstances.
Workhouse folk and Thanks for looking after us so well!
Post-Solstice, Weirdigans scattered between these two very different festies.
Em and Imogen went to Pilton, working in the Healing and Greenpeace Fields respectively. Smiley Dave took the cafe and the rest of the crew to a little-known, local, music-in-the-park type event in Derbyshire. Everyone had fun. Everyone suffered the heavy showers and danced their damp socks off during the brief blasts of sun.
At Glasto the best times were to be had (imho) in the Green Fields. Our very own Wierdstring Band in the Croissant Neuf area; Three Daft Monkeys and the Glitzy Bag Hags late night in the Green Futures Field... fantastic. Apparently Jay-Z was unexpectedly good too, but the Pyramid Stage is a venture into Babylon too far for me.
At Belper, Ylem were the musical highlight. Smiley D gave them a Weirdigan-rating of 5 stars. Unfortunately, cafe customers were a little thin on the ground in Derbyshire, so Sunday morning saw Weirdigans beetling off to a car-boot sale to flog cake to a different crowd. Ingenious.
Hopefully next year we'll be invited to take the cafe to the Green Fields of Glastonbury.
We think Weirdigans is good enough ;-)
Knockengorroch, May '08
Birthday of Knockengorroch Festival! (It cheats and
birthdays a year.)
We expected mud, we came prepared for mud, but there was NO mud. We almost missed mud. But not quite. Instead of mud there was dust. Dust devils swirling and spiralling like whirling dervishes. Dust clouds, dust storms, dancing in a dust bowl. Hazy sunbeams shimmering through motes of dust. A few early midges did their biting thing. By Sunday they had no chance of penetrating the thick patina of dust we all wore (yes, that brown hue was mostly dust not suntan).
No mud meant more happened outside. Musicians gathered on grassy knolls under pyramids of Tibetan prayer flags, bathers stripped off by the river, Tai Chi practice ocurred daily on the ancient village site. More people than usual climbed Mount Munter and relined on its lofty peak admiring the view. Spontaneous acoustic happenings brought swathes of sun-drenched happy folk to Weirdigans and the Longhouse. The atmosphere at this friendliest of all festivals was more lovely than ever.
Musical highlights: 3 Daft Monkeys; Dreadzone; Black Cat; Sheelanagig; Orkestra del Sol; and of course our favourite Wierdstring Band whose energy, humour and talent had me dancing behind the counter at 5am on Sunday morning.
Non-musical highlights: the techno-barber (performance hairdressing); Stoats porridge; silver-smithery with a danger-rating; Kipper-the-Travelling-Cat thoroughly enjoying her first proper festival; Nomads veggie curry and chips; and Smiley D's new Coffee Cake which went down a treat.
Already looking forwards to The Hairth (harking back to its roots) in September. See you there.
Biddulph Moor & Thornborough Henge, May '08
Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning we were high on Biddulph Moor with clear views of the Welsh mountains as far as Snowden. Weirdigans (small version), a dance tent, a bouncy castle, a grand stage, a tombola and some luxurious porta-toilets huddled together in a fairly muddy and wind-swept field. "Take a Day Off" was a new venture, a one-day camping event that couldn't decide if it was a village fete or an illegal rave. There were some absolutely lovely people there - just not really enough of them. Here and Now, legendary psychedelic musos, headlined on Friday night but didn't quite fulfill the elevated expectations of their oldest fans (Smiley D being one of these). It was a lovely spot and a nice idea though - maybe next year it'll break out of its chrysalis and more people will Take the Day Off...
Sunday we were at Thornborough Henge in North Yorkshire for the Beltane celebration. Jesters hats, velvet cloaks, medieval princess dresses and faerie wings braved the episodic torrential downpours. Beltane fires smouldered, bagpipes wailed, drummers drummed (as they do) and couples jumped over a broom to become handfasted. Pagans from all over the North gathered and ate Weirdigan cake. There was a really friendly, open, gentle, respectful and joyful atmosphere despite the dankness of the weather. Having set up a mini-Weirdigans at the last four Beltane gatherings, we now feel like we're part of the family. Big Blessings to the organisers and to everyone who campaigns to keep these incredible 5000-year-old earthworks safe from developer-destroyers... www.sacredbrigantia.com
Knockengorroch Sept '07
Why do we love Knockengorroch?
Because it's the friendliest gig we do. As you wander around site, there are countless opportunities to have a good banter, a giggle, an enlightening conversation, a heated debate or a philosphical waffle - with friends old and new, acquaintances, or total and utter strangers.
Because the female head of security wears pixie ears and the site crew/stewards/recycling team etc are some of the best and wildest folk you could hope to meet.
Because it's so remote it's silly (this year there had to be a designated helicopter landing pad on Health & Safety grounds because it would take an inordinate amount of time to get an emergency vehicle in and out).
Because it's reminiscent of ye olde days of festivals with its dogs, trucks, benders, dreadlocks, campfires and sense of community.
Because there's two Knockengorrochs a year, which helps to cement the friendships and strengthen the community.
And this Autumn... Because there was thick white sparkly magical FROST all over everything a couple of mornings; Smiley D made the Longhouse into a faerie den with flickery rainbow-coloured LED festoons which lit the poets, story-tellers and acoustic musicians beautifully; and the Wierdstring Band celebrated their 2nd birthday with a fantastic gig on the Bar Stage culminating in their infamous rendition of a cancan which almost made my legs fall off.
A new one for us, in a part of the country we don't know. We liked the sound of it because it's on an organic farm and we'd read a couple of good reviews of it... and we loved the name. So we trundled South in convoy, still sweaty from Solfest, only to discover we couldn't get onsite to set up until Wednesday. So we slept all akimbo on top of our gear. Setting up in haste Wednesday morn, Smiley D took a tumble out of the van and fractured his ankle. Doh. Not an auspicious start.
With D pretty much out of action I worked overtime and ventured out even less than usual. I did notice some lovely things: the weather, the colourful tat stalls, the rolling wooded landscape, the 'green' ethos, the friendly Buddhists, the Junkyard Band, the compost loos... And some not-so-lovely things: disappearance of the flowers from our guy-ropes, delays getting ourselves and our crew onto site, a midnight-or-earlier curfew, being squeezed into a tiny space despite there being plenty of field around us, a few awkward customers, and the fact that everyone wanted lunch but almost no-one wanted breakfast, dinner or evening snacks. We were rushed off our feet with queues out the door for 3 hours a day, and twiddling our thumbs the rest of the time. Something to do with it being a 'Fair' not a 'Festival' I think. We hadn't really taken into account how much of a day-visitor, daytime-oriented event it was.
A perfect day out for locals, especially families, with kids' activities in abundance and unusual retail opportunites as well as the organic 'Ragged Rose' bar and a couple of stages... Ragged Hedge is probably a very good thing, it just didn't seem quite right for us in our current incarnation.
