Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts

I - Setting Up and Taking Down / Performances & Workshops

Strange to be back at the computer, indoors, and with a faint buzzing in my hearing that everyone else assures me they can't hear...also not to be covered in dust.
Five of us went up in a convoy of two vans, and after various unavoidable detours and delays, we arrived at last on site last Tuesday (a week ago now, incredibly) to try and pitch a 16ft. high tipi (which none of us had ever done before). So we were already tired by Wednesday lunchtime... We had brought far too much stuff, and Wednesday was spent sorting the camping gear from the storytelling bodymasks, the carnival heads, and all the props and visuals that go with the shows, from the willow workshop stuff from the leather workshop stuff from the cooking gear from the book stall.....then getting the vehicle to the off site car park that had only a short stay pass, making wings and swords for the next day's workshop, and generally being really grateful it wasn't raining or cold, as there was so much to do! (It reminded me why I love doing gigs at indoor venues, because the body masks are great at tearing holes in cushions and sleeping bags, and add a tipi including huge poles on the roof rack, step ladder and lanterns to decorate the venue and you have inevitably got damage. It's so nice when promoters invite you to do an indoor gig and put you up as well...so much less stuff to take.) But this was Glastonbury, and, as the biggest performing arts festival in the country, we wanted to do things properly.
The next day we held a willow workshop and did storytelling at the same time, and in the evening we did a special adult storytelling set (as none of the bigger stages had anything on yet, so it seemed a very good time). We also were lucky, because as well as the four of us and two other members of the Collective who had come working for other areas, Clive Pig the Storyfella was also performing there! and so we hooked up, and invited him as our special guest star to the evening show (which we had been invited to do by the Daylight Studio opposite, very kindly). It was a great success, Clive doing an amazing tale involving accepting people's quirks, and being grateful for what you have, as a useless man swapped places with a buzzard, and soon was replaced when the buzzard married his wife! And we did two of our trademarks tales, ending with a literal bang as Lady Mary let off her blunderbus! In the following days, we held a longer willow workshop, programmed for the Ancient Futures marquee, making swords, headdresses and some folks made amazing wings! and a leather workshop involving friendship wristbands, small gauntlets, and eyemasks. Our performances included a set in the Permaculture Garden adjacent to the Tipi Field, and a walkabout as a Goblin and Troll stalked about and then sat and hobnobbed by the fire discussing the best ways to cook humans... Plenty of folks took pictures of our new unicorn and company (four carnival poles of unicorn, bear, giant bird head and horse's skull) and the two biggest bodymasks, especially the big green Great Dragon Kraa. We were delighted, as it wasn't as if there weren't a hundred other amazing things to look at and photograph! on the site, so we were chuffed to say the least. And we got plenty of kind praise for both the performances and the workshops. By Sunday we were distinctly dazed and confused, as were many if not most other people, in the heat and dust (and fermenting toilets) as it had really got a lot warmer on Friday morning and then built up from there... Everyone smelt and everything was either dusty or positively rancid! But Deor gathered the energy for a stirring closing tale at the central fire/gathering area of a Native American story called the Flying Head, which went down extremely well. Monday morning and we took down everything, dismantling camp, and packing it all up again...

II - Bookstalls Now and Then

And of course between workshops, up to forty minute round trips to the lav, performances, trying to keep any kind of order to know where anything was when based at three sites (tipi and two vans), longer suppers when we all came together to cook and debriefed afterwards, AND meeting up with the other two members of the Collective working at other areas, (never mind going out from 9 till 2 every night trying to see and experience as much as possible of a site the size of Bath) of course I had neglected to bring any kind of outdoor display unit for the books (a table on top of the rest of the pack had seemed like madness, and so it never made it). So much for hoping to knock something up on site... How stupid did that feel? With all those potential customers going past... In my defence I can only say that it's very stressful putting up a large structure never before tackled (the old tipi belonged to one of our members who now lives in NZ, and only one of us had ever tried to pitch it with her! and that years ago), and also - well, it had been some years since I had been there last.

The last time I went to Glastonbury was under the auspices of the late, great, poetry pioneer PVT West, founder and then organizer of the Poetry&Words Tent; the first year I went as a performer, and the second year she had asked three other poets to put together different quarters of the Tent's programme, of which I was one. The poets I asked worked really well together as they were a great variety of different approaches, and we called our sets 'The Lords of Misrule'. 'The Lords' being Matt Harvey (currently Wimbledon Tennis championships poet-in-residence) Nii Parkes (British Council UK writer-in-residence), Farren Gainer (of One Minute Theatre from Canada) Marie Stanbury (a soulful singer who half sings poetry, with her own band) Re;Leaf (a DJ poet/activist/sampler/mixing duo since disbanded) and myself. And the book stall was all ready and set up, where we all took turns to staff it.

III - The End - Thank You & Goodnight!

All in all, it was worth all the dust and heat, stress and shifting stuff miles. The workshops went well, Widsith and Deor Storytelling sets garnered some very favourable remarks, and it was a wonderful coincidence that the two other members whom we would have liked to bring (if we had had a team of six instead of four) had come working for other areas! Liz (textiles/flags/signs/carnival floats of www.merrymaker.co.uk) working in the Kidz Field doing flags etc. workshops and Ben (juggling/fire juggling/hexagonal marquee) in the Circus area. It was really good to be with them all, and to meet up with Clive Pig there too - all dedicated, gifted professionals whom it's always a pleasure to work with.

And then of course, there were all the amazing things to see and do...(but those are in the Performance blog). Huge thanks to Tara of Hearthworks for booking us, to The Daylight Studio for hosting our adult set, Clive Pig for performing with us, and all our lovely neighbours in the Tipi Field! And indeed everyone who performed, curated, created, organized, invented and made possible the marvellous acts and spectacles there to combine in a magical City of Wonders for four days. It was great to be part of it.

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