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.