@Playgroup Festival

The Big Lemon, P162TDW
The Big Lemon deserves an award for providing exceptional service to the Playgroup festival. Image by Steven's Transport Photos via Flickr

I did enjoy the Playgroup Festival, so thought I should write another blog post to tell you about all the great stuff. And this, dear reader, is a rambling blog post, well over my 500 word limit!

It was a nice festival packed with friendly, kind and generous people. When I arrived a fellow helped carry my camp gear to the camping area and waited while I chose my spot.  He went on his way, then I picked a spot further away and someone else came along and helped me carry.

When I started to put up my tent, two women who were already camped helped; then I helped two other women who were struggling with theirs and they invited me to join their supper – which I declined as it was minced beef chilli!

The family area – outside the main area – was really lovely during the day when all the kiddies were around. There were lots of family activities: a music area where you could play giant xylophones and take a workshop in digital audio, a circus area where you could learn circus skills, a tent with children’s entertainment, a cinema, and Grannie’s Cafe which served-up a wide variety of great Toasties and a full range of teas, as well as a wicked hot chocolate (with brandy if you wanted) complete with cheery Grannie voices, even at 3:00 AM!  

On Friday I had a tasty chai tea (albeit from a bag) and the pleasant spicy flavor lingered in my mouth a good while afterwards, so it was a good bag!  Saturday night I went back for a Brie and Cranberry toastie – as well as a wicked hot chocolate. Obviously a popular item, as on Friday they’d had a blackboard with a long list of hot chocolate liquors which by Saturday night had been reduced to simply hot chocolate with brandy!

In the evening there was a camp fire in a dug out pit with seats dug out of the ground. It generated lots of warmth.

I bumped into many friends and acquaintances from Brighton, and met lots of new people enjoying the “festival head zone”, resulting in many random stimulating conversations.

including one with a trombone player from Brighton about the sound created by stones and water on the beach (that resonated with my poem Underwater Chorus). He told me the sound is caused by tiny air bubbles in the water popping as they hit the stones – at least I think that’s what he said, it was very late.   He also said he was going to check my blog and contact me and send me links to his stuff – hope he does. Would like to continue that conversation!

There were also chats about the economic status of the artist in Britain (not good!) prohibition of drugs and my father’s anti-prohibition activities, various methods of teaching voice and teaching in general, the upcoming Digital festival, mindapples...

The healing area was not only handy to the cleanest toilets, but also offered a variety of workshops and massage therapies, including a gong bath which I enjoyed on Sunday afternoon. I stretched myself out amidst the collection of bodies and let the sound wash over me…

I sensed the changing gong tones in different parts of my body, and heard it differently on the side of my face where I’ve been suffering from swollen sinus and a plugged ear!  The sound truly didn’t penetrate that area in the same way as it did on the clear side of my head. It’s as if that side of my head is numb. (Yes I’m seeing the doctor about it!)

There was one tone that produced a vibrant, purple-lavender color in my eyelids, and another that produced a deep, ruby-red.  The lavender definitely resonated with my spiritual chakra as during that sound I experienced incredible feelings of love and forgiveness washing through me; while the red penetrated my pelvic region and groin.

Not sure if that’s what a gong bath is supposed to, but it certainly lifted and lightened my energy. When I left, I went to the family area and played the giant xylophone and subconsciously recreated some of the same tones. That was a good vibe.

The music was great – I heard lots of good acts, mostly as background music to conversations with all the friendly souls I encountered.

At one point I heard Mean Poppa Lean from a distance and enjoyed it thoroughly.  Not sure why I didn’t get into the thick of it, it seemed I wasn’t in a dancing mood!  But I enjoyed it from a distance.

I heard a wonderful singer-guitarist in a small tent next to the Coffee and Doughnut stand.  Don’t know his name, but he was great and sounded a lot like Jim Morrison, only a much better singer than Jim ever was!  Also heard a couple of other acts in that tent that were really good.

I also enjoyed a late night jam on Friday with the sweet hot-chocolate-making gentleman from the Coffee and Doughnut Stand.

He was playing a baritone ukulele and had a great repertoire of a variety of music – from folk and jazz standards to Beatles to modern indy pop.  A young woman joined us and seemed to know the words to lots of the songs, while the rest of us joined in on the choruses. On Saturday night, I stumbled upon an accordion player jamming with a conga player, and sat and listened to some really expert French-style accordion playing.

These are the things I enjoy most about festivals. The chance encounters. The impromptu late night jams – and yes, the camping.

I had a tent, small stove and a good bed and was very comfortable camped in a field, littered with huge trees.  Some of the biggest I’ve ever seen on this little island.  That was really nice – to connect with nature.

I cooked up great breakfasts – oatmeal, quinoa, ginger, apples, cranberries, macadamia nuts, and honey – teamed with endless cups of tea, and throughly enjoyed my lazy mornings.

The first night of the festival, I found a treasure trove of a dress-up box under a tree, and scored some great festival garb to add to my wardrobe, including a box of face paints! (I have some pics of my face painted, if I can ever find the camera!)

