It might be the sweetcorn?!

The summer eventually had to come to an end, at least the travelling at festivals did, and after 8 festivals, lots of cheap cider and plenty of weather we had finally arrived at Shambala 2008. This was the only festival that we had to travel north for, and it was being held on the part of a country estate in Northamptonshire. Despite rumours of it being grim up north, we arrived to some fine weather and were looking forward to a festival that I'd heard so many good things about. The previous year some of friends attended Shambala and put on a bit of a performance under the Lazy Gramophone name of excellence. This year some of them would be back, but this time just to work and have plenty of fun at the same time. Amy and myself were working for Green Stewards, three six hour shifts over the weekend leaving us plenty of time to enjoy ourselves. I was as excited about Shambala as I have been for an festival I have ever been to, I didn't care that I hadn't heard of most of the artists, I could just tell that his was going to be a weekend full of laughter and happy days.

The weather was a bit soggy the first night, and by this point only Amy and myself had arrived out of our group, we were expecting Danny, Phil and Esther to turn up the following afternoon, but it nothing serious had so we enjoyed spending most of the Thursday relaxing outside the tent knowing we had no shifts until 7am the next day. Of course, relaxing would have been a whole lot better if a dirty big lorry hadn't suddenly decided to parked itself right in front of our tent. Taking this as a sign to have a bit of an explore I decided to try out the compost toilets, which were really nice, albeit a little drafty. The Shambala site is pretty small, but there is still plenty packed in without it feeling too cramped. There's a beautiful lake just by one stage, unsuprinsgly called the Lakeside Stage which is also powered entirely by renewable energy.

Just away from here was a man made beach, with beach huts, hot tubs and a sports field. Among the activities to take part in were five-a-side football, crazy golf and a spot of cricket. There were also some great pubs, one of which Danny and Esther were working in that was more comfortable than 90 per cent of the pubs in Britain. Sofas, fire pits out side, a piano, and whats more a healthy selection of local ale. Ideal! One stage called the Dome looked like a giant football, and there was even a rumour of a secret Disco that only appeared very late at night. There was still a bit of work to be completed before the site was ready, and we were forced to retreat to our tent after some serious prolonged rain hit the site. Sat in the tent it literally felt like someone was pouring a bucket of water over the tent, but eventually it subsided and we were able to stretch our legs for a bit. Cue a phone call from Esther, they had arrived but were camped in the other crew camping on the opposite side of the site, this news brought another downpour, so we hid in our tent until things improved. Once things had settled down we all met up, decided that their campsite was much better, so rather than pack up we just threw everything in the tent and carried it across the whole site, bringing some strange looks - except from two bloke who were doing exactly the same thing but heading in the opposite direction!

We were all finally settled into our little patch of home, and after a couple of ciders Danny and Phil kindly offered to share some pasta that they were cooking. or some reason the pasta had a lue falmbe aura surrounding it, and it seemed to take an age to cook but in the end it all looked half decent with some sweetcorn and sausage added to bulk it out a little. Danny got to try the first helping, but after the first mouthful he looked slightly concerned, something didn't taste quite right. Complaining of a metallic flavour Phil tried some and then Esther, noone looking particularly pleased with the whole experience. Maybe it was the sweetcorn? Phil suggested, trying some from the tin he had opened. Danny had a couple more mouthfuls before Phil finally realised what he had done. In their haste to eat the pasta hadn't been cooked using water from a bottle that they had, but instead Phil had used some of his Gran's 30 year old vodka that he had distilled into a plastic bottle. It was concentrated, flambed, vodka pasta. By now noone was left standing due to laughing,, and although he tried one last mouthful, Danny decided it was best to throw it away. It was a hilarious start to the weekend, and I still laugh when I think of Phil blaming it on the sweetcorn!

So we spent the first night hanging out in the Kamikaze Kaberet tent, where Phil was going to be doing some walkaround stuff dressed as a geisha during the weekend, but for tonight we settled in with some good cider and a small stage invasion that saw Amy and Phil busting some shapes on stage. Sadly the photos of this have suspiciously disappeared from Amy's camera so I can't show you the evidence, but believe me it was a good night! I think the experience of the poor dinner left Phil a little hungry as at one point he appeared to be trying to eat a bauble tree:

With an early morning shift the next day we didn't have a particularly crazy night, but in the morning I still felt I'd had a good time. We had a pretty easy first shift patrolling a market area, and mostly we were just giving directions, though we did acquire an umbrella that was incredibly useful! I found it behind an amusing seaside photo board of the like that ou often see in Blackpool:

It amazed us that we never actually got around to buying an umbrella the entire time we had been travelling around the festivals. After we had done our shift we hooked up with Phil and decided to take part in a little crazy golf. Danny and Esther were working in the pub nearby, so we after playing a little golf we enjoyed a pint and spent the afternoon relaxing and just enjoying the festival atmosphere. Once Danny and Esther finished we took in some circus treats from the Kamikaze Kaberet tent, before exploring what we called 'The Wilderness'. This was essentially a woodland area set slightly aside from the main festival site that had a variety of art installations, wood carvings and best of all, netting suspended from the various tree that you could climb into. It was a perfect place to come after the music was done and spend a few years trying to scramble around the netting like a 5 year old.

The following day we were expected to work an afternoon shift which meant that we got a bit of lie in, but because Phil needed his make up sorting we didn't hang around for long, and Amy was busy helping to paint his head for his reverse geisha look:

However, once the look was finished, Phil was certainly in character:

The vast majority of Saturday was spent working in a small tent throughout the afternoon, though we did get to see some goood spoken word performances, and Esther joined us for a few hours to try and recover. Danny hadn't stirred, and ended spending the entire day in his tent sleeping. A classic case of going too hard too early at a festival! By the end of our shift we ready to watch some musci, and after a bit of tea we went and saw Dr Meaker who played a decent set on the main stage, and then we went to catch MC Xander play in the football stage. The only problem with this stage was its size, as it seemed like half the festival was trying to get inside. Xander still put on a good show with some wicked didgeredoo underneath his multi-layered beatboxing, and it had us all in a good mood for some dancing. After plenty of grooving in a nearby bar, we were taken to the secret disco by Phil, something that he had found the previous night. It was essentially a small tent, hidden away behind one of the other stages that kept going until the small hours of the morning. The interesting thing was it seem to collect only the most outrageous and brilliant costumed people that you had seen throughout the day. Needless to say it was great fun!

The next day everyone felt a little bit ropey, but the one thing that stuck in our mind's was that Amy, Danny and myself had managed to book a sit down meal at Malinkys. Somehow at around 4am we'd decided that a meal of roasted salmon and sugar snap peas was exactly what we would want the following night. Esther and Phil were both impressed, but Amy wasn't looking very well at all and ended up spending most of the day resting and sadly missed the meal. We were working the evening shift, finishing at midnight, but luckily there was still some music playing. I had been looking forward to seeing Smerrins Anti-Social Club since seeing them earlier in the season at Glastonbury. We even got to see a bit of the fire display, as we were working nearby.

Watching Smerrins play on the Lakeside Stage had to be the highlight of the festival as far as music was concerned. They had everyone jumping and seemed to have half the performers for the weekend on stage as they kept on bringing on special guests. After what seemed like an age they finally finished, but it was a brilliant act to sign off watching on our festival summer.

I'm sure it was a combination of things that made Shambala so good. The weather wasn't great, but with a umbrella (finally) things were pretty good. Fantastic company helped as well, and Danny, Esther and Phil provided us with such good entertainment that it would have been difficult to top Shambala even if it had fallen earlier on in the festival calendar. It was also a combination of a great atmosphere, loads of good but not particualrly well known bands, and the 'Wilderness' would have kept me entertained all weekend just by itself!

The best was definitely saved until last.