I didn't get many photos... I tried sending Dave out to be a roving camera-man but he didn't rove far on crutches (a daily mission up the compost loo steps and a little light washing up while standing on one leg was about all he could manage). Ah, bless.
Sunshine, wind, clear skies, amazing sunsets, cold nights, bright stars - the Solway did it again. An almost perfect climate in which to enjoy this almost perfect little festie-on-a-hill in a tucked-away corner of the North. Big name bands - The Levellers, Undertones, Ozric Tentacles, System 7 - as well as smaller festie favourites - Three Daft Monkeys, The Wierdstring Band - entertained spectacularly. There were a few hiccups - sound failures on the main stage and communication mix-ups at the Drystone Stage - but at a relatively uncommercial event, you can't expect things to be completely slick.
Improvements on last year (imho): SAMs sauna; a mammoth recycling effort; an active permaculture area (we particularly appreciated the construction of a permanent compost heap - next year our used teabags will be feeding baby trees); even more fantastic site art; great decor in the dance tent.
Things which were as glorious as ever: the weather, the loos (tiny queues, cleaned and re-supplied regularly), the costumes, the people (our favourite punters, you Solfest lot!), the kids' area, the herbalists at the Welfare tent.
Things which could be improved for next year (imho): the healing area - it needs more practitioners and could be clustered around a fire or garden circle rather than strung out in a line; and directing of people into the campsites to prevent access being blocked (maybe have more vehicle-free areas as well as camping-with-vehicle areas?).
Personal highlights: the Wierdstring Ceilidh, and buying a lovely little stove for our van from Ian Crawford, local metal-melter.
Gathering, West Yorkshire, Aug '07
Exhausted after a speedy tat-down at BGG we embark on an 8-hour drive North in convoy, via Hebden to do the laundry and pick up the Bedouin tent and fresh supplies. Just an hour away from the NGG site Boris-the-kitchen-van breaks down, a burnt out clutch... so the crew carry on to put up the tents, leaving me in a lay-by awaiting rescue & recovery. A very cheery AA mechanic hauls our broken, heavily laden van onto the back of his truck and takes us to the festival, where we push Boris into position and decide to worry about how we're going to get him offsite and fixed 'later - much later'. Luckily Dougal - solar cinema provider - is here with his crew, willing and able to help us get set up in another record-breaking push. The plan is that Dougal will show films in our Bedouin tent, which will be accessed through a tunnel from the main cafe tent... then in the wee hours random musicians will host acoustic sessions in a laid-back, organic stylee in our semi-secret annexe...
Back on the original Pontefract site, memories stirred of previous NGG's. Lots of colour and creativity: a huge fun-filled kids' area plus Trailer Trash's teenage haven; Dave Wick's amazing solar power-showers (I paid double, it was such a glorious experience); Robyn's invaluable Herbal First Aid; swap-shops, clothes recycling, campaigning, retail therapy with a conscience at Tat for Tibet; windmills and solar panels everywhere interspersed with flags, sculptures and gardens... permaculture, compost loos (sooo much better than smelly plastic portaloos)... and more sunshine than most of us have seen in a long, long time.
Friday evening saw the oh-so-glam psychedelic rockstars The Electric Brains play to a wildly appreciative audience, with Tetchi afterwards to keep them groovin'. Saturday the largely unknown punk-popsters Toe Jam Five kicked ass with their high-energy, fabulously danceable act... taking an initially uncertain crowd to a merrily bouncing frenzy. Yam and Dave - 'The Fire-Swingers' - put on a great Egyptian-themed show beside a central bonfire at midnight. Later, the highly-and-humourously-talented Swervy World made us swoon in Weirdigans 'underground ballroom', with cabaret-esque eclectica. The blokes wore ballgowns and glitter filled the sweaty air. The Wierdstring Band made a late entrance, having been away to play at a wedding earlier in the day. Tiredness is not a concept these guys are familiar with so dawn saw them still twanging their strings as the sun rose through a hazy horizon.
Hopefully next year more people will come along and experience what we enjoyed this year. The site and venues could easily have catered for plenty more happy punters... and there were bits that I didn't have chance to see too, like Positivitea's Chill-Out, Sunny Jim's Dome and the Permaculture and Healing Areas...
nr Cheddar, Aug '07
Sun! At last! O joy and bliss. Okay, a bit of rain too, but in comparison, this was the Sahara. Our solar panels were sucking it up, our batteries happily full of juice for the first time in a while. We arrived early after a de-mudding pitstop near Bath (big Thanks to Liz and Mahendra), so we had time to set up in leisurely fashion, to make our hillock into a faerie-mound again and to bake a hundred cakes.
One of the best things about the Big Green is that almost everyone's there. I could've spent all week catching up with friends if I hadn't had a caf to run. Other very good things are: SAM's sauna; the craft field where you can find really useful as well as beautiful stuff; the Last Chance Saloon which nicely balances the serious eco/campaigning side of things with a big dollop of decadent silliness; the horse-drawn deliveries; the roaming musicians, including our favourite Wierdstrings; and of course all the practical applications of wind, sun and pedal power. The worst thing about BGG is that there's so much more to see and do and I never get chance to see/do enough. I wish it could last a month.
We did have a bit of trouble with teenagers roaming through our 'backstage' and kitchen areas, doing teenage things like setting fire to lighter fuel and trying to meddle with our gas bottles. Thanks to the Markets crew and the fluffier side of Security (especially Mike 'Care' Bear) for providing us with fencing once we alerted them to the problem. Shame we had to be caged in though. The only other downer was the ban on brandy coffee/brandy hot choc sales... traditional late-night hippy-warming fare at festivals down the ages... no more to be. Though there was a happy twist to this. Regulars started bringing their own brandy to add to hot drinks and were very generous with dishing it out to us :-)
Having made the beech-tree hillock our Big Green home, every year adding a little more decoration, seating and twinkly lighting, it was fantastic to see it used to the max with people chilling out on every spare inch of bench and patch of grass on the Sunday afternoon. You were all so welcome and inspiring and we hope to see you in the same spot next year...
Reading, July '07
This was mud that topped all previous muddiness. 'Severe weather warnings' were prophetic. Rain, in bucketloads, endlessly. The loudest thunder I ever heard, drowning out the dance music effortlessly. Lightning, flooding, rivers of mud, scenes of campsite devastion. People covered head-to-toe in mud. Trackways sinking into the mud. Tents full of mud. Too much water, too much mud. Queues around site for wellies, which soon - along with dry socks - became a very scarce commodity.
Apparently 'they' (festival high-ups) nearly pulled the plug. Fearing for the safety of the punters, wondering about the feasibility of maintaining fun and festivities in these circumstances, a crisis-meeting was held and evacuation considered. They must've decided it would be too difficult to achieve, for we were left to wallow in the mud, building dams and digging ditches around the clock. Meanwhile, on the outside, rumours abounded that Glade had been cancelled and friends kept phoning to see where we'd gone instead. "We're here! Still serving tea and cake! Sinking inexorably into the mud but doing our best to keep the kitchen clean and the carpets dry..." I explained, repeatedly.
