Where can you make things out of clay, or sew your own toy, watch a two person short play and a monologue about the Marquis De Sade before toddling off to the Cabaret tent to watch burlesque? The Chelmsford Fling in Essex, that’s where! Have a look online here. And the best part? No children!
In the cabaret tent Desmond O Connor (who’s popped up as MC for Bizarre Magazine’s Ball more than once) serenaded us with increasingly rude songs on the ukelele and Ginger Blush engaged the crowds in burlesque bingo (like normal bingo but with corsets), all punctuated with lovely ladies dancing about and removing items of clothing. Oh, and one man, he was quite nice too.
Elsewhere in the Make Do And Mend tent you could create your own toy, or watch two professional actors in a short play in the Storytime tent. If that’s not enough you can make things out of clay or your own hat if you don’t mind looking really stupid, or watch experimental films whilst drinking refreshing smoothies in the Psychedelic Film tent. Oh yeah, and somewhere there was some live music playing.
Obviously it’s already happened this year, but make sure you get to the next if you can and buy advance tickets as the price goes up considerably on the door. Now here are some pictures to highlight the experience:
I’ve just read two of my stories aloud to a dictaphone, which made me feel a bit silly. Hopefully it’ll help me memorise them as I’ll be performing them this summer as one of my Braintree Ways characters, possibly at the Brighton Fringe, the Camden fringe and a smaller venue in Edinburgh (the paperwork has been arduous).
It reminds me of the ancient way of storytelling by the aborigines or the Saxons or American Indians. I like to think of them sitting around a fire passing on tales they heard from their grandfathers – about pimp trolls and trains that take people to Hell.
Last weekend I went to Lodestar Festival in Cambridge. It’s quite a cheap one which is great, £55 for camping at the weekend and £22 for the day. I have to admit a lot of the music wasn’t really to my taste (quite a lot of it was indie) but most of them were local and it was a good platform for that sort of thing.
The stall traders were local, the shops sold hippie/alternative stuff (I’m not a hippie, I just like the clothes) and Cambridge Community Circus provided workshops and entertainment. On Saturday night they and a few others going by the name ‘Wildfire Productions‘ performed a fire show with staff, poi, fans etc and it was lots of fun, they brought a lot of personality to it. I learned I’m a terrible juggler with, as my friend Angie said, the coordination of a bee. With my fetish for circus performers, however, I was delirious with joy.
We spent most of our time in the tea and shisha tent The Cloud Lounge, where we smoked fruit pipes and drank a variety of tea. It felt so much like sitting in a front room I got a surprise every time I turned around and saw a festival. The tables and part of the wall were there for people to write on using felt pens, and I felt a regression to nursery as I scribbled ‘braintreeways.com‘ on every available surface.
Parts of it were extremely middle class and/or hippie (someone was giving away free packs of Jordan’s country crisp cereal, and the off-key recorder playing from the spiritual tent provided moments of unintentional humour) but it’s a really nice small, local festival and I definately recommend giving it a try. I’m not sure I’d camp over again but the circus, stalls and friendly Cloud Lounge staff mean we’ll definately go back for a day next year.
In the middle of August we three travelled all the way to Scotland to the Edinburgh Festival. We were lucky enough to stay with a friend, but I have previously stayed in a hostel with a few friends and found it to be a good option. If there’s enough of you an entire room can be overtaken, but remember – weeing around the perimeter as a form of territorialism is a bad idea.
Edinburgh’s looks are enough to make you fall in love with it. I lived for four years in Bath and it has the same Georgian style buildings and hills framing the distance, but there’s so much more to it than lovely but sleepy Bath it feels almost like a graduation.
You go out with a plan to see three shows and end up seeing twice as many, sometimes only from sitting in a pub and hearing about a free play/comedy act in that very venue.
When I visited Folkestone last winter I was very surprised. I knew there would be sea, and walks by the sea, and tea by the sea, and maybe a town by the sea, but I had no idea what else was waiting. I’ll be honest; I expected to be so bored I’d end up wandering in the dead of night, wailing and rendering my garments. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.
I had arrived in the middle of an enormous art festival completely by chance and discovered Folkestone has an area named ‘The Creative Quarter.’ Although the festival itself is once every three years (next should be 2014) The Creative Quarter is dedicated to the arts all year round. As it says on their website they have “become home to a thriving collection of studios and (creative) businesses.”
I wandered past the extensive market in the town centre, foaming at the mouth with excitement. The Quarter didn’t let me down; the buildings were as colourful as Mr Men books and each held a different adventure.
It’s a well-worn phrase but there really is something for everyone. Some galleries were smooth and shiny as a space-ship containing beautiful landscapes and portraits. Others were dingy buildings with patchy walls and attic smells. They were my favourites; entering into darkness while a man pulled comedy faces on a screen was like falling into a separate universe.