I am a cider drinker!

Relieved to be away from the Bloom we only had a couple of days off before heading to Beautiful Days, our penultimate festival of the year, and our last working with Oxfam. This was going to be another first festival for, but it felt nice going to the south-west for a festival, somehow traveling that way always feels like going downhill.

We had been pretty fortunate and had been quick to respond to a message wanting people to work the early shift signing stewards in as they arrived on site. This was a bonus as it would mean getting one shift out of the way nice and early, hopefully giving us some time to enjoy the festival a bit more. However, we were once again put on the late shift on the Sunday, but with some begging we managed to get this changed to a Sunday afternoon shift finishing at 6pm. So although the typical summer weather was once again looking poor, I was expecting a much better state of affairs compared to Bloom.

Beautiful Days is held at Escot Park in Devon and is organised by The Levellers, who headline the festival every year. This was going to be the first time that Oxfam had done the stewarding for this festival so it was impressed on us that all eyes would be watching. The site itself was extremely beautiful, with the large manor house overlooking the festival which was set in the middle of a valley. My only slight concern was that water tends to run downhill, so if it did get torrential then it might get quite deep in water. The festival focuses on being a family based event, with a good kids field and entertainment, as well as having performers out amongst the crowd. Possibly the best selling point was the fantastically cheap, blow yer head off cider that was only around 2:50 a pint. This was extremely welcome considering until now a pint was costing anything from 3.50 and upwards. There are a couple of nice bars, and we revisited one of Glastonbury haunts from earlier in the year by going to the Bimble Inn that was situated just past all the stages in its own little hideaway.

The main stage is set just at the bottom of a nicely sloped hill that makes it pretty easy to get a good view even when it’s busy, and I was walking along the hill in the afternoon when I ended up bumping into someone I went to college with that I hadn’t seen for eight years. To be honest I’m amazed he recognised me as I used to have short hair at college, and by now my dreads were past my shoulders. I also managed to make another Scilly connection later on in the Bimble Inn when I ended up chatting to someone who knew the Metcalfs on St.Mary’s – or was that at Glastonbury? Looking back it’s difficult to separate one from the other!

Having the Friday day off was pretty good and we perused the stalls and enjoyed the cider, a little too much in my case so I ended up having an early night but Amy carried on enjoying herself. The music began the following day though, and keeping up with tradition The Levellers opened the festival with an acoustic set in the Big Red Tent that was full to capacity. They played a pretty decent set, I saw them last at Glastonbury a few years ago and was impressed but this didn’t quite grab me in the same way. In the end I came away feeling that if you’ve seen one Levellers gig you’ve probably seen them all. We actually spent a fair proportion of the day hanging around the Big Red Tent, Amy was enjoying practising her hula hoping to the Tofu Love Frogs and I was happy finding money on the floor – £25!

Later on in the evening we wandered across to watch Nouvelle Vague who I was intrigued to see live as I was unsure as to how their sound would translate to the stage and I was pleasantly surprised. Despite being tiny, the two female singers dominated the stage and worked every song to perfection, pinpointing the emotive aspects of each song brilliantly.

Saturday brought a revisit of the rain that had afflicted Bloom so badly the previous weekend and we bravely ventured out to see if the slopes of the valley had turned into a treacherous death slide. We actually made a sensible decision and took a slight detour from our campsite to walk along the road that ran down into the site. This turned out to be a good idea as the hill coming down from our part of campsite was strewn with straw in a desperate attempt to stop the ground from breaking up too quickly. Backstage had turned into something of a quagmire, the backstage bar had become even more of a refuge for the bands waiting around or having just come off stage. Yet despite the rain, everyone was looking like they were enjoying themselves and this was something that kept the festival running to a good atmosphere. The rain did relent and began to only come in showers as slowly the arena began to fill up again as people flitted from stage to stage to catch the next band. I would say that Beautiful Days definitely impressed me as a festival, despite not being particularly huge, it catered well for a variety of festival experiences; families were more than welcome, the alcohol was good a cheap, entertainment went well into the night, and the line up was diverse enough to attract age ranges from 7 months to 70. We had an night shift on the Saturday, both of us stewarding in the dance tent until the early hours, ears plugs supplied. I’ve never used ear plugs at a gig, they’re mandatory for health and safety if you’re working in a stage area, but I have to say how impressed I was that they could keep the clarity of the music, and you could still hear people talking right next to you. However, once you take them out everything suddenly feels so loud and you experience aural overload. Terry was our shift supervisor for the tent, and being a great bloke he let me have a 45minute break so I could go and watch Supergrass play on the main stage. I saw the end of their set, and I was suitably impressed. The crowd was loving it, and in the cold evening air you could see a steady haze of heat rising up from the crowd down near the front. I got to see them play ‘Caught By The Fuzz’, my favourite song of theirs, so I enjoyed my break and then went back to dancing/stewarding in the dance tent. It was all pretty much uneventful work, although I did end up having to look after a Scottish bloke who had taken three tabs of acid and was a little worse for wear. I had to escort him to the Bimble Inn where I did the very English thing of getting him a cup of tea and we sat down and chatted rubbish until my shift was up and it was time to slide back up the deadly hill by the Bimble Inn and make my way back to the tent.

Although the weather had improved considerably by the Sunday, the mud wasn't going to disappear anytime soon, and our last Oxfam shift of the summer was going to be working in the Kids field keeping an eye out for lost children and making sure tents didn't get overcrowded. This was a pretty easy job and we spent most of our shift playing with all the cool stuff that was going on, the giant hula hoops, and loads of drums and percussion instruments.

Also just off to the side of the Kids Field was the Fairy Love stall which sells a wide variety of tutus, fairy wings and glitter. They're at pretty much every festival and we always see them advertising the glitter wrestling but until Beautiful Days we had never witnessed the spectacle, so we made the most of our work time to go and watch two girls in bikinis get into a paddling pool full of glitter and wrestle around in it. Personally I didn't see the need for the pool when there was plenty of mud to be wrestling in but it was still quite funny to watch and I think Amy was slightly tempted to have a go!

I think that by this point in the summer season we had pretty much had enough of the mud, and we knew that we had one last festival left before we had to call it day so we made a wise decision to head straight back to Bristol after our shift on the Sunday and miss out on the last night. The other advantage of this would be that the carpark would hopefully not be too muddy so our chances of escaping would be much higher! So when we were finally relieved of our duties we grabbed another free dinner, watched a little bit of Idlewild in the rain and then packed our stuff and attempted to escape the mud. Amy was ready and waiting in the Polo and I was scouting out the best route through the mud and when we were ready Amy kept to the plan and we managed skid and slide through the mud until we were safely onto the road that would take us away from Beautiful Days.

Despite the weather Beautiful Days was a really good festival, with plenty of good bands, none of them particularly groundbreaking, but good music none the less. The atmosphere helped and everyone was smiling despite the mud and that's all you can ask for really. It would be a festival that I would probably return to, but maybe in ten years (if it's still going, and if it is I expect the Levellers will still be playing the same set) and I would just hope that it hasn't changed too much in that time. So with our penultimate festival behind us we were looking forward to getting to Shambala, heading north for a change up toward Northampton, and seeing out the summer season in style.


After having a mighty fine weekend at the Big Chill being entertained by the likes of the Might Boosh, we left in high spirits, and even though it rained a bit on the Sunday, we didn’t end up getting caught in a flood as we drove through Tewkesbury! Our next festival was a youngling on the circuit, its inception being in 2007. From what we could gather it was going to be like a smaller version of Glade, and the fact that it was only 45 minutes from Bristol made it all the more appetising.

