Monday 22 August 2016

Me and Me Brethren Just Stand Up and Watch, A What a Joy to See Them

Summer has many facets, a time of renewal, invigoration, long days of warmth and joy yet with the  melancholic breeze hinting of it's slow decline into Autumn not too far on the horizon.

One joy to keep those winds at bay that little longer is my love of music and of the music festival. A gathering of all walks of life usually in a field that converts itself into a mini pop up village for one long weekend each year.

There are many to choose from these days but the older I get the smaller and more intimate I prefer. The choice this year was Wickham Festival in Hampshire. One I have had the pleasure of volunteering at for the past few years. Many similar faces return to make it more like a family affair year on year.
Four days, milling around absorbing the vibes whether musical, visual or oral are like a mini holiday in a farmers field.
Day one starts a little later, so my stint at litter picking on behalf of the Two Saints charity that helps out homeless people is an easy affair and gives me the opportunity to walk into the surrounding countryside and explore a while before the music kicks off. I parked the van just away from the main camping area and close to the festival entrance for ease of access. This is my little home for the next four nights... I follow the road and head down the public footpath that I recognise from last years walk. The tall hedgerows border the wheat fields out of sight either side.
A Comma butterfly sat basking on the path in front of me.
The wheat in the fields seemed ready for harvesting.

Green Veined Whites were still on the wing, albeit a tad rough around the edges
The wheat fields had a good number of Swallows and House Martins hawking for insects. I tried to get a decent shot of them in flight with pretty poor results!

As I neared the end of the path, the umbelifers looked resplendent in the sunshine
I reached the old railway bridge that spans the Meon Valley Trail. Thanks to the Beeching cuts in the 60's this old railway line now gives pleasure to us to walk along and a great place for nature to thrive. It starts at Wickham in the south and winds through to Soberton a little way north.
As I descended to walk the line, I was aware of the Ash trees succumbing to Ash die back disease, an all to common sight now. The tips of the trees clearly affected.

I looked back to the bridge I had stood from
Ahead were people walking or cycling. I imagined what it must have been like to see hear and smell steam locomotives chugging down this track all those years ago...
I took a detour from the main line and found an access point to walk along the Meon River
A beautiful and tranquil chalk stream cutting it's way through the heart of Hampshire

Along it's banks Hemp Agrimony was in full bloom
Not too far along the route I found myself at a trout fishery. A female Mallard and her well developed young swam undisturbed until I arrived...along with a pair of Moorhen having an almighty fight!
I retraced my steps to the trail and headed back to the festival...

Nearing the end of the path the unmistakable sound of a Yellowhammer sang atop of the cables...
I had arrived back at the campsite, the music had started and I was eager to see what delights were in store in the main festival arena. A quick change in the van and I was off....
I started at the second stage called The Wildlife Stage as it was sponsored by The League Against Cruel Sports who had a tent here. A band called The Hattie Jacques Playlist were performing. A covers band who ranged from the 60's Mods to 90's Britpop with a very charismatic lead singer . Very engaging to watch...

After such an exhilarating start, I popped into the real ale tent for a spot of refreshment and headed to the main stage...
Along the way I was aware of bubbles. These were to be a theme throughout the weekend. There was a stall called Bubble Inc, they produced bubbles the whole time we were there. No matter how old you are they always seem to capture the imagination and had me enthralled as I took  photos of them.

The children loved them too of course...
I drifted off with the bubbles to the main stage where Eddie Reader of Fairgound Attraction fame was singing. She has the voice of an angel!

The weather had been kind and was set to be so over the weekend too. This was only Thursday and my shift as a litter picker would get more hectic as the days progressed.
The headline act on this first day was Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet. He was excellent and a great end to the day....

I headed back to the van and had a good nights sleep. That's not me heading to the van by the way but one of my RPS's or 'Random People Shots' from the weekend. Love the suit!
This is from day 2. After completing my shift - 12 to 4pm- I met up with my good friend Matt who was to help the rest of the weekend with the litter pick. After giving him a brief tour of the site and pitching his tent, we headed to the main stage - via the real ale tent of course!-  to catch a favourite of mine, Bruce Foxton and From the Jam, who absolutely smashed it!
This man can really play bass.....wonderful!
The lead singer and guitarist who takes Paul Weller's place is the excellent Russell Hastings

Superb set from them and the highlight of the day.

The Bubble Inc stall at sunset
The headline act this Friday night were The Stranglers who were very good but didn't hit the spot like Bruce had earlier.

Day 3, Saturday. Matt and I had breakfast by my van and chatted about how good last night was before we began our shift. This time from 9 til 1pm as help was needed clearing the arena from last night. It wasn't as bad as some larger festivals can be but still fairly strenuous wheeling the bins around and picking up the discarded litter.
Once completed and the punters began arriving on site the bubbles began again in earnest!

First on the main stage was a local and very influential musician who helps organise much of the music here and around the area, Alistair Goodwin. Matt and I stood transfixed at how good this man was. One guitar, yet mesmerising.  
I love flags at festivals, the Leagues tent being a great place to chill out and people watch

More bubbles!!

