Xmas morning was shared with 2 groups of travellers. Our Austrian acquaintances included 3 young people with a little 22 month girl, Annelie. We searched our van to find a gift and came up with two small toys, a card and 3 cappuccino bags! They responded with a bowl containing an apple for food and growth, garlic cloves for health and a nectarine and sachet of jam. The other couple (that we called our 5 minute friends) gave the Austrians and ourselves half each of one of their home grown pumpkins complete with a red bow! After wishing everyone a Merry Xmas as they left, we settled down for a traditional Xmas lunch. Heather did a great job of making it a festive meal, but we did miss our families. It was very warm but as we had power we resorted to a little air conditioning. Cleaned up and decided to get onto Woodford!
The gates opened for camping at 2pm and when we arrived about 2:30pm we found huge queues snaking in - on Xmas Day! The festival did not start until 27th and we thought we were pretty early! The campsite went on for miles (over 15,000 people in the site) and it was very hard to find a spot to camp. We toughed it out and squeezed in fairly close to the festival entrance, which turned out to be a bonus as it was easy to go back for food, drinks and a rest. Everyone was very close to each other and we thought that it might be too noisy but it was fairly quiet. What an amazing festival – this is more than a folk festival. As well as all types of music, there was dance, theatre, arts, poetry, comedy, debates, street theatre and puppetry, info talks and lots of workshops on numerous gardening, health and happiness issues.
All the days were very hot and it was hard to get relief from the heat. The locals complained too. Most evenings received the relief of a tropical storm of rain and thunder /lightning.
The organisation of the festival was incredible – there were 2,000 volunteers and over 120,000 people attending. Having been involved in running a number of performances and festivals, Peter was in awe of the logistics needed to run such a smooth festival. Whilst the festival was crowded, it still felt good. There are lots of spaces and lovely places to sit and recover. There were 20 venues for people to see acts, as well as numerous cafes and bars. The food choices were amazing and some cafes had very inviting décor. There are many shops - the majority were women’s clothing, but also lots of odd interesting ones. New Years Eve was a buzz, with lots of extra exuberant young people coming in. They had a particularly lovely event at 11:30pm where everyone lights a candle (they gave out birthday cake ones that lasted well over 5 mins). Sitting around the pond with all the lights and candles reflecting was a particularly beautiful experience. The silence was amazing as suddenly we could hear all the tropical night insects. On the final night, NY’s day, they hold a closing ceremony in a huge natural amphitheatre. There are fire performances and a mass choir, ending with the burning of a large edifice each year. This year, they constructed a big windmill with turning blades. There was an amazing storm with sheet lightning all around the sky as everyone settled in and it felt rather uncomfortable about so many people out in it but it just came to the edge and left. The lightning nearly upstaged the performance. It rained and cooled down a lot and we went on to seek out our final performances. It felt sad to leave and it reminded us of the last moments of the Easter Show, as we watched the stalls pack up and the numbers dwindle in the dark.