Our trip to 2000 Trees earlier in the summer had made us realise how beautiful the Cotswolds were, and Bloom was going to be situated not far from that site, although we found the site quite difficult to find. After making the correct turning we managed to drive straight past the festival and into Cheltenham, but a quick phone call later to Oxfam put us on the right path and we rocked up to a damp site that looked like it would only get worse if the forecast weather came through. Initial impressions of the site were that it really was quite small, in fact the tents for the music were more the size of small catering tents and didn’t seem to live up to any notion of an electronic dance festival. The main stage was quite an interesting design and the awning struck out over the stage like an arrowhead. Well, it would have done except that the stage wasn’t built yet, and the festival was supposed to be opening the day after. It didn’t quite have the same feeling of organisation that all the other festivals we had been to had, even 2000trees was more set up at this stage of play. There were no catering facilities for staff arranged, no running water and it wasn’t even worth asking about the showers. I had a bad feeling about this.

We were rudely woken the following morning by the sound of a van parking right out side out tent. Opening the tent doors I peered out to be confronted by a bright pink catering van, around fifteen yards away that was going to be running its generators all day from breakfast at 7 until late at night. At least we could finally get some free food though! It was actually a lovely day, and we didn’t have any shifts to do, although once again we had be scheduled down to do the final shift on Sunday night 12am – 8am. For now though we were happy to enjoy some sunshine and instead of hanging around the festival we went out for a walk along part of the Cotswold Way. It was actually a perfect walk to go on as it basically circumnavigated the festival and we got see some good aerial views out across Cheltenham and into the distance. We even got to see a limestone rock formation called the Devil’s Chimney. According to Wikipedia the Devil used to chill out up here and throw rocks at the Sunday churchgoers, until in a surprising moment of religious violence resulted in the Christians stoning the Devil until he retreated back down the chimney. There was no smoke coming out the chimney on this day so all I can say is that the Devil can’t have been home.

The walk took us through some woods, where Amy and I found what looked like a little hobbit hole, either that or a tramp’s mansion, and we briefly got attacked by some wasps before retreating to a nearby pub for a few pints and some dinner. It was actually quite nice to get away from the festival for a few hours as over the last two months I was beginning to feel like I was living inside a festival cocoon.

Friday morning meant having to go to work, and we were supposed to be looking after the Buddha Café that was open 24hrs situated in the campsite. It didn’t sound like it would be too bad, the only problem was usually having to stop people from smoking inside and the guys tat ran it would probably give us some free tea. However, once we got there we were approached by Clive, one of the supervisors who was talking about deploying us as the café wasn’t open yet. We just so happened to mention that we’d parked cars at the Big Chill the week before and in the blink of an eye we found ourselves in the car park getting shouted at by aggro drivers. It became quite clear that no-one who had been assigned to the car park really understood what was expected of them so Amy and I had to take charge and get the team working properly. Eventually it was all running fine, and we only had one annoying person in our group who seemed convinced that he was the supervisor of our team. He even tried to report me back to HQ for being 5 minutes late from my break – I’m sorry John but before I turned up you didn’t even know what the front end of a car looked like so just Jog On! Towards the end of my shift I even had my obligatory Scilly moment when I helped Paul Simmons get his car parked.

Thankfully our shift parking cars finished eventually, and we pretty much filled the field we were working and Clive was very pleased with our work and thanked us enough times to make it worthwhile. Having the Friday evening off meant we could explore a bit of the festival, although it wouldn’t take long, and maybe see some good music. The arena was small enough to walk around in about fifteen minutes, but there were a couple of quirky bits of entertainment along the way, especially the games tent. They had a bicycle linked up to a projector screen that you could play Frogger on – cycling made you move forwards and turning the handlebars made you go left or right. They also had Asteroids, and Space Invaders, possibly one of the greatest arcade games ever! They had a bit of a fairground, with a big wheel that would have probably have given some great views during the day, but not much else in terms of entertainment aside from the music. It was a pretty cold evening and it was getting quite windy, one of the disadvantages of being on top a great big hill, but we still stuck around to try and watch Beardyman, a former UK beat box champion. It’s the second/third time I’ve attempted to watch a set of his and every time I’ve been extremely disappointed and this was no exception. There’s only so many times he can say “I am fucking Beardyman” before it gets a bit boring, yes I know who you are, now do something that impresses me. For my money MC Xander is twice the performer, and I’m sure there are many like him who are equally impressive, and one thing’s for sure I wont be going to see Beardyman ever again. The overriding atmosphere at Bloom felt a little underage, and it soon became apparent this was a smaller version of Glade in every aspect, age included. The rain started falling and feeling uninspired we swiftly retired to Bedfordshire.

Saturday brought some biblical weather, possibly an attempt to drown all the little kiddies who were pilled up and chewing cow pats. In fact it was raining so hard that we barely left the tent apart from running over to Pink Ladies van to grab some food and then retreating quickly back under canvas. We had to work until the early hours of the morning, and this time we did end up in the Buddha Café for a while trying in vain to stop people from smoking indoors. It was beginning to get pretty packed in the café as it was the only thing open after midnight, and because of the wind and rain everyone was trying to pile in. We also had to swap positions occasionally with people on the entrance gate to the arena and it was here that we got to see just how many people were trying to get in the festival for free. They had three security guards checking for wristbands and they were pulling people with fake bands over with alarming regularity. Punters were not allowed to take their own alcohol into the arena either, an attempt to encourage people to spend money behind the bar. This meant that punter were just throwing bags of booze over the Heras fencing into the arena before casually walking through the gates and then picking up their bags. We did briefly get posted down near the main stage during Roni Size’s set, but I left feeling slightly disappointed. The set at WOMAD had been really good, but here at Bloom none of the Reprazent seemed that interested, and because the weather was so bad there wasn’t even that much of a crowd so it all fell a little flat. The rain didn’t stop all night, and when we finished our shift we couldn’t wait to get dry and go to bed.

Sunday was a mild improvement on the wetness, but it was still blowing a gale, and by the time we got up to walk around most of the market and food stalls had gone. Pieminister, our favourite festival pie shop from Bristol, had left on Saturday night and other market stalls had been blown over in the wind. On the plus side I managed to get a free toasted sandwich by accident from a very busy sandwich van. Word on the ground was that many of traders were unhappy with the organiser for delaying the opening of the site for an afternoon, obviously cutting back on their trading time but still having to pay their employees. In the end most of the traders decided to cut their losses and go home on the Saturday night, or early Sunday morning. Thoroughly disenchanted by the whole Bloom weekend we spent much of Sunday chilling out in the tent reading and occasionally getting some food. The weather did improve slightly and we went out to watch Tunng who turned out to be the highlight of the weekend by a Cotswold mile. Tunng play highly original alt-folk that managed to seem as English as the weather we’d endured. There were plenty of toys being used on stage to create sounds, a wind-up bird in a cage, the percussionist playing wind chimes with his feet. The whole set was mesmerising, and the small crowd by the stage all enjoyed it massively. Amy decided to do some hula hoping for most of the set and one of the official photographers took the opportunity to take plenty of photos. I think the mud is still on the hula hoop!

Our final shift was working the 12am-8am and once again we were supposed to be in the Buddha Café, but low and behold it shut at midnight, so instead we got redeployed elsewhere. Amy got stuck out by a car park pointing people who were leaving in the right direction, but in the cold it didn’t offer much shelter. I was charged with making sure no one was trying to get in the Buddha Café, the positive aspect of this was getting a massive plate of free food and some tea from the guys who worked there. However, after an hour or so things became quiet and I was lucky enough to get posted on the tea buggy. Leigh, who was the head honcho with Oxfam for the event wanted to go to bed at 4am, so I was being left in charge of delivering tea to all the other stewards still working through the night. Brenda was Kawasaki Mule, and perfect for the muddy conditions and great fun to drive. I forgot to mention to Oxfam that I didn’t have a driving license and I subsequently spent a fun four hours pelting it around the festival site in the mud. Of course, my real duty was to deliver tea regularly, and the only downer of the night came when I turned up to the campsite and found out I’d just missed out on a race with the security guards in their vehicles. I’m sure Brenda would have won!

