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.