Our survival was largely down to Smiley Dave's mum. A few months earlier I'd mentioned to her that we were short of tea-towels. She scoured ebay, and soon parcels of second-hand tea-towels were arriving daily on my doorstep. I began to wonder what I was supposed to do with several thousand tea-towels... But at Glade we had the opportunity to use them all. We diverted a torrent of mud that threatened to obliterate the kitchen with them; we wiped away mud that oozed through the kitchen floor with them; we used them to wipe mud from our customers feet and hands before we let them tread on our carpets and eat cake; we dried the carpets with them; we mopped up customers spilt beer with them; and yes, we did dry cups and plates with them too. My mum's contribution of hand-stitched hand-towels were put to similar uses. And it all led to a number of customers voting us "the cleanest place on site". Cheers Mums!
Again we barely set foot outside of Weirdigans, so I can say little about the festival. When we weren't baking cakes or brewing tea we were battling mud or snatching a quick kip. Joe Banana's did a fine job of shipping in wellies. ID Spiral had hammocks swaying above the mud - a nice touch. An internet cafe thrived as people checked out the weather reports. Everyone stayed mostly cheerful and a host of tractors motored in at the end to tow us out.
P.S. The tea-towels survived too. We spent a day in a laundrette and they came up lovely.
Llanfyllin, June '07 ...or... A
Tale of Woe, Weather
& The Workhouse
I dragged myself and my van from the mudpits of Glastonbury. It took 7 hours, a wheelbarrow marathon, a tractor tow, a couple of pushes by mud-splattered good-hearted souls, a little persuasive wheedling of security guards and a huge dollop of dedicated bloody-mindedness to be off-site by 9am Monday morning. I drove to Llanfyllin via service stations littered with filthy Glasto survivors, via roads-blocked-by-floods in the Welsh borders, via scary sights such as cars floating up to their windows in rivers and lakes. Arrived at the Workhouse (a much more impressive building in reality than it looks on their website) in time to meet the rest of the Weirdie crew... Three vehicles converging within 15 minutes of each other, having come from different parts of the country - wow! Unfortunately, Rainbow Rob had done his back in so he and 'Boris' (the food van) were still in Hebden. Smiley D did a quick turnaround, taking my van back to Hebden to pick up Boris and drop off my dirty wet Glasto clobber. The next day we spent ages putting the new tent up... then took it down again when the site plan changed... then put it up again. We also found out that a chasm in communication channels had led to us being sited in the field that closes from 2am-10am, so we wouldn't be able to do our usual late-night/early-bird thing.
Remaining relatively undaunted by these difficulties, we threw ourselves into providing a cosy, comfy lounge space and top quality nosh for the damp and bedraggled festie folk who drifted our way. Occasional cheeky breaks in the clouds tantalised us, but mostly it rained. When we thought it couldn't possibly rain anymore, it rained again. When we thought we were as saturated as we possibly possibly could be, the skies chucked bucketfuls at us. Half the vehicles onsite had to be towed into position. Towards the end of the festival even 4x4's were getting bogged down. The trenches of mud gradually grew deeper and wider. Everyone had to be towed off. It was Glastonbury all over again.
But I think it was a lovely festival. The mud and our being short-staffed meant I barely left our tent. The people that came in - both crew and punters - were some of the friendliest, sweetest, most respectful and joyful festie-goers ever. We and they tried to keep our carpets mud-free and largely we succeeded. By Sunday night our oasis seemed like a miracle. The crew party spilled over into Weirdigans and at last the stage next door closed down so it was quiet enough for the Wierdstring Band - who'd dragged their instruments through the mud all festie wowing and entertaining as they went - to play their home gig. Huge Thanks to them; and to our new crew - Imogen, Stevie, Fee and Mo - who turned out to be stars extraordinaire; and to Kristen and Cassie who weren't supposed to be working but jumped in to help out; and to the Workhouse folks for putting it all together, holding it together despite the weather and listening to our feedback; and to you all who ate our cake and sandwiches, took your boots off and spent time with us.
P.S. at 4a.m. on Tuesday morning, when we were half tatted down and grabbing a little kip, the previously picturesque but now raging torrent of a stream beside us rose and rose, broke it's banks in places and came THAT close to washing us away. But we escaped to tell the tale... and are now surrounded by bits of tent draped and drying around Grandfather Weirdigan's house...
Knockengorroch, Dumfries, May '07
As usual, the first full-on festie of the season. We got there early with a new van, new kitchen tent and new crew to try out. Two days of glorious sunshine, dawn walks, campfire evenings, putting up the structures... and digging drainage ditches, because this is Knock and we're wise to it now. Sure enough the weather arrived in good time to meet and greet the festie-goers as they appeared in hordes on Friday. Galeforce winds driving torrential rain notwithstanding, the hordes were more numerous than ever before and the World Ceilidh sold out.
Anyone blessed with the foresight or prior knowledge to bring big boots, hefty jumpers, waterproofs, a woolly hat, a sun hat, midge repellant and sunscreen had a wonderful time sloshing through rivers of mud... being rewarded, as often happens at this festival, by streaming sunshine and steaming marshland on Sunday. A bodgers' and basket-weavers' craft market sprang out of the mud beside the caf and our Rob got chance to display his hand-turned wooden wares.
Musical highlights included Shooglenifty, The Baghdaddies and of course The Wierdstring Band who wowed us spectacularly with their Monday-morning set on the mud-encrusted walkway outside Weirdigans.
We love Knockengorroch more and more every time. New van made it through the mud, new kitchen tent stood up to the wind, new crew were heaven to work with... see you at The Hairth in September...
Thornborough Henge, North Yorks, May '07
A drizzly dawn start... but by the time we arrived at the earthwork circle the sun was opening it's bleary eye. We hauled our hand-made, Medieval-style tent aloft. The wind tried to wrench the canvas from us, tent looked like yacht for a moment and Smiley Dave was nearly yanked off his feet. A second attempt saw us pegging down half the tent before trying to raise the centre pole. After that it was simple... get the urn on, slice the cakes, and oh just in the nick of time we were ready for our first tea-in-a-field experience of the year.
It was a mostly sunny day but there were biting breezes that sent people scurrying to our tent for shelter, hand-warming brews and belly-pleasing cake between events. There were wandering musicians, Beltane rituals, pyramid-shaped speakers forming a sound-circle, stalls selling bright and shiny things... There was chanting, handfasting, meditating and much dressing-up. Faerie children tumbled down ancient burial mounds. Velvet-robed pagans quaffed mead. Families picnicked. Far too soon the day was over and we were alone once more in this magical place.
Later we gravitated to the after-party, 'Beltania' at Sentry Circle, where we found campfires and dancing at Positivitea soundsystem and stone-circle-building in progress.