Eventually it was all over, and instead of grabbing a couple of hours kip before leaving we made the decision to get out of the site sharpish as the car park was only going to get muddier. We quickly packed our stuff away before trudging through the mud to car park. My last memory of Bloom 2008 will be seeing through into the back area of the Buddha Café and seeing the owner going absolutely ballistic at his staff, screaming at them and then kicking a bin at them. I think he summed up the weekend quite well.


I've Got 99 Problems but the Nazi's Aint One...

Raising your expectations of a festival, or anything else for that matter, can sometimes backfire when it doesn't reach the heights of enjoyment that you originally thought it might. The Big Chill looked and sounded like a festival that I was going to enjoy, some good music, comedy and also interactive art installations. Plus it is all set on Deer Park, complete with multiple lakes, a castle overlooking the site, and this year would be host to a sports day on the Sunday. We were going to be working for a new company called DC Site Services parking cars, not the best work but it couldn't be that bad, could it?

Eastnor Castle lies a bit further east than Tewkesbury, the modern day Atlantis, and overlooks the Big Chill site, a large deer park in the shape of a sausage. Quite a long sausage. The Big Chill was all sold out, capacity is around 35000, and the weather looked as though it should stay reasonably dry for the weekend with only the occasional shower. However, we arrvied on Tuesday afternoon, quite early in the hope that we might be able to get an early shift working for DC. The advantage that this work would have is that we were getting paid, not much to be fair, but some cash is always good, especially as we were now half way through the season. Also with car parking they only require 50 per cent of their staff for Saturday and Sunday, so we were hoping to get a couple of days off to properly enjoy the festival. However, finding the DC headquarters was proving to be a tough call. I don't think I can overstate the disorganised nature of DC enough, it was something quite amazing for a company that operates at a variety of festivals throughout the summer. To begin with they were operating out of someone's tent, and then we found out there were no early shifts, so we'd arrived early for nothing. Eventually when we did have to register we had no clue where to go, no obvious HQ, and the only way we managed to find out was through some people we recognised from another festival. Then the decision over day and night shifts was all done on a first come first served basis, with no real organisation. I quickly came to the conclusion that DC stood for Disorganised Cowboys.

Shambles aside, the site at The Big Chill is beautiful, albeit a little thin. The bad thing is that the main North carpark is located a long way from the main camping grounds. Mind you, compared to Glastonbury it's nothing so it's not that bad, but I've gotten used to turning up early and parking right near where I'm camping! For the general public though I was having to tell people that it was a good ten minute walk to the nearest camping, longer if ou wanted to be closer to the arena. Thursday was our first day of parking, and it wasn't too bad on the whole as we were mainly just pointing people in the direction of some other stewards who were parking the cars as they had done it before. However, it's not rocket science and before long we were up in the firing line getting people to park their cars as close to each other as possible, whilst leaving a fire lane all the time. The hardest aspect of the job was stopping people from just driving off and parking where they liked. Unfortunately most people seem to leave their brains behind as soon as they get behind a wheel, and the amount of times people asked me if they could park a little closer got a little tiresome after a while. Most people were ok, but another tiresome comment was people who couldn't understand why the parking needs to be done properly and when we kept trying to tell them just responded with : "Just chill out man, it's supposed to be the Big Chill." Jog On.

So ou first 12 hour shift was not bad, but we ended up finishing over half an hour late as our cover didn't turn up on time, I can't say I was surprised at all, in fact I was just glad that they turned up full stop. One problem was that we wanted to work on the Friday too, but when we got back they said all the Friday shifts had been taken, all because we were late because they were late relieving us. Not impressed at all, Amy and me managed to arrange to turn up at midday in the hope that they might need some extra people. So after getting a early night we turned up again on the Friday lunchtime and were lucky enough to get a shift, which would mean another 50 quid in cash so see us through the festival season a little longer. It was another day of repetition, but we just about managed to survive the same old questions. The end of shift saw us being moved to a different carpark, in the East, and when we arrived it was a scene of carnage. Triple parked cars, car alarms going off, the works. I felt sorry for anyone turning up around midnight on the Friday as it was chaos of the highest order. Thankfully we were done, and after picking up our money we relaxed in the knowledge that we could enjoy the rest of weekend with no more work planned.

Saturday turned out nice and fine, and we went for a good stroll around the site getting to take in the sights for the first time. One of the good aspects of The Big Chill is the artistic elements to the festival as they have art installations at various points on site. They try to encourage the public to get involved with the festival instead being passive in order to get more out of the experience. There's a couple of pianos dotted around the site, one is sat on top of the hill overlooking the lakes and the arena. It's often around these places that you have the most fun, and one of the installations on the hill was the Angry House, by David Bickerstaff. Imagine your Dad's old allotment shed getting covered in radioactive goo and mutating. This would be the result, as it's a house that as you approach begins to get angry, the doors bang and it generally doesn't sound impressed. It's a bit like that spooky shed in Lost where Jakob lives. At night time over the hill there the Fake Moon, a large helium balloon that slowly travels across the night sky mimicating lunar activity. There's also an arts trail with a variety of different art installations, which was only accesible after 10pm. Fashion also gets a look in here, with an ethical fashion show, as well as the chance to dress up and take part in regular shows throughout the day. One mistake the organisers did make was not ordering enough programmes on lanyards, which meant having to carry around an A4 programme the whole time which was quite annoying. The programmes themselves were being sold across site by Big Issue vendors, and a nice touch was the organisers letting street buskers perform on stage at certain points during the day.

It was something of a shame having to work on the Friday, the money was always handy though, and I only missed out on two acts that I wanted to see: Roots Manuva (who I've seen before), and Thievery Corporation (a little more gutted at missing this). However, there was plenty else left to see and we watched some of The Irresistible Force on the open air stage, who had some really stunning AV work on the big screens as well as some great electronic music. The were followed by Shoreline, who probably fall into the category nu-folk, and we watched a little of this before taking a walk over to the Comedy Tent in anticipation of Bill Bailey. We wanted to get there early so we would actually get in the tent and turned up over an hour before he was due to go onstage only to realise that it was already full. There were hundreds of people outside desperate to get in, and security had to erect a fence to stop people from overcrowding the venue. It was a big error from the organisers putting Bill on such a small stage, The Mighty Boosh warranted a spot on the main stage, and Bill Bailey would have too. Unable to get inside we listened from on the grass, and fortunately we were sat next to the Big Chill Radio which was broadcasting the whole show. Mr Bailey was brilliant as usual with a great range of jokes and songs. He started by talking about Jay Z's performance at Glastonbury and how he covered Wonderwall by Oasis. This mixing of British music was something that Bill commented on and he proceeded to give his own interpretation of a hip hop version of the Dad's Army theme tune. Worth checking out on youtube if you have a funny bone! The rest of set was incredibly funn and he proved to be a resounding success and despite not getting inside, it was well worth turning up to listen to.

After Bill Bailey and some cider we went to check out a great act called the Hot 8 Brass Band from New Orleans. Playing on the open air stage these guys got plenty of people grooving in the late afternoon sun with a great mix of jazzy brass, and finishing with a superb cover of Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing. Probably one of the most talked about acts of the weekend was The Mighty Boosh, everyone I spoke to was going to watch them, and we were no exception. After getting some free food from the crew catering we walked back down the hill to the arena and it was already looking pretty busy.

