Sunday, 18 July 2010

Buddhafield Festival


The picture is of Deor as Troll, in the Majical Youth Theatre opening ceremony parade to open the Buddhafield Festival (before the rain started!).
Another week, another festival...this time a much smaller one. And talk about work! When Widsith and Deor started off doing festivals with the visual arts and crafts skills based members of the Collective, years ago, mostly right at the beginning because they said 'do you want to come to...?' at first we told tales to workshoppers to keep them amused while they were making things, or told tales to folks waiting to be shown what to do, or to parents waiting for their offspring to finish making whatever it was, then soon sold ourselves as a sequential package, with folks doing a workshop and then wearing and brandishing their theatrical items during a following performance....we considered ourselves a great team sharing and preparing the Pavilion in good turnaround time over and over again, as we learned to pitch and unpitch in less and less time, and of course all about all the clearing up that goes into getting the site back to normal once it's all over. Over gigs, we also picked up how to help in the workshops themselves. Whether cutting up fabric in the right way, or being shown how to tie the wings onto participants...next how to weave willow and actually help make the stock. Then about how to decorate it, then making something to start off with in order to show folks that something was going on, as much as how to make it...then one started showing people how to from scratch...then doing so much that one had to cut one's own willow, learn about the growing season, about how to soak it and the different types...then setting about storing the fabrics, and how much was needed...and at last having ideas for our own workshops (leather) linked to our storytelling gear and costumes. Then having our own structure (the tipi currently), and now, (due to the visual artists pulling out of this assignment), we now have done everything ourselves, from start to finish.

Our gallant helpers did their best at stepping into the breach, but one was a juggler not a craftsperson, and who had two children under five to boot! and no transport so was reliant on trains and a tent (including in torrential rain and the charming force 8 gale which blew away one of the music venue marquees on Thursday night!) and the other was double booked in any case, doing her wonderful tree people on stilts act elsewhere on Saturday, dependent on a lift to get there, and meanwhile having had her van broken into so having to leave early... Lastly, Circus Ben (it was so good to see a friendly face not long after we arrived!) helped cart stuff up to the craft area, and looked in from time to time, and did sterling work pushing the corners of our marquee upward to let down some of the heavy rain in the downpour which threatened to set the marquee awash at one point! but after all, was there working for Swamp Circus, and so again, was only there when he could spare a moment.
So we pretty much did the bulk of it all by ourselves. And I can definitely say that six hours craft workshops daily in willow and leather, storytelling out of doors (against the usual festival racket), carting loads of stuff up hill and down dale, cleaning up afterwards for over two hours (around 24 hours in total over the five days not including preparation, set up and take down), coping with a near flood, bailing out water, and taking up the floor for the organizers whose tent it was afterwards, is utterly exhausting. We offered leather plaited wristbands, gauntlets, eyemasks, pirate eyepatches, willow wings, crowns, headddresses, mobiles, flags, swords and then den and tipi building as well as our usual storytelling...including a flood tale as the rain lashed down and the wind rocked the marquee, and folks cheered as the story ended along with the worst onslaught...AND (as the organizers were crew short themselves) even hosted a painting session as well (not something I'd choose to offer - paint all over the floor - visions of purgatory...).
I can also say it's the world's worst way to sell books as the weather made even getting them out of the van out of the question, until day 3 when I was far too tired to even think of trying to do anything else at the same time, and the idea of a pitch in the middle of the lower field when the sun came out after clocking off past five just appealed about as much as a mud shower... There must be easier and better ways of doing this...I thought.

But if nothing else, we've proved what a long way we've come...from working with artists of other disciplines to absorbing their skills to replicating (in common work areas anyway) their competencies... And that must mean 'one can do anything', surely? I remember when I thought that folks who could make all this stuff and/or teach it were just amazing...and here I was doing it all my/ourselves... But spare a thought for the folks who work at the festivals if you are going to any but not working at them this summer! It's very far indeed from Bilbo Baggin's 'pony rides in May sunshine'...I just wish that such work, (as he wished about adventures), was!

Big thanks to Circus Ben, Trees on Stilts Sadie, Lizzie the juggler, Crafty Clare in the marquee next door, Cecelia the facepainter with whom we shared the marquee, and Helen and the Majical Youth folks for wanting us there. And lastly to the participants who made such amazing things - especially all those who made such fantastic gauntlets, wristbands and masks! Wow.

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