March Hares: Weirdigans Season Launch '07
Weird Wonderland. The dressing up and wearing of mad hats and furry ears was fantastic. Observing the strange medley of party creatures I felt like I'd stepped through the looking glass or taken an ill-advised dose from a hookah-toking caterpillar. Great people-watching.
The music was brilliant. We'd been let down by Hebden's best crashy-thrashy-trashy-psychedelic-dance-band (those double-booking Electric Brains) and so had taken a punt on dragging in a crowd with out-of-towners The Wierdstring Band and Toe Jam 5. Wierdstring – in addition to being highly talented at playing their strings - have oodles of charisma, humour that almost makes you laugh too much to dance, and so many fine tunes that they could (and often do) play all night. They persuaded practically the whole messy, dressed-up crowd to line up, link arms and can-can... an extraordinary sight. Toe Jam 5, totally different but equally energetic, played upbeat pop-punk; original material with surprisingly funny-touching-quirky lyrics. The dancefloor bulged.
Behind the scenes, crisis had loomed when half of Toe Jam were called away to a family emergency during the soundcheck. Pure dedication and determination brought them back to save the day at the 11th hour, just when Toe Jam Greg had run out of preamble and excuses and was about to try and play the whole set solo. Good on him for having the nerve to get up there all alone... and a thousand Thank-Yous to the stars of the evening who went way beyond the call of friendship and duty with their heroic round-trip, dash onto stage and stunning performance in very difficult circumstances.
Paul Weatherhead was the perfect choice for the early evening sitting-down-around-candlelit-tables crowd. His songs are so comically bizarre, wicked and wild that we’re going to bestow on him the dubious title of ‘honorary Weirdigan’. DJ Dr Moose also surpassed expectations, providing top tunes and keeping us on our feet until we were herded out into the night.
Mrs Cakehead won the best-dressed prize, with Em (Toe Jam keyboards) as runner-up. The raffle was won by Midgely Rich – uncanny, given that he's a renowned malt-whisky connoisseur and the prize was a bottle of Jura. It wasn't a fix, honest. Just serendipity. The second prize of organic red wine went to Mike P - Grandfather Weirdigan, Electric Brain and Poker-fiend. Third prize of a home-made cake was supposed to go to juggler Andy Woods but we don't think he collected it. Sorry Andy, it may have been accidentally scoffed at the after-party in the Nutclough Tavern.
Unfortunately, a great night didn't translate into big money. We might be able to afford a bit of wire to attach a wind turbine to a battery, but the wind turbine itself - no, we won't be buying one from the proceeds of this gig. For some reason the Trades Club wouldn't let us sell tickets ourselves this year, and then they sold some of the tickets cheaper than we'd agreed. They also charged a lot more than they did last year for holding the party. The bar staff, door volunteers and Duncan-the-soundman all did a great job though, and the reduced cash-flow wasn't all down to the Trades. We also paid expenses to the performers this year - which meant a lot less cash to the eco-energy fund, but it felt like taking too much of a liberty to ask again for huge favours from our talented friends.
The good news on the energy front is that New Rob Weirdigan (aka Stig, Womble, recycler-extraordinaire, wood-turner and ace-photographer) may have salvaged a damaged wind turbine that we can repair. So if you see a windmill towering over the cafe this summer, it'll be on it's second incarnation.
Really Big Thanks to everyone who turned up, performed and helped out. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did...
Photos by Rob, Elf and Mike
Festival, North Yorks, September '06
End of the season. We approached with trepidation. A new festival, an unknown quantity, Equinox, summer's over, bound to be cold and wet. On our last reserves of energy. Dragging our heels. But it's close to home, it's being run by friends, let's pull out the glitz and the cake tins one last time...
The wind was even more fierce than at Knock and nearly defeated us, turning the tent into a huge sail and yanking us skyward. We had to call in reinforcements and on our 2nd attempt managed to hoist it up while simultaneously pegging it down - phew! Next day... a scorcher. Bare chests and bikini tops were in evidence, mums rushed off-site to buy factor 40 for pink-skinned kids, the fest was blessed - yippee!
And what a fantastic fest it was. Tiny - only a coupla hundred people - but what they lacked in quantity they sure made up for in quality. So many activities, so much creativity, everyone giving and sharing, child-friendly to the max with all ages from toddlers to teenagers catered for. Abundance, abundance; an extravaganza; a real Harvest Festival of plenty. Singing, dancing, wood-turning, silver-smithing, flag-making, drumming, strumming, hula-hooping, theatre, lantern processions, a sauna, story-telling, kite-flying, healing, fire-shows, cabaret, djs and bands - wow!
Weirdigans felt like a calm haven in the midst of a bustle of activity. The toilets were the best I've ever experienced at a festival (carefully crafted compost loos). Money was raised for 'Bees Abroad' - a charity that helps villagers in the developing world set up hives so they can harvest and sell their own honey. When the festival was over the crew - and we Weirdigans - were treated to a slap-up banquet in the barn by the organisers. It doesn't get better than that. What joy to end the season on a high note. Big Thanks to everyone at Fell Edge for making it such a success and a pleasure to be part of.
'The Hairth', Knockengorroch, September '06
Knockengorroch certainly knows how to do extreme weather. We put the tent up in gale-force winds, then proceeded to dig trenches in case of rain - 'showers' were forecast and it's a swampy bit of ground we're sited on. The next day it did indeed rain, torrentially. The ditches filled, overflowed, spilled. 'New Rob', the most recent addition to the Weirdigans crew, spent the day out in it digging secondary ditches while the rest of us huddled in the kitchen baking cakes. Rob, you're a star, we love you.
The next day, as punters arrived, the sun broke through mist and cloud and began to dry up the mud. The Acoustic Village - us, Wal & co's session tent and the longhouse with its programme of story-telling - flung open our soggy tent flaps and steamed gently in welcome warmth. As in Spring, merriment followed on the heels of hardship.
Highlights include dancing barefoot in warm mud to Tetchi, celebrating The Wierdstring Band's 1st birthday, sending Boaty Dave to bed in disgrace after he'd one too many tequilas, eating handmade chocolates from the Chocolate Tree at midnight, having whisky porridge for breakfast at the Porridge Bar, chatting to stone-masons around the campfire, and buying a gorgeous recycled furry waistcoat from the Afghan School Charity (apparently the tenner I paid will enable one kid to go to school for a year).
It was great. We'll be back for more punishment next year.
Solfest, Cumbria, August '06
If someone sat down and thought of all the best things they'd seen and done at all the festivals they'd ever been to...If they gathered together these best things...If they waved a wand and caused these things to be transported by flying carpet to a grassy knoll in Cumbria...That'd be Solfest.
It's perfect! It's cute! It's a baby festival with pink rosy cheeks and chubby little legs. The site has good drainage and fresh breezes - it could never become a dank quagmire. Rainbow-hued kites fly overhead. The toilets are clean and almost continuously stocked with loo roll, soap and hand-towels. The provision for kids of all ages is fantastic. It's almost too safe and tame, too well-planned, too family-oriented...but it manages to avoid that overly-sanitised folk-fest feel by inviting messy, dressed-up Disco du Fromage with Bedlam Boudoir annexe and Weirdigans with attached wood-stove-heated acoustic tent to stay open 24-hours a day.