They didn't disappoint, despite being quite clearly inebriated, and it was a funny set with some very amusing songs. Everyone in the audience seemed to enjoy it, including the people in Cheetah costumes right at the front. In fact the cheetahs were part of the walking entertainment as apparenty last year there were lots of zebras, and this year they brought in the cheetah's to cull them. It was quite funny watching the people dressed up in cheetah costumes stalking people on stilts dressed as zebras! After The Might Boosh we wandered for a while, checking out a DJ set from Coldcut for a bit before walking back over the main stage to watch Plaid who were going to be performing at one point with Random Dance, choereographed by Wayne McGregor. Their set was really good, and it culminated in a brilliant finale when the dancers came on stage, all dressed in white. They took the phrase "busting some shapes" to another level with an amazing performance that seemed to last forever. Dazzingly white, it was a mesmerising finish to a fantastic set, and we both left the stage feelig like we had seen a unique perfromance. A short stroll took us over to the Castle Stage where we watched the end of an African Tribute to James Brown, that included Pee Wee Ellis, James Brown's saxophonist. Although we only watched the end of the set, it looked like it had been a great show. There was a collection of African musicians on-stage playing a variety of instruments and everyone was having a good time. The night was finished up with some classic Mr Scruff pulling out a gret DJ set, and at one point I bumped into Lucy who worked in the Foredeck on Scilly, which just goes to show that even at 35,000 this was a small festival.

Sunday wasn't as fine, but it was good enough despite the occaowersional light shower, and we made it up to the Enchanted Gardens for 1pm so that Amy could take part in a Hula Hoop workshop. It proved successful and she managed to learn some new moves and in the meantime I had a lovely blueberry smoothie. We even bumped into a couple of people from Glade, some of the miniture hat people that we had a laugh with and we had a catch up with them for a while before taking a walk down to the croquet lawn. Just across the lake there was a large wooden structure built by a company called the World Famous, and later that evening they were going have a big fireworks display and burn the whole thing.


It was definitely on our list of must sees for the evening, but up until then we didn't get up to a great deal. We spent a couple of hours watching some comedy, and then we went to the Castle Stage to watch the Peatbog Fairies. These were a perfect act for a showery Sunday, playing an energetic set of Irish folk music that kept everyone dancing, and Amy hula hooping! We recharged our batteries with a thali from the Thali cafe before watching the Buzzcocks, who played pretty much non stop until the end of their set. They put in a decent enough set, predictably finishing with Ever Fallen In Love, and they had most of the aging punks in the audience jumping around. As it started getting darker we went down to the lakes to watch the fireworks and the The World Famous set fire to their creation. There was plenty of anticpation surrounding the bonfire, and quite a crowd had gathered and they were not to be let down at all. We were sat a good a good distance away and we could still feel the instense heat coming across the pond. The falmes licked high up into the night and I can honestly say that I've never seen a fire like it. The fireworks that accomapanied the burning were brilliant as well, not too many high altitude ones, but plenty small ones that exploded into a corkscrew down to the earth.

Needing to cool off somewhat we walked make over to the Castle Stage to watch Mum (pronounced Moom), though it was strangely empty. I've been a fan of Mum for a while now and I was looking forward to seeing what they would be like live as I had the feeling they might be a little too chilled out, even for The Big Chill. Fortunately I had nothing to worry about and they put in a top draw performance with some amazing visuals. They're simialr to Sigur Ros in many ways, but this performance was much more dance orientated than anything done by Sigur Ros. The variety of instruments played onstage was something else, and the female vocalist has an amazing voice; pretty much what you come to expect from any Icelandic band. As we walked away I commented to Amy that I felt we'd just seen the best band of the weekend. I turned out to be wrong.

The Bays are a group who can be best described as a improvisational dance act who don't record studio albums. Every live show is different and it means that you get some fantastic live dance music. However, whilst this is interesting enough, they were taking things to a whole new level with a collaboration with the Heritage Orchestra. With a composer onstage, as well as conducter, Orchestra, drummer, bass player and DJ, this was always going to be something different. Luckily for those of us who had no idea what to expect everything got explained before they came on stage. In front of the musicians were a bank of LCD screens, the conductor had one too, and the composer would stand by the side of the stage and compose music for them to play in real time. This then got displayed on their screens, and the conductor brought them in time etc. All of this whilst some guys freestyled a load of live dance music behind them. It has to be one of the most original performances that I've ever seen and I was completely captivated throughout the entire set. They moved through a variety of dance genres, from ambient to jungle, and all the time we could see on the big screens the composers writing music, the conductor running over to chat to him to receive instructions before running back and relaying it to the orchestra. It was a shortish set, around 45 minutes, but I was completely stunned by it. Totally unique and an unbelievebale finish to the weekend.

The next day we were still talking about The Bays and The Heritage Orchestra, and if you ever see these guys playing near you, buy a ticket as you will not be disappointed. We drove towards Tewkesbury, thankfully not resembling Atlantis, really taken with The Big Chill, despite the chaotic work that we'd had to do. I felt that I had not seen all this festival had to offer, and I would recommend The Big Chill to anyone who likes a good variety of dance music, and some artistic culture as well. The following week we would be heading to Bloom, a relatively new fesitval taking place not far from where 2000trees was. One thing was for certain, it would be hard for it to beat The Big Chill.


I'm melting! I think that was how I felt for most the weekend, a stark contrast compared to 2007 when you could have drowned in mud, but the only worry was that this could be the whole of the summer's weather condensed into one weekend! Of course, the weather is only a small part and I was eagerly anticipating WOMAD having only heard good things about the festival from my friends who went last year. Once again I hadn't really looked too closely at the line up beforehand, and I was looking forward to seeing a wide range of acts that I'd (hopefully) never heard of before.

Amy and I arrived on site on the Wednesday afternoon, giving a lift to a chap called Andy from Bristol in order to split the fuel cost, and it was already pretty warm. I was definitely glad that the walk from our staff parking to the campsite wasn't too far as it was directly up a massive hill. The camping areas for WOMAD are split away from the arena so there are two distinctive areas, which until this summer I'd never seen before, but the main difference with WOMAD is that between the campsite and the arena is a large arboretum. Now a dictionary definition for an arboretum is: a plot of land on which many different trees or shrubs are grown for study or display. Now I'm a great lover of trees, but there's trees and there 'trees!' The arboretum at the WOMAD site in Malmesbury is pretty amazing, with a whole variety of conifers, and a couple of stunning Sequoia's. Having never seen a sequoia before, despite knowing what to expect, I was slightly taken aback by the sheer size - and these were only little ones.

Having been briefed by Oxfam as to what our jobs would entail for the weekend we were in a pretty upbeat mood as we had been entrusted with the job of being Child Escort Team. Essentially our job was to roam around the arena and camping areas waiting for a call over the radio that a lost child had been found by a steward, then we would have to escort them to the found children tent. So basically this meant we could go anywhere in the arena and not be based in one position, as long as we could hear the radio. The only annoying thing was our shift patterns that left us doing the midnight until 8am shift in the early hours of Monday morning, but it would mean that we'd get to see plenty of the festival.

Thursday was a pretty sedate day, as we had no shifts, and we spent most of the day relaxing in the sun and wandering around the site getting our bearings. Although the arena was open, there was no music planned until later in the evening when Lee Scratch Perry would be performing. So we meandered around the arboretum for a while looking at all the healing tents and noticed that the 'Gong Shower' people from 2000trees were here, but they were now offering Gong Bath's - surround sound gong therapy! The line up was looking good too, plenty of acts that I'd never heard of, and I was looking forward to catching some new bands and having a good weekend. WOMAD has plenty of workshops too, you can learn flamenco,salsa, and a whole variety of drumming styles. In many ways WOMAD reminded me of Cornbury, it is a very middle class festival with middle aged women wearing 'traditional' African dresses with spear and shield prints of them. However, the atmosphere at WOMAD was completely different feeling much more relaxed and less like you were being force fed a festival experience.