The League Against Cruel Sports chillout nest made especially for the festival and up for sale afterwards apparently. Matt and I considered if we could fit it in both of our vans over a pint. It is larger than you think...

Some great food stalls around
Bill Oddie was here and was due do talk on behalf of the League. As I sat I spotted him preparing his notes ready for later.
He gave a good speech, nothing I personally didn't know about illegal activity against wildlife but Matt said he found it enlightening, so hopefully he educated many more people in the fight against animal prejudice.
As we departed the tent, the Gothic Morris Dancers from The Isle of Wight performed their routine

The festival holds around 7000 people per day. Just the right size plus the weather helped swell the numbers over the main part of the weekend.
Chas and Dave next on the main stage. A right good knees up it was too. They drew a huge crowd and definitely pleased us!

The bubbles photo bombed the gig...

The Leagues tent looked great in the sunset...

Mr Matt in the pork pie hat. A great companion over the weekend and a pleasure to work and share the festival with. I coveted his T-shirt too!
The sun was setting and the main acts were about to enter the stage...

The Trevor Horn Band were the penultimate act on Saturday. An amazing songwriter and producer who was very prominent when I was in my teens, so the setlist was right up my street.

In his band was Lol Creme, once of Godley and Creme and 10cc of course.
I spied the setlist so took a shot and zoomed in....some classics in there!
A guest singer for the night was Matt Cardle from X Factor. Not the sort of programme I take an interest in but hats of to the guy, he was outstanding.

He sang 10cc's I'm Not in Love, The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Relax amongst others.

A brilliant set once again and the highlight of the night for me.
Another great sunset and a wonderful crescent moon.
As we left the main stage for some refreshment, I had more RPS's. This time a couple of well oiled chaps wanted to pose for my camera, so not wanting to let them down, I gave some encouragement in the art of posing for the it fellas work it, find the lens, pout for me darling!!

After much laughter, we carried on...
The SAS Band or Spike's All Stars are a mash up of artists got together by Spike Edney, one time keyboard player with the band Queen.
Toyah was first on, singing a few cover versions and some of her hits. She certainly had some energy on stage... 

Then Fish, former lead singer with Marillion entered the fray and proceeded to do the same...

I spied the set list again....

Bill Oddie had a guest spot too and before you ask, no he didn't sing The Funky Gibbon!. He sang Wild Thing by The Troggs and Mama Told me Not to Come by Three Dog Night, which he pulled off without too much embarrassment.

The final guest spot was left for Roger Taylor, the drummer for Queen. He sang and hasn't got a bad voice at all but it felt a bit of a misplaced mish mash and again the previous act surpassed the last in our opinion.

Day 3. Sunday
As with many Sundays at festivals, everyone gets up that little bit later and matters start to wind down slowly after heady days and nights living it up with thoughts of work and the real world entering our heads. Although work was definitely on our agenda for us litter pickers. 9am start to clear away the waste of human nature from the night before.
It brings into minute perspective what a wasteful species we really are. The rest of the natural world never wastes it resources and lives in a perfect balance with it's enviroment. Never taking too much. We are capable of this too, but when witnessing our disregard for our surroundings in such a manner, it makes me wonder what we have become....?

My partner Sarah had made it down for the last day which was most pleasing for me. We sat and contemplated matters at The Leagues chillout nest with the brilliant reed sculptures as a backdrop..
As we people watched, Matt and his family hoved into view so I couldn't resist a few sneaky shots....there was that T-shirt again...

As I had an AAA wristband I could go anywhere. All around the festival there were characters dressed up for everyones amusement. These two I chatted with and I assured them I wouldn't capture their souls by photographing them. I told them they looked like something from the film Labyrinth!
Sarah and I mooched the many stalls here...

The second stage looked resplendent in the sunshine.

We headed backstage at the main tent for some refreshment at the VIP bar and to cool down.
The tent had some great shading on the roof
Some more RPS's as a couple of photographers reflected on their day...
The acoustic stage was open air and had a problem sometimes when the sound clashed with the nearby music tent. Not when the beautiful Lucy Kitchen was playing though. A wonderful singer songwriter from Southampton who encapsulated a sultry sunny summer afternoon in a field in Hampshire with her music. We sat enthralled for that brief moment in time.

As we wandered round, Sarah decided to head home as did Matt and his family. I would see it through to the bitter end, ever the hardcore festival goer!
More RPS's. Santa hats and wacky shirts anyone?
A great Americana prog rock covers band played the second stage as I took pics of the ceiling!

The day was drawing to a close and the end of a wonderful festival....I was starting to flag a little. Not that hard core after all, so I headed back to relax in the van and listen to the headliners Lindisfarne from the comfort of my bed....

As I reached the van, the lights from the festival made some amazing patterns on the side of it through the trees.
I'd had a wonderful time. Met some really good people, drank some fine ale, eaten some delicious food and listened to some quality music. If music be the food of love, play on.....til next year!

 N.B. The Title from this post is from the track 'Festival Time' by Maxi Priest  

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