The outdoor Main Stage faces a gentle hill that forms a natural amphitheatre. The more folksy acousticky Drystone Stage is the other side of the hill and the Dance Tent is in the furthest away corner, so despite everything being in the one, easily circumnavigated field, there's very little noise-clash. There's a tiny quiet healing area, a permaculture camp, a craft alley, chill-out spaces, mazes, imaginative and robust site art, a good and varied selection of eating and drinking places, stalls, story-tellers, Pixie Pictures' solar-powered cinema...what more could one want? Oh...well...a sauna, of course. Can we have a sauna next year please?
Weirdigans was very busy. We were frantically baking cakes in the wee hours to keep up with the demand. The quality of the music played in the session tent next door helped. Rory McLeod found us again, as did Wierdstring and Sonic Tradition and Banjo Bill. Sorry if you had to queue for an age. Hopefully you were entertained by the fiddlers and minstrels, pirates, faeries, buskers, weirdigans and wicker-women while you waited.
Northern Green Gathering, Lancs, August '06
We arrived early, to feed the crew. There was a very positive atmosphere on site despite a disappointing lack of ticket sales. Some of the most gorgeous structures and buses ever seen at a festival arrived, were erected, were decorated with love and attention to detail. It was almost home-from-home, a small gathering of the clans, meeting friends old and new.
Jim's solar-power-providing truck, James' solar and wind-powered circus, Andy and Andy with their yurt complex, Si and Sarah's Positivitea, Roly's amazing chill-out tent, SAM's sauna, Tomas and Jed and the permaculture crew, Tat for Tibet dragged out of hibernation for the occasion, Runic John and his herbal apothecary. A swap-shop, Trailer-Trash's teens arena, bicycle-sculptures, fairtrade clothes, faerie face-painting. The Electric Brains, Mabel Blue, The Tropes. A fantastic Welfare Team (hi Mum!).
Weirdigans swapped our salads for curry and chips with Rakesh from Nomads. Both enjoyed the change in menu. Rory McLeod made his home in our tent, playing nightly with Banjo Bill et al. Blustery gales and torrential rain set in but the weather didn't prevent the men from dressing up in slinky little dresses at the Camp Ball on Saturday night. The Brains got us dancing like crazy fools. Delirious with delight after a hot tub at SAM's I felt like I could float all the way to Solfest.
If you weren't there, you missed out. The Northern Green is run by a totally fantastic bunch of hard-working right-thinking folk. I hope they have the energy and support to do it all again bigger and better and brighter next year. We'll be there.
Kulu Masked Ball, Herefordshire, August '06
Baskerville Hall surprised us all with it's olde-tyme glamour and a comfort factor unimagined in a season of alternately dusty and muddy festival fields. A grandiose entrance opening onto an immense spiralling staircase, leading to a rabbit warren maze of corridors, rooms and dormitories. Two bars, hot power showers, a wood-lined Scandanavian-style sauna and - trippily unbelievable - a swimming pool in a blue-tiled room with dolphin frescoes.
Weirdigans set up in the grounds near an ancient, enormous ent-like cedar tree. A tardis appeared beneath the tree soon after, setting the scene for a weekend of magical peculiarities. There was a treasure hunt, rope swings, a secret garden, mushroom wine, and of course the disorientation of faces half-recognised behind masks and face-paint. All in addition to the usual Kulu trance-dance loveliness.
It wasn't exactly a winner for Weirdigans - everyone was too busy dancing to eat - but 'twas a great party in a fantastic location.
Big Green Gathering, Cheddar, August '06
WOW!! Big Busy Great Green Gathering.
Despite van wheel trouble that meant we had to wait for many hours to be rescued by a lorry big enough to lift our well laden vehicle off the road, we got there - and so did the wind and the rain!! The tent went up first time though and we started to catch up with the setting up tasks at hand.
From the delights of the enchanted tea-light lit magic canyon ... to the bands who kept finishing just as I got there ... to the great enthusiasm for the Weirdigans 'best on site' chai ... to the amazing huge fire sculpture of a maze ... to the tequila sellers I served tequilas for ... lovely people all round, busy busy busy .... I sold the last of about four hundred Brandy Coffees at three in the morning on the Sunday night and the last flapjack was sold thirty minutes before we closed for good!!
This was the longest ever Weirdigans have been open so far - from 1pm on Wednesday afternoon until 1pm on Monday afternoon, twenty four hours a day for a total of one hundred and twenty continuous hours and with people queuing for nearly all this time!!!
The lights and fire attracted more people than ever and with impromptu performances from the Wierdstring band - getting everyone in the tent dancing their socks off - people, tea and time flew by!!
This was a Big Green Gathering!!
It's a whole eco-city. I love it. I strolled out to the bicycle-powered laundrette to wash our tea-towels. I bought a reconditioned axe. I solar-charged my phone. I ordered water in biodegradable bottles for the cafe from Belu and it was delivered by wheelbarrow. I bought some multi-purpose kitchen cleaner made from essential oils and coconut. I found a woodworker who could design us some giant oak tent-pegs and arranged to pick them up from his place in the Welsh borders after our next gig. Our milk and vegetables arrived by horse and cart. Smiley Dave took the stage at the Green Forum to talk about Weirdigans solar-powered LED lighting. The stormy weather only lasted the first day or so. SAM's sauna - Thankyou again. Big Green Wow and I could sleep for a week now...
Furrow Green, Cumbria, July '06
A private gathering in an idyllic location. Weirdigans were lucky enough to be befriended by the landowners and invited to cater for the weekend.
A farmhouse at the end of a dirt road, surrounded by trees. A grassy field gently sloping towards a stream. A ruined castle on the skyline. Just over the hill behind the farm - a river cascading through a series of waterfalls with pools big enough for swimming. What bliss! What a shame we were there to work!
Dunc cooked up sumptuous delicacies. Kids went crazy over the chocolate cake. Musicians played in the barn. The cowshed became a cocktail and tequila lounge. The Wierdstring Band performed one of their increasingly infamous impromptu sets in Weirdigans Cafe and had everyone from toddlers to grannies doing the cancan.
Weirdigans didn't want to leave, but the Big Green was beckoning...
Shamania, Lancs, July '06
We weren't sure what to expect from this one. A new mini-fest described as some kind of pagan-shaman-trance-dance fusion.
It turned out to be one of the loveliest, fluffiest, most colourful and fun-loving festies of all. A perfect lay-out on a site with views across rural Lancashire. A huge fire-pit, with stalls and cafes and sound-systems and herbal apothecaries and massage domes in a wide circle around the central fire. Runic John performed an opening ceremony that united the spiritually-minded with the most sceptical of ravers. We'd brought the heatwave with us from Glade. Strolls down into the river valley for swims were popular though we Weirdigans were too busy making brews to sample such cool delights.