Amongst the market stands we came across a great (and very cheap) book shop which meant I felt obliged to spend some money. I left with a few books, most notably a great book about the history of beer and the pub by a guy called Pete Brown. It made me laugh straight away and I ended up quoting to Amy from the book regularly as by trivial knowledge about the history of beer grew daily. It's called "A man walks into a pub..." a great title and it would make an excellent Christmas or birthday present for someone who likes a drop of ale - and there's plenty of them on Scilly.

One observation I made at WOMAD was related to the port-a-loos - this time being provided by the company DavLav. This particular toilet comes with a urinal 'funnel' inside the toilet, as well as your usual toilet, but what made me laugh was the health and safety message stuck on the inside: "Designed to be used by 10 or less people over the course of a 40hour week." I'm no maths genius, but these were surely going to be used by morning than 10 people each over 4 days? Having said this though, WOMAD has lay the claim down for the cleanest toilets in festival history. There was always toilet roll available, sanitising hand wash and they just all seemed permanently clean. We even had advise as to what should go in the toilets:

The Thursday evening saw Lee 'Scratch' Perry take to the stage in the Siam tent. The Jamaican reggae legend has recorded a huge number of records over the years, and the tent was packed out to see him perform. Kids were invading the disabled platforms and the expectation was pretty high, but in the end the sound just wasn't up to the job. The sound engineers should have had time to sort everything out as Mr Perry was late on stage, his flight to Bristol airport was delayed and he even came on stage with his suitcase. Feedback problems plagued the set, the drums took over any other instrument and the vocal levels were terrible. In the end I found it a bit of a disappointment, but we did make one discovery to cheer us up. The bar company at WOMAD make a surcharge on each pint you buy as a deposit on the card cups that they use. You collect the cups and then take them back to a recycling point and you get your deposit back for each cup you bring. Of course, not everyone remembers this and they leave their cups lying around, queuing a fight between us and the 8 year old kids as to who can grab the most cups to get our 10p a cup deposit!

Friday morning meant our first shift as Child Escort Team - I asked Oxfam if we could be called the Gobblers instead, but they didn't seem too keen on the idea. We had been kept up until late in the night by the girls in the tent next to us, and we quickly christened them Gossip Girl and Motor Mouth. I have never come across someone who can just talk non-stop for hours on end, and it wasn't even interesting stuff that she was talking about. So we were glad to get away from them for eight hours, and hopefully we'd have a pretty quiet shift with not too many children getting lost. It was certainly a slow start, so we de-camped to the excellent Tiny Tea Tent - a regular stall on the festival circuit and winner of some kind of green award at Glastonbury this year. Their stall is entirely solar powered and they serve up some good tea in solid mugs; always a bonus. So Amy and I sat down on their sofa for a while chatting to some of the girls working their, and listening to a group of kids sat by a table near to us. The main topic of conversation seemed to centre around vegetarian food, which the most rotund kid of the group (a seasoned eater by any one's standards) sweepingly claimed 'all tastes like cardboard'. We also learnt that his favourite dining establishment was Morrison's Cafe. As the morning got warmer our tubby friend rolled off into the distance with only heart disease and diabetes to worry about, whilst we went for a walkabout before the music started for the day.

We fancied checking out some tibetan monks who were doing a big performance on the open air stage and we were not disappointed at all. The Tashi Lhunpo Monks performed traditional song and chanting, along with performance dancing in full costumes. It was an ethereal sight, and some of the chants had interesting stories behind them that the monks spoke of before each performance. One story involved speaking with ancestors through music by using human bones as drumsticks, at least that's how I remember the story. It was still pretty mesmerising, and something that I was glad we watched.

We had a couple of minor call outs over the radio for us to retrieve some lost kids and take them over the found children tent, but both times the children were reunited before we even managed to take them anywhere. One kid in particular wouldn't leave to go to the tent until she had finished her chocolate muffin! We spent the majority of the rest of the shift mooching around and collecting badges from the campaign stands to add to our collection of Oxfam ones. I grabbed a couple of badges against supermarket expansion plans, one against war in general, and I also got a free breakfast bar from a vegetarian stall. All in all a successful first shift, and by the time we had clocked out and had some food we arrived back in the arena in time to catch the end of Toumani Diabate. I've seen Toumani play last year at Glastonbury, and he was excellent, in fact he also came on and played with Bjork as he featured on one song off her album Volta. He put in another good performance from what I gathered, what we heard was certainly excellent and he had his son on stage who is another excellent kora player, the instrument for which Diabate has his fame. After his set culminated we walked over to the Big Red Tent - not as big as it sounds, but big enough - to watch the Bedouin Jerry Can Band, who were complete entertainers and excellent at it. These guys were fantastic, playing old jerry cans, ammunition cases, basically anything left behind in the desert after conflicts. The were lead by a lecherous front man who got all the women in the audience going, and I think even Amy sang her approval at one point. This was uplifting music, a distinctive sound full of traditional and contemporary bedouin flavours.

After this we had a short break in the music to take part in a Salsa workshop. I wasn't too keen, but after trying some in Costa Rica Amy was very much up for it, so I succumbed, albeit a little anxious. However, I have to say that it turned out to be great fun, despite very tiring, and after a while we were managing to do pretty well at learning the steps and according to Amy we even had people watching us to learn how to do it. I can't verify this as I think I spent the whole time cracking up with laughter and it was definitely one of the funnier parts of the weekend.

After our dancing we returned to the Big Red Tent to find it filling quite rapidly with probably ever festival goer under 25 as the next act would be a Nathan 'Flutebox' Lee; a man who is beatboxing flautist. It was an intersting and original performance with plenty of collaborators, but I was more interested to note that towards the end of the set I could see Shlomo to the left of the stage. In fact within minutes he was on stage, and completely up-staged Flutebox Lee with a solo performance of a few songs. After missing Shlomo at Glastonbury I was glad to have finally seen something of him in action live. After this finished we wandered around catching bits and pieces of acts such as Speed Caravan, and Terakaft, but we were feeling pretty tired and we walked back through the stunning arboretum. At night they have a light show with music that goes on until 4am and tonight they had some kind giant inflatable turd that you could play with.

Attempting to lie in when the sun is blazing is pretty much an impossibility when living in a tent. Unable to handle the heat after 9am was becoming standard so we quickly moved to some shade in the arboretum where we snoozed, read the paper and hula hooped until it was time to catch a band called Babylone Circus who were an excellent French ska band, who despite the heat, managed to wake everyone from their lethargy and inject some dancing into the day. They were absolutely superb and are definitely worth checking out if you get the chance. I was doubly happy as I managed to get a free mexican bean burger as the lady gave me change for a tenner instead of a fiver - bonus. I was met later in the day by Simon Gibson, who had come to 2000trees, and had a free ticket to WOMAD and he brought cheap cider which was a nice respite from the 3.95 stuff we were buying from the bar. It's always good to see a familiar face, and we were also joined by one of Amy's friends from University, who we had to give a finger puppet to as she had missed out on Glade the previous week. Unfortunately our second shift beckoned, working from 4pm till midnight, but we were confident that we wouldn't have too much to deal with.

Of course this turned out to be completely untrue, as we had plenty of lost children to deal with, but prehaps the worse part of the day was when Amy lost her turtle necklace. This was something that she had bought when doing turtle conservation work in Parismina, Costa Rica. Pretty much irreplacable, unless she goes back, and it wasn't a high point of the afternoon. We reported it into lost property but the chances of it being returned, or even found, were pretty low and we went to watch some Roni Size to cheer ourselves up. Roni Size Reprazent have been doing a live tour this summer because of the remastered release of their Mercury Award winning New Forms. This was the first chance I'd had to see them and they were absolutely brilliant; a little early in the evening, but they were getting the evening going in style.