These were mostly run by a group called The Folkestone Arts Collective displaying video art, sculptures, performance, paintings, models and interactive if you count the coal I got on my jumper from one sculpture’s ‘teeth.’ Personally I loved the video art as there were some beautiful and unexpected moments, such as the Lynchian scenes of a pensioner’s tea dance.
Some of the work I saw was playful, some serious, some reflective and one terrifying – for a moment I had thought a man tied to a chair with a sack on his head was real. I’d stumbled across it in a dark corner and had actually felt goose-bumps. To calm down I enjoyed a cup of tea in Googies Art Café – a pleasant and relaxing place with yet more paintings on the walls.
The local students were just as involved as gallery owners and professional artists and, even better, it was all free. If travel isn’t a concern or you live nearby, I really recommend a visit; check the websites to see what events are taking place. It’s better than spending a holiday wailing and rendering garments.
I remember the night I looked as though a rainbow had thrown up on me. I was transformed into a Gorgon and ordered to hide in the forest, frightening visitors. It was a good weekend all round, during a warm August in 2006.
I had been asked to come along to an outdoor charity event to be dressed up as a “sexy Medusa,” so said the lady on the phone. It was part of a Dante’s Inferno theme in a hidden, forested corner of some private land which the partygoers would be lured to after dark. Why the hell not? I roped a friend into driving me there and back; it wasn’t too far and there’d be free drinks. On the Friday night my friend Angie showed up in her small black Ka, which suited her personality well as my half Fillipino friend is also small and neat. She was dressed elegantly as we were both under the impression they were very rich and very posh.
They were too posh to give us good directions, but eventually we arrived at the entrance to a field. It looked just like a festival, with tented bars and dancing areas overlooked by a many bedroomed monster house. We were greeted at the front gate by a blonde lady who explained my role for the evening. My body was to be painted and I would wear a clinging dress with a headdress resembling snakelike hair. I was excited.
Angie and I drank Cosmopolitans with our little fingers raised and at 9 O’clock I received the bat signal summoning me to the mansion. The first thing I saw indoors was a curly haired young man whose skin was painted like tree bark. “I’m one of the lost souls in the trees at the gates of Hell,” he introduced himself cheerfully. He had twigs in his hair for extra effect, and to show maximum tree skin was wearing nothing but shorts. I slipped into a tight pink dress and took my place in front of a sweet lady with a shaved head and rainbow top.
The painting was laborious but the tree-man, or Hugh, entertained me with camp excitability and Angie became my PR, answering my phone and fetching us drinks. As well as us there were two other girls dressed as a lost soul and a Gorgon.
Eventually every part of my visible skin was pink, blue or yellow. My face was painted toinclude small fangs and huge eyelashes, and then the headdress went on. It was made of felt and snaked down to my stomach. Now I was a real Gorgon, and I preened in front of the mirror before a girl in the doorway said, “Oh, you look like a giant prawn!”
We were ushered to our hiding spot through a tunnel of trees. Red streamers hung to the ground at the entrance, in the dark it was like entering a dream. My bare feet padded on the soft grass until we arrived in Hell – a pleasant open woodland with tall trees, a band and a bar. Several mannequins painted up like Hugh were dotted about for good measure. I always knew Hell was more fun than Heaven.As we waited we were joined by a dark haired girl in a purple fairy dress balancing on stilts. We excitedly chatted and waited, and waited, until it was 1am and I had begun to believe I truly looked like a giant portion of seafood. We waited some more, and at 2.30 am it finally happened.
I was handed a mega-phone as we invaded the tent and soon a very British orderly queue had formed. As it disappeared we floated after them, the tree people taking up positions amongst the foliage, the Gorgons drifting in and out of the trees and the girl on stilts picking her way through the crowds as they danced to the band.
People stared at me in wonder as I slipped past them. It was a very odd feeling and quite nice, validating my delusions of grandeur. After a few hours we felt we had done our duty as ethereal beings and it was time to enjoy the party. We danced about until I noticed the sun had crept into the sky. A man I had spoken to once was obviously feeling the ever ticking pressure of time and asked if he had ‘pulled me yet’. I decided it was time to leave.
I’m always amazed by how much smaller everything seems in daylight. When you’ve been lost in a dark, private world it’s easy to feel that it will stretch on forever, but the ‘gates of Hell’ had become once again a tunnel of trees and, beyond that, a very ordinary car park.
I changed into my clothes and called Angie. I was impressed with the way she had managed to sleep in the car, it’s not an easy thing to do. I slipped into the seat next to her as she woke herself up properly. “Did you have fun?” She asked as she began the drive home.