There was an unexpected abundance of energy. Space-hopper races. Water-pistol fights. An Edwardian picnic with bone china teapots and cucumber sandwiches (crusts cut off). It was all a bit Alice-in-Wonderland. Timegate cafe from Tribe of Frog with an outer-space theme. Positivitea and their toadstool seats. Karma sound-system with cheesy tunes in the morning. Our next-door neighbours Fat Moon had a pyramid on the doorstep and fluoro-flowers adorning a sound-den inside. Everyone was SO happy and friendly.
Huge appreciation to the people who conceived of Shamania and made it happen. There's so many small gatherings and festivals these days that it seems they can't all be successful and survive...but we reckon this one will. Roll on Shamania #2 in 2007!
Glade, nr Reading, July '06
Heat-wave. Again. How do those Glade people do it? Wow. Sunshine & repetitive beats. Dancers kicking up the dust. Evening sunbeams caught in the haze. Crazy costumes, creativity at every corner. Dayglo sculpted mushrooms, magical seedpods stranded overhead, wicker giantesses, metal monsters, big boots and faerie wings, pixie ears & pirate shirts. Full-on, 24 hours a day, which day is today? Did you fall in the Rabbit-Hole? Did you get wed in the inflatable church? Did you promenade around the wooden dance-floor of the Pussy Parlure?
Weirdigans are tired now. Everyone loved our cheesy beans on toast at breakfast time. Some of you had breakfast at 4am, some at 4pm. Days and nights disappeared, changed direction, reversed and got tangled up. Thanks for all your lovely comments. We loved you too. The best bunch of customers ever. Seeya next year!
Pendle Witch Camp, Trawden, June '06
We arrived Thursday evening to brown-grey ominous skies, heavy humidity and a field full of sheep-shit. There are many ways to clear sheep-shit from a 50' square patch of ground; each of us chose a different method and after an hour's diligent de-shitting we were able to walk without going 'squelch'. The rain was holding off so we hoisted the tent and worked until midnight getting cafe and kitchen ship-shape (tent-shape?). Andy - who was supposed to be the 4th original Weirdigan but opted out to do a degree in environmental philosophy - turned up about 10pm and opened a couple of bottles of cava. Mmmm, fizzy.
By midday Friday we were ready to serve lunches...but there was hardly anyone around. The weather was still pretty dodgy and bleak. A few stalls selling herbal potions, gothic clothes and silver jewellery were setting up. Boaty Dave, Mabel Blue and a few others headed off to Burnley to see Eat Static at a party called Satori. They returned at 4am, possibly enlightened but disappointed to find that Weirdigans had just closed for the night. Not enough punters to make it worth doing the usual 24-hour thing.
Saturday dawned brightly and suddenly it felt like we were at a festival. The sun shone, the pagans flooded in, there were talks and workshops, a sweatlodge, a big fire...The new menu was going down well, Smiley Dave's cheesy beans on toast and Dunc's tomato and lentil soup kept bellies full and warm. The sun set in a riotously colourful cloud-strewn sky. Musicians played and sang, fire-staffs and clubs were twirled and thrown. The atmosphere was friendly, gentle, joyful, appreciative. Lovely. A woman called Dawn gave Weirdigans a beautiful wooden sculpture - she said it needed to go on a journey with us. Look out for the travelling wooden spiral at our summer gigs...
Sunday was more of the same, subsiding into a quiet sleepiness by evening. Monday we packed up in record time, in time for a pub lunch and lazy afternoon back at home. Cheers Andy for taking the recycling away and Cheers Sam, the newest Weirdigan recruit, you're a star!
Knockengorroch, Scotland, May '06
It was Biblical. Acts of God. Fire and Flood. Fortunately not Famine (we didn't quite run out of cake) nor Pestilence (the midges aren't out yet). But let me tell the story from the beginning...
We drove up from Yorkshire on the Tuesday, the purple van and the orange van in convoy, no serious mishaps, we only had to push-start the orange van once. It was drizzly but nothing to worry about. I had slight misgivings when we were directed to set up in what looked like a marsh, surrounded by streams and pools, but the site plan is sacred, I wasn't about to argue.
By Wednesday afternoon when the serious deluge began our tent was up, resplendant with it's new red ropes, shiny pulleys and glossy painted poles. By Thursday morning we were flooded and it was all hands to trench-digging. Thursday evening the winds were high and the rain torrential but we were safe inside our moat, baking chocolate cakes ready for the arrival of the punters the following day.
Friday morning Em and Smiley Dave set off on a supplies mission. A combination of mud on site and single-track roads blocked with incoming traffic made it inadvisable to drive, so we walked. Uphill, for miles, in horizontal rain and temperatures more suited to November. Eventually we managed to hitch a lift (in the wrong direction, but it was worth it to be out of the weather). After breakfast at the very cute Carsphairn village shop we hitched again, this time in the right direction, then caught a bus to Ayr. We shopped, we filled our rucksacks, we staggered back by bus and thumb and taxi. 30 litres of milk is a heavy load.
We returned to tales of high adventure. The turf-roofed longhouse to which Weirdigans tent was attached had caught fire in our absence. Instead of opening the cafe Dunc and Lo had been busy lobbing buckets of water up the chimney and plastering over smouldering walls with fresh mud.
Once the festival actually began everything was relatively calm. Wal, Paddy, James and friends kept the acoustic tunes bubbling. Some of us found time during a quiet spell to bounce around to Tetchi in the main arena. We warmed and scrubbed up nightly in SAM's sauna. We moaned about the mud as though about an annoying but dearly-loved old friend.
Knockengorroch. Scotland, fires, friendliness, dogs, trucks, benders and mud. An olde-style festival that somehow combines being well-organised with being informal and non-commercial. We love it. See you at 'The Hairth' - Knockengorroch in September.
Beltane, Thornborough &
Weirdigans in-two-places-at-once magical manoeuvre especially for Beltane!
We took our smaller set-up (two house-tents and a big tarp) to 'Madfarmer's Farm' near Northallerton on Saturday evening and catered until 2am to a trickle of happy campers. Unusually for stay-up-all-nighters we were quite pleased to get to bed after a hectic day of vehicular anomalies (flat batteries and flat tyres). Just start-of-season hiccups to get the adrenaline rolling.
By Sunday morning we were raring to go, swiftly dismantling half the cafe and whisking it away to Thornborough Henge. Pagans and picknickers gathered there for an afternoon of light-hearted Beltane ceremonials, springtime countryside and Weirdigans cake. Early evening the breakaway posse were back at the farm campsite, re-constructing the cafe and baking more cake in our brand new shiny oven. Djs sparked up their tunes in the shallow valley below us and wild dancing through the night ensued. Our hot drinks and fire warmed the hands and knees of resting party-goers until midday on May 1st. A lovely start to the season (though it could've been a bit warmer...).