After Roni we checked out Jah Wobble, which was really good until we got called away by not one, but two, seperate cases of simultaneous lost children. By the time we had finished with the kids Jah Wobble had finished, which was a shame as the BBC Radio 3 stage, which was set in the arboretum had a great feel to it. The rest of the night mainly consisted of jungle and drum and bass, with bristol DJ TC performing on the Little Sicily stage, followed up by DJ Marky and Patife. Simon also managed to find some excellent samosas on sale right by the stage so we danced around a bit here for a while until our shift finished. We were expecting Asif Ali Khan to finish off the night with a performance in the Siam tent, but he couldn't make it and was replaced with the Sufi Women of the Islands. Mesmeric would be an appropriate word to use, although a little freaked out might be a good phrase as well. There was certainly something hypnotic about their set in the early hours in the morning, making you feel like you were in a dreamlike state, and in a good way. I'm still not sure which Islands exactly they were from, but it definitely wasn't Samson.

The final day of WOMAD carried on in terms of brilliant sunshine and sweaty tents so once again we found ourselves spending the Sunday morning in the shade of the beautiful trees, this time listening to the singing workshop, and reading the latest sports news in the Observer. We finally ventured into the arena to watch the American band Little Feat, who were pretty decent in a rock-a-billy, blues manner, and they had quite a following that helped get the afternoon going quite steadily. My only regret of the festival was to come when we missed Ernest Ranglin and Bassekou Kouyate so we could get some food. Just one of those things really, but we got back in time to check out the procession, which was a carnivalesque walk through the arena with plenty of interesting characters to look at.

Anyone who is familiar with our festival journies will know all about Amy's tiny straw boater, in fact it even has its own facebook group, but on the Sunday we finally someone with possibly the smallest hat ever, except for Leprechauns.

Small hats aside, we did manage to watch some of Justin Adams performance on the BBC Radio 3 stage, and also performed later on in the afternoon in the Gala Performance with a host of musicians from the entire weekend including Billy Cobham and Bassekou Kouyate. The Gala Performance was excellent, encompassing a wide variety of music, and all pretty much improvised due its nature. After this we caught some of Transglobal Underground before feeling a little unsure as to how to finish off the evening. I quite fancied the sound of GOCOO and GoRo, a Japanese drumming collective and a didgeredoo player. They have forty taiko drums on stage, and they certainly sounded like they'd be good. In the end they weren't good, they were fandabbidosi! One of the best performances I'd seen all summer, I just couldn't get over how powerful the drumming was, and the digeredoo just added to the the whole sound. The lighting and costume effects helped as the lead female drummer was almost shamanic with her ultra long black hair.

I shot this during the set and they were relentless from start to finish, providing probably the highlight of the festival for me. Unfortunately this meant the end of the festival us as we had to go to work for our final shift from midnight until 8am, which was nit a shift that we were looking forward to. We knew it would be quiet and that was the problem, but after three days of excellent music, a nice easy shift to finish with wasn't all that bad. We spent the majority of the night sauntering around the arboretum, but we did get some free food before the arena shut from one of the closing food stalls. Nothing much really happened, but we did get one last call from the radio at around 6am that a child had got lost going to the toilet in the morning. Funnily enough it turned out to be a young lad that had been lost a couple of days before, so we had a laugh with/at the kid for a bit before finishing at 8am in another morning of blazing sunshine.

WOMAD was a great festival, one that I enjoyed for its atmosphere, music, cleanliness of toilets and weather! The site itself at Charlton Park is incredibly picturesque and the arboretum was a great place to hang around and relax when the weather got a little hot. Despite not knowing many of the acts performing I watched a whole host of great performances and I would thoroughly recommend this festival to anyone who had an interest in music they extends beyond what you might hear on a daily basis. So it was with another day of sunshine that we left WOMAD before heading back to Bristol with thoughts of next festival, we were heading from the Big Heat to The Big Chill...


1pm? It's Tequila time!

Summer weather is something that can never be replied upon - as evidenced by many of the summer festivals from last year that suffered from tempestuous conditions. Glastonbury was struck down with some bad weather, so WOMAD later in late July, but Glade Festival had some of the worse conditions of the summer. Two months rainfall in just a few hours meant that the opening acts had to wait as the stages had power problems. The emergency services were stopping people from coming to the festival as Aldermaston was under four foot of water, and potential festival goers were floating down the road refusing to leave their cars. A year has passed, and fingers were kept crossed for some fine weather for the weekend of July 17-20 - hopefully it would prove to be a return to some of the sunstroke weekends of Glades in the past.

One thing stood on our side though and that was knowing that we would be working inside as we were to be working behind the bar at the Origin Stage for Friday and Saturday afternoon. Amy and I were really looking forward to working for Peppermint Bars and the weather forecast was looking pretty good so all in all I was expecting a great festival. We had forgotten a map to the site but we knew the way, just about, but trying to find out where to sign in was a little more difficult. After going to gate one, we were then directed to gate two. We parked and queued to get our staff wristbands only to be told to go back over to gate one, where, eventually we got our bright red and yellow passes. They had to choose colours that clashed with my hair!

Finally arriving we spent a nice evening having a few beers with some of Amy's old friends, Paul and Slap, meeting new ones and generally getting our heads around the new layout to the site. The festival hadn't sold out, and in order to keep to budget some of the smaller tents had been merged with the larger ones to save money, not a bad idea really and it definitely worked. It was noticeably quieter on the Thursday than in previous years, though I had a feeling that this wouldn't be a bad thing as it would help to make the atmosphere a little more intimate, and I was looking forward to a good few days. We spent a rather sedate evening for a Thursday at Glade just having a few drinks before catching an early night in preparation for our first shift behind the bar the following day.

Although the idea of working at a festival might seem like an easy way to get a free ticket and being able to watch plenty of bands perform, it doesn't always work out so easy. Working for Oxfam can often mean being placed out near a car park a long way from being able to hear any music whatsoever. However, working for Peppermint Bars would bring some welcome comfort to that particular lottery, we knew exactly where we would be working, and that we'd be able to see plenty of Dj's play throughout Friday and Saturday afternoon at the Origin Stage. This is the outdoor psytrance stage with a brilliant sound system provided by Funktion One. They tested the speakers each morning by playing a recording of Formula One cars racing by and it was amusing each day to see people walking by the stage to be suddenly startled by the roar of a race car streaming from one corner of the dance floor to the other. We were going to be fortunate enough to be positioned with a great view looking back over the dance floor towards the Origin Stage enabling us to enjoy watching everyone dancing as soon as the music would begin. The Origin Stage is always packed, every year no matter what the weather from as soon as the music starts at 12pm, until it stops much later in the evening.

Amy and I were both looking forward to work, it's not difficult serving beer at a festival as you don't even have to operate the till; just take the order and the money, tell the cashier what the order was, give the customer the change and their drinks. The Origin Bar isn't one of the busiest bars and this means that you can always have a good bit of a chat with the customers and have a bit of a laugh while you work. Amy was happy because we got to see an artist called Slack Baba, not that she'd ever heard of him, she just found the name amusing! Our shift ran from 1130am to 630pm, but for most of it we were having a dance and a chat with the various drinkers who kept rocking up. Glade operates a no under 18 policy on its ticket holders, which is actually quite nice and makes serving much easier as one of the main issues that I've seen over the course of the summer is the amount of under age drinking. Not so much from alcohol that they've brought with them, but drinks bought at the festival. So not having to worry about IDing people would make things much better and meant we could focus on the music and having a laugh. We had plenty of amusing customers come up to the bar throughout the day, a couple of my favourites were two South African guys who insisted that they had to drink triple Bacardi and Cokes – not cheap at around nine pounds a drink! Amy had her fair share of customers too, and she was wearing her small straw boater which drew comments from pretty much everyone that she served. Her original story was that it had shrunk in the wash, but this later changed into a story involving the Rabbit Hole (the open mike tent), some cookies, and outgrowing the hat. Another welcome addition to our day came when Paul stopped by the bar to give us some presents. Two knitted finger puppets! Amy got a little red riding hood, and got a fox. Paul already had a monkey he had named Malcolm, there was also a Shrek (that Slap thought was Yoda) and a Kermit. The majority of the shift went by pretty quickly, but as with most jobs it was always the last hour that dragged on and we eventually finished up, getting our two free drinks before heading off for our meal that was included with work.

