Thursday, 10 August 2006

Big Green Gathering

big green gathering

august 2006

This year there was no Shambala Festival, but the desire to pitch tent and drink Chai was too strong to ignore so an alternative festival was required to sate our thirst. Many are on offer, but how do you select one from the many, unless you have a specific criteria. The choice was reduced somewhat by others wanting to attend at the same time, so co-ordinating time schedules became paramount. Two made the shortlist, but only one can be attended, and the winner was 'The Big Green Gathering'. I know people who have attended the northern version of this festival, and have had a great time, but to visit the big one would be different, for one thing, it would be down south.

This year transport would be relatively simple, as other northerners are to be attending, they who attended Shambala for the first time last year, and are wanting to repeat the experience. Also an offer of a lift has been made and accepted, so i will be travelling with Jill, Carl and Lily. Also attending would be friends from Cornwall, those being Pla, Kirsty, Freya & Willow, and travelling from Yorkshire would be Chris & Francis.

The journey down was quick and painless, and a rendezvous arranged at services to accertain a suitable route to the festival. After a short wandering down tight country lanes our goal was in sight. Large fields beckoned us with waiting carparks, in which we could secure a spot and unload our equipment. As with all festivals, camping is positioned away from our vehicles so all our goodies must be moved by hand, or by any available means. Here horse power has been laid on, and horse drawn carts transport our bits to camping areas, basic but effective, this is a green festival after all.

Finding a large enough spot to accomodate our tents provided a slight obstac le as many weary travellers had already made camp, and space was rather limited, but space was found and the pegging began. Soon our camp began to take shape and the rest of our belongings retrieved from the cars, transported on backs and bike powered rickshaw type arrangement. We are here and ready to begin.

Like Glastonbury, this festival is spread over many fields, themed to accomodate differing tastes and desires. The Campaign field had stalls dedicated to informing people of differing ideologies from conspiracy theories to nuclear disarmament, and solar powered showers to running your car on vegetable oil. The family field had a funfair at one end, a huge open area in the middle for daily events, and a pub at the other for their parents who need beverages of an organically intoxicating format. If arts & crafts float your coracle, then the craft field would be the obvious location in which to exercise your facination. Chipping away at a stone or making a batik painting to take home can while away many an hour if you so intend. Or try your hand at some felt craft even willow bending, its heaven for occupational therapy, and a good way of discovering new hobbies and interests.

Other fields are themed in other ways, some more mystical than others, alternative healing gives respite to those with ails to be cured, or just to chill out around the stone circle.You can aimlessly wander from field to field in whatever state of mind you bring with you or endevour to discover, even meet yourself travelling the other way if you try hard enough.

Joining all the differing fields together food stalls assault your nasal passages, all of which provide nourishment of a vegetarian persuasion, Jamaican stalls rub shoulders with Indonesian, mexican is sold next to indian and Chai tea is sold by the bucketload. All the food is as organic as possible, sometimes a little pricey, but generally its all worth it, especially if you discover a new vegetable you would like to take home with you. If clothing takes your fancy then a festival high street splits the main fields in two. Jackets, jumpers, and jerkins are always available, festival fashions festooned in a myriad of colours shapes and sizes are arranged on racks to peruse and pour over. Often we return after careful consideration to purchase such items, to be worn continuously, or until the festival ends.

What is a festival without music, a festival without music. But this festival had music, and lots of it, more than you could shake a whole basket full of sticks at, and again many genre's for many tastes. Arthur Brown without his crazy world, headlined Thursday night without his crazy headwear, but for a man of his years, his performance was full of fire, good humour and his classic fire. Strange industrial techno preceeded Saturdays fireshow, loops of noise grabbed some by the Bjorks, some loved it and some hated it, but it was different and compelling. Nik Turner was scheduled to play with Galacticos, and did so, but the previous night, without any prior warning played in a chai tent with Space Ritual, must to the dismay of Mr Pla (a long time Hawkwind/Nik Turner addict), as he missed it. To finish Sunday night, The Baghdaddies performed Ska with a middle eastern twist, no oil crazed illegal invasion here, just damn fine music to end a damn fine festival.

So what else was happening during the festival, well plenty of wanderings, a fair quantity of alcohol consumed both during the day and in the evening, two locals became frequented, one being the Bimble bar situated near the bottom of the family field, the second being a magnificent chai tent usually visited last thing at night for an evening tipple. Amongst the other sights were Terry Pratchet, well if it wasn't him he has an identical twin. At least one wedding was performed, a mobile confessional captured unexpecting sinners, several grumpy goblins saught out gobliny things and death and mrs bolster paid a visit.

Sorry Shambala, you have lost your crown for family festivals, five days of chilled out fun, with perfect camping weather thrown in for good measure. Even though there are probably 3-4 times as many people attending The Big Green Gathering than last years Shambala, it felt far less crowded, plus there is much more to see and do, just a shame there is no mass fancy dress, maybe that could be suggested for next year, as for next year, i would like to do it all over again.

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