REVIEW: Season Launch Party, Hebden Bridge, March '06
Weirdigans Launch the Season with SELL OUT 'Mad Hatters and April Fools' Party ... What a way to start !!
This was a sell out event with people coming from far flung places to attend, dance, perform and enjoy themselves !! ...
Having travelled over 3000 miles to be with us with his accordian - only to leave it on the bus from Tod - Prince Mishkin was a little upset, but nonetheless adapted some of his work to the piano to play for folks as they arrived at the Trades Club.
Bizarre introductions from Dr Dai De'ath and his relatives punctuated the night with a sense of macabre jolliness that is rarely experienced.
Lush Bijou's aural extravaganza provided by Lillah Bijou accompanied by La Belle Madelaine on accordian was earth moving and finished with a song which, if you weren't there is hard to imagine but just think of Marlene Dietrich singing Tainted Love !!
The night was the global debut for four-piece ensemble The Tropes. Following singer Josh's success in the Stars in their Minds singer-songwriter competition, the expanded band were promoting their first ep - 'So I says to him'. Despite declaring themselves lazier than the Stone Roses and more chilled out than Ötzi the ice man himself, they entertained and brought life to their tunes and the night.
The music brought a miraculous return to life for the shrunken head of Kane De'ath just before the Wierdstring Band's performance. These innovative musical talents originated before time began in the mint mines of Kendal, only to surface in Hebden Bridge with the ability to take songs from different eras and styles, combining them all to confound and delight the audience.
DJ 'Well Hung' Ron & The Gecko 'I'm not a gimp' Man, following their Bernard Manning support slot on a recent tour (?!?!?), provided banging tunes for the groovers in the audience as a prelude to the fabulous ELECTRIC BRAINS with their ear-splitting blend of pyschedelic garage genius who - as usual - left the crowd wanting more.
Die-Anne De'ath (who bore more than a familial resmblance to Dr Dai) and Smiley Dave did a great job of getting the raffle done in record time in the intermission. Cake, wine and whisky - top prizes !!
Freya the Blonde Nordic
goddess then took us to the end
of the night with fine tunes for yet more dancing and some cracking
visuals from Magic Lantern.
Staff kept the beer flowing and provided sound assistance too and The Trades Club was absolutely packed out well before the end of the night.
The resulting fun and funds raised will set up Weirdies to start the season being fully solar powered for 2006 !!!
Apart from all the above, it was rubbish !!
Knockengorroch, Scotland, Oct '05
Some of us were supposed to be on holiday.
"Hey, do we want to go to a small, probably wet festival & work 16 hours a day, or shall we stick to the plan of relaxing by the sea in sunny Greece?" "Erm...let's go to Scotland!"
Are we crazed or what? But it was Weirdigans 1st venture North of the border & the last festie of the year, & none of us wanted to miss out. We went with Wal & Co & their acoustic instruments, tacked their lovely berber tent onto our classic army version, decorated the whole area with fab fake flowers, lit it all up with LED fairy lights ...& lo! we were the 'Acoustic Village'. Right next door to SAMs Sauna too, behind which was a patch of woodland with gurgling stream for Scandanavian-style plunges between sauna bouts. It doesn't get much better than that for location, so even at the beginning of the festival, contending with mist, rain, mud & lack of punters, we didn't get down-hearted.
As the weekend progressed musicians turned up in droves & drank brandy coffee through the night to fuel their fiddling, while the woodstove in the berber & the cosy carpeted Weirdigans 'front room' kept the Autumnal chill at bay. It all peaked on Sunday night when Wal & Co played with gusto, skill & tremendous endurance for 12 hours non-stop. From 3am onwards we were the only open venue on site & our Acoustic Village was crammed & buzzing. A beautiful end to a small, friendly, non-commercial, old-style festie (dogs, fires, benders & trucks welcome). Torrential rain hampered our packing-up on Monday, but we loved Knockengorroch & will definitely be back.
We were a little bit scared. This was a 'proper' wedding with fancy clothes, white marquees, tiered cake, free bar, 3-course lunch & evening buffet. And - yikes - Weirdigans were responsible for the last three! Dunc was head chef, Smiley D ran the bar, we had 3 Daves on board (Smiley, Boatie & Blond) as well as Brian & Tim (who wasn't supposed to be working but couldn't help himself - thanks Tim). There were a few hiccups, our food order from Suma didn't turn up until 7pm on Friday, but by Saturday lunchtime we were ready to go. Weirdigans usually only serve vegetarian food but we made an exception in this case, scouring London for top-quality organic meat in order to cater for the largely non-veggie guests while not compromising our ethics.
The menu (for 100 people) was: Carrot & Coriander Soup or Melon with Crystallised Ginger to start; Lamb Curry or Gardener's Pie or Chicken & Mango Salad for the main course, with side salads, bread & rice; followed by Blackberry & Apple Crumble or Fresh Strawberries with Cream. Plus, a chocolate Devil's Dream Cake baked by Dunc especially for the bride who'd previously confessed to being a chocoholic. My mouth's watering just remembering it. Not that we had time to eat. As soon as the feast was over it was time to clear & move tables, wash up, pour drinks, cut the cake & prepare the buffet. It was a bit of a scramble, but by 9pm the guests were gorging themselves all over again on organic cheeses, olives, salads, dips & nibbles. We were exhausted but over-the-moon; we'd done it! Our most elaborate, extravagant adventure so far, made all the more worth it by the thanks & gratitude lavished on us by the bride & groom, their families & many of the guests. We loved the comment in one of the speeches - "You may have noticed the caterers are a little odd..." - thankfully the speaker went on to praise the quality of food & service!
Solfest, Cumbria, Aug '05
For this one we teamed up with a fantastic bunch of musicians & tacked our tent onto the 24-hour Acoustic Tent. A match made in heaven! The music attracted & entertained people while Weirdigans comfy, cosy lounge-space & brews warmed & relaxed them. We were busier than ever before & short-staffed to boot, the cakes were demolished really fast, everyone was working double-overtime & having the time of their lives. At some point (the time/day/date thing is completely hazy) everything ran out - tea, coffee, the lot. Hasty shopping trips were arranged, reinforcements were called in (Weirdigans owe friends big favours) & novice-Weirdies were taught the subtle arts of water-butt carrying & revival-ball-making. The festival itself was great, not that any Weirdigans had chance to venture out for long (though one or two were seen boogying in Disco Fromage when they should've been catching a rare bit of kip). On the basis of this one we decided to postpone our much-anticipated end-of-season holidays & join the acoustic muso's at Knockengorroch in mid-Sept...
Masterpeace, North Yorkshire, Aug '05
Masterpeace. It was hit & miss, contradiction & paradox. Interesting & unpredictable, from the "Sorry, it's cancelled"..."Oh no, that was a mistake, it's still on" emails a week beforehand, right up to the wild rumours on Sunday afternoon - "The police have revoked the licence & security have done a runner, it's over"..."Oh no, that was a mistake, there'll be bands on tonight & look there's a security guy over there".
