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.
Most of the articles/stories on this site I’ve written for fun (unless they’re segments of published stories), but this one appears on a travel site. This version’s better. Hidden within these words you’ll find my previous life as a student of Bath Spa University. Bits of it are very studenty, such as the preoccupation with pubs.
If lively entertainment and surreal festivals are your thing, Bath is the answer when you want something a little different. From punk to street parades, it has it all.
Forget the pretty Georgian buildings (although they are lovely) and drunken students singing rugby songs; if you’re a tourist in Bath there is a lot more to see. If you’re around in the summer both tourists and locals alike will recommend the Bath Fringe Festival. Beginning on the 25th May and ending on the 10th of June, it’s a two-week journey into the surreal with performances from underground theatre groups in various venues around town. Many are often set in the Chapel Arts Centre, Bath’s ‘alternative arts venue,’ alongside late night pubs and parties. Let me tell you, it was an experience hearing a Dalek recite a DaDaist poem at 1 in the morning.
However it is the parades the festival is best known for. Only on the street party Walcot Nation Day (Walcot Street of course) can you be confronted with the likes of an 8-foot furry spider; it may be a man on stilts in costume but it’s still impressive. In the brilliant sunshine the chaos of the day becomes more and more pronounced, “I ended up on the back of a stranger’s bike handing out fliers for an art exhibition whilst being followed by circus performers swallowing fire,” recalls local Susie Morris, 27, fondly.
Crazy festivities aside, for those a little more local to Bath there is still a lot to keep a person entertained when the slow-walking tourists have gone. Aside from watching the ever-present street performers in the Square by the beautiful cathedral, or strolling around market stalls of alternative/hippie clothes and jewellery, you could sample the local flavour on a pub crawl. Start with vegetarian pub The Porter Cellar Bar, which is good fun with a variety of music (it’s best if you like it very loud), and full of pierced eye-candy both male and female. Through the gradually ascending hip hop or other ‘cool’ music you’re bound to meet all the young things of the area, and downstairs you’ll occasionally find bands, acoustic performers or comedy.
Next, off to Mandolin’s, the gay pub, which is always very full at the weekend; next there’s the Bell, favoured place of hippies and Rastafarians, and finish at the Porter Butt. This last place is famous for “loud and vicious” techno and punk nights, and is proud of its lack of shine. Andy Tanner, the landlord, lovingly describes it as having “a 1970s floor, nicotine walls and a flock of parrots to collect the dust, and the best pool table in Bath.” Something to bear in mind is the massive variety of ales on offer.
Upon waking the next day with a very sensitive head and a need for something more soothing, you can have a good breakfast at one of the many art cafes.
Upstairs in these venues are often poetry nights or art exhibitions, and there are a number of open mic nights (evenings that encourage anybody to grab the mike and perform) held monthly in assorted sites. Anyone can have a go as long as they’re brave enough, and a bar is always available.
If hair of the dog is the only way, head for the aforementioned Bell on Walcot Street. Settle down with a bottle of Weston’s cider amongst the canal dwellers, grizzled old hippies and dreadlocked residents to a soundtrack of folk or reggae, and later on liven up to a ska band at weekends. As happy hour reaches ever nearer, you have a couple of options open to you. You can either head to On the Video Front DVD rental and savour the joys of Hammer horrors, video nasties, worldwide indie cinema, the entire two series of Twin Peaks and many, many more; or you can head back down to the Porter and begin the journey all over again.