The psytrance had been pretty good for most of the day, it seemed more varied than most psytrance is, but after seven hours we needed something different and we were looking forward to heading out in the evening to listen to some breaks and catch Pendulum headline the Glade Stage. One of the advantages of Glade is that all the tents are pretty close together, yet you never get a crossover of music due to the quality of the sound systems. This means that you can save your energy for dancing instead of having to walk for ages just to get to the next tent, plus with the camping area so close it makes it easy to head back to the tent quickly if you've forgotten something. Most of what we wanted to check out on the Friday was happening in the Breaksday Tent and the Glade, so we wandered down around 830pm towards the Breaksday to watch a bit of the Drummatic Twins, before Noisia came on. Noisia are a Dutch trio whose music is mostly based in the Drum n Bass genre, and they have recently released a mix CD on the well known FabricLive label. Their set started pretty slowly, but they took things up a gear after half an hour and they played some great stuff with some really good samples. It seems that this summer everyone is remixing, or sampling, The Prodigy and we've been hearing a variety of songs all summer. Noisia were no exception and they had the whole place going when they pulled out a remix of No Good (Start the Dance).

By the time they had finished we were wanting more and we walked over to the Glade Stage next door to check out Pendulum. I've seen Pendulum a couple of times before, doing a DJ set as well as live, and I was looking forward to seeing them again. They started off strongly enough, playing a good mix of tracks off their new album, as well as Hold Your Colour, but they peaked far too soon in my opinion when they remixed The Prodigy's (who else!) Voodoo People. This remix is full on, brilliant and savagely strong when performed with a live band, but the problem was it was so good that they never reached those heights again. The rest of the set seemed a little self-indulgent and uninspiring as they just seemed to be lead by a sweaty, overweight man who just wanted the crowd to bow down to him every thirty seconds. I spent most of the second half of the set watching someone who kept doing the devil horns with her hand, but I couldn't work out if she had a really disproportionate little finger, or if she'd had part of it amputated. I'm still not sure.

It was shortly after Pendulum that my night took a turn for the worse when I lost Fantastic Mr Fox off my finger after we sat down for a breather. Amy and I had lost the others so we flitted from tent to tent for a while, drinking our ciders until we walked through the Glade Stage again and I found Mr Fox straight away, two hours after I had lost him. We went to the Pussy Parlue, a 1920s Speigeltent that hosts burlesque dancing and cocktails to celebrate and met up with our friends before eventually calling it a night with the nagging fact that we had to work again the next day.

The Saturday was looking like it was going to be a good sunny day, despite the wind, and I was quite happy to be under cover where the sun couldn't burn me! We were much busier on the Saturday afternoon, we reasoned that maybe everyone had drunk the booze that they had brought in with them so they were having to frequent the bar more often. But after having my breakfast, some amazing sausages from a stall called Sausage Fest, I felt good enough to last the day and deal with the festival going public. I had to laugh at a bunch of young lads who came to the bar at one point clinging onto their empty cans of Stella:

“What can I get you?” I asked.
“Got any Stella?” mumbled one of them,
“Just Red Stripe I'm afraid,”
“Oh, forget it then,” and then they shuffled off again.

The psytrance on the second day was nowhere near as good as on the Friday, it seemed to lack some imagination that the Djs on the previous day had, and by the end of the shift I was pretty glad to be getting my free drinks and my food before concentrating on enjoying the rest of the weekend now that we had nothing else to worry about.

Glade Festival for me isn't just about the music, it has a great atmosphere and the festival goers are some of the best I've ever come across at a festival. It's a festival that is as much about the people as anything else, and there's always someone to chat to or something interesting to watch. We had a selection of Ents this year who were parading around the site, and there were also two dinosaurs – a converted beetle that was a Triceratops, and a Land Rover Stegosaurus. We met plenty of great people on the Friday, and we were to meet many more on the Saturday as we had a full night of music and dancing ahead of us.

We spent most of the early evening in the Breaksday Tent with the Stanton Warriors from Bristol who are some of the most respected breaks acts around today. The got the evening off to a good start playing a great set before we headed into the Overkill tent to watch Autechre who were reasonably good, but to be honest I was expecting something a little better from such a well respected act and I felt that they fell a little flat. After this we spent sometime in the Breaksday and walking around a bit chatting to people. We met two girls who Amy had served earlier on in the day who also had small hats, and we also spoke to another girl who wished we could all hark back to the bygone days of Victorian romance where in order to speak to a suitor you'd have to send a message through seven aunts and a scullery maid. I think I put my foot in it though when I told her that her dress was orange as opposed to red. We bumped into our hat friends again later on but we had to leave as I saw a messed up a guy with the freakiest eye I have ever seen. His was semi-passed out with one eye closed, but the other was half open but rolled back in his head darting from side to side. Not good! With dawn approaching we had a few nice cups of chai down at Chai Wallahs, before sitting in the ID Spiral for a a while until the need for bed came round, and we finally retired for the night at around 5am.

Glade Sundays are usually a relaxed affair as the full throttle antics of the previous few days slowly begin to catch up with everyone. There was only a couple of artists that I wanted to catch on the Sunday, with Red Snapper being the first and seeing as they weren't on until 3pm we could lounge around for a bit down at the Rabbit Hole and back at camp. Red Snapper were excellent down on the Glade Stage, playing some great music with their jazzy, hip hop based tunes. The only downside of the set was the lack of any vocalist for some of the songs that needed it, which was a small downer but ultimately it was a great set. After this we checked out the Breaks Tent with Tayo providing the tunes until we grabbed an enchilada for dinner before going to the Glade stage for the final act of the evening with The Orb. The Orb are a legendary British group in the electronic scene, bringing ambient house music to the masses in the nineties and they would surely be ideal end to a great festival.

Of course they didn't disappoint at all, starting with a Star Trek sample to ease us in, they then played a solid set with some of their classic songs such as Little Fluffy Clouds before leaving the stage to the strains of 'Dream a Little Dream of Me' (I think!). It was a fine way to finish off the music, and we spent much of the rest of the evening having a few drinks in the Pussy Parlure, watching some guys attempt to break dance before heading back to the tent for a final few beers and some games of Badger, Fox, Rabbit (Paper, Scissor, Stone with animals).

The whole weekend had been a great festival, a real bonus compared to last year's mud bath, but attendance figures were still down – the festival didn't sell out – yet everyone had a smile on their faces despite it being a Monday. It was another sunny day, yet we were all content with a weekend well spent and after saying our goodbyes Amy and I set off back towards Bristol. Glade Festival is so different to all the other festivals that I've been to and that is something that for me makes it incredible unique. It is a very hectic festival and you do feel exhausted by the time Monday comes around, but it's a good feeling with plenty of new good memories (the ones you can remember anyway), and I always come away from Glade having met more people than any other festival I go to. However, it always comes to an end, and sometimes that end comes just in time before your mind turns to Angel Delight. I must have been close to that point as I became slightly confused when we drove through Aldermaston on the Monday,

“We should phone Paul and stop at this pub for a Sunday lunch!” I said excitedly,
“James, it's Monday,” replied Amy, laughing at me.