There was glorious sunshine & torrential rain, a bright full moon & mist-filled valleys. There were a few disgruntled punters & DJs who'd been led to expect something big & slick & glitzy & loud, but most of us hugely enjoyed the friendly, intimate, organic, make-it-up-as-you-go-along nature of the thing. It was a proper festival, with a good crowd of people determined to put effort, energy & enthusiasm into having a great time & creating something special from very little. The landowner was a lovely guy, the site was lush. The organisers maybe bit off a little more than they could chew - they pulled in far less people than they'd hoped & were a lot more disorganised than they'd have liked, but they did a grand job under difficult circumstances & were brave/optimistic enough to keep going when the production company they were working with pulled the carpet from under their feet.
So - good one Dan, & big Thanks to those who made it a lovely weekend - the overworked stewards, Andy & co with the yurts & pizza oven, Roly & co with the chill-out domes, the glamorous herbal girls, Tetchi & all the rest. Weirdigans had a wonderful time & if it happens again (rumour has it that it may well do, despite the hiccups this year) we reckon we'll be back.
Big Green Gathering, Cheddar, Aug '05
Weirdigans were sited under a lovely old beech tree; great, except scaremongers kept mentioning that beeches are notorious for dropping branches. Still, we survived Thursday night's storms & lived to relish the shade of our tree on Sunday & Monday when the sun shone gloriously & dried up all the damp patches.
The Big Green...it's one of the best. There's respect & frivolity in equal measure - even the policefolk joined in, wearing feathers & flowers in their hats & posing for photos with jolly grins plastered across their faces. To be there providing shelter from wind, rain & sun; sharing our cosy chill-out lounge; being a stage for itinerant musicians; stoking a fire on chilly nights; making beans on toast for breakfast (a Big Green fave, particularly amongst the toddlers)...it was a pleasure & a privelege. Dunc's increasingly famous cakes sold out by mid-afternoon on Saturday, prompting Elf to invent improvised cheesecake & 'chocolate wonder clusters'. Smiley Dave's 12-volt LED lighting system worked a treat, though we need about 16,000 more LEDs (well, maybe 160 would do, & maybe we'll be able to afford them by next year).
to the Big Green organisers & crew for having us...&
please have us back next year! Groovy Movie & SAMs sauna -
thanks for being great & giving me space to chill in when I
wasn't working. Linda Loaf & The Milkman - cheers for the
brilliant delivery service. (Linda Loaf & The Milkman? There's
a name for a band...).
It was like coming home again. Same idyllic field (idyllic if it was not full of 10,000 ravers, that is), though this year our pitch was much closer to the thick of it and next door to the Pussy Parlure (an amazing mobile bar and stage made of wood, stained glass windows and mirrors & run by an ever so helpful and friendly crew - cheers for help putting up the tent, guys). The Glade crew had once again outdone themselves, creating a magical mystery land of giant octopuses, out of this world sculptures, giant flags fluttering in the wind and lots of general weirdness.
The Weirdigans were me (Dunc), Em (Elf), Dave B, Lucy, Alex and Tim, plus Gordon the driver. They all worked their little socks off to provide tea, coffee and cake through all the hours to the wide-eyed punters. As well as dishing out vitamin-rich salads to help everyone revive their tired, danced out bodies. Due to the shift patterns I failed to get out and see any of the music (boo hoo). But every one else seemed to be having a great time when they wandered back in, still jigging away to the tunes from one of the seven music stages. The weather was glorious all weekend, and the rain only came late on Monday after the tent was down and safely packed away in Gordon's van. Cannot wait till next year!
Kulu Summer Party, Yorkshire, July '05
was in the air. It was like 1990 all over again as rumours of a secret
outdoor party wafted over the moors. Weirdigans waited for the go-ahead
to join the convoy as it cruised through town & out into the
countryside. At a mystery location in the North of England, 3 vans
& 2 cars disgorged a posse of 30 organisers & helpers
who swiftly carried a shedload of equipment over rugged ground to the
party site. A fierce wind fought tarps & ropes, but 2 hours
later the gennie was running, fairy lights were flashing, music was
pumping, dancers were flailing their arms under the night sky,
& Weirdigans were doing what they do best - serving tea, coffee
& cake to a very appreciative audience. A refusal to be
thwarted by rain in the wee hours was rewarded by a gorgeous dawn, the
sun rising & streaming over the moors to warm our cockles
& bring new energy to the dancers. A mere 12 hours after our
arrival the site was cleared, clean as a whistle, no-one would ever
know we'd been there. Magic.
Weirdies & friends catered, built & ran a sweatlodge, did a fireshow & christened their new 12-volt lighting system...despite the fact that half of them were at Glastonbury wading through floods at the time. It was a mellow gathering of 300 pagans and witches with quirky stalls, intriguing workshops & a big communal fire. In the evening there were superb acoustic performances from local artists like Mabel Blue and Clive Russell and enthusiastic drumming round the fire. And the weather was better than down South!
Wow! The Nutclough garden was transformed by pixies into a magical wonderland complete with ceremonial altar, stage, bar, dining & dance areas. Nutclough-ers, Weirdigans, honorary Weirdigans, musicians, artists and of course friends & family of the beamingly happy couple filled the space with colour, glamour & good vibes. The day was the hottest of the year, bubbles & balloons & dried-flower-petal confetti floated through the air, the ceremony brought tears to a few eyes, the feast was fantastic (thanks to all who helped), the fireworks were spectacular and the celebrations continued until dawn. The Weirdigans tent, put up in case of rain, provided shade from the sun instead!
Folk Festival, Cumbria, May '05
A private gathering on land owned by friends-of-friends...a weekend of fiddling and fluting, campfires and catching-up. Rain and mud on Friday (the Weirdie van got stuck on the track - oops) turned to blazing sunshine by Sunday. Weirdigans provided hearty wholesome sustenance - breakfasts of porridge and beans-on-toast; chillis and stews and soups for dinner - while jigging around behind the counter, caught up in the irresistible energy of the fast-paced traditional tunes. Lovely!
Beltane, Thornbro' Henge & Ilton
Temple, May '05
Weirdigans first gig of the year...a sunny Sunday in North Yorkshire, serving tea and cake at two different locations in one day. First stop, Thornborough Henge for a meaningful but light-hearted pagan ceremony (involving a pantomime horse and culminating in a series of Handfastings) after which there was a serious run on Dunc's delicious homemade carrot cake. Then it was pack up the tent double-quick, fill the water barrels and hot-foot it to Ilton Temple, set up the tent again beside the Victorian folly of a stone circle (very authentic and atmospheric) and...more tea and cake. The Weirdigans did their stay-up-all-night thing, cooking veggie hotpot and keeping the fire stoked to warm the hands and bellies of the revellers. Dawn brought sunshine and clear blue skies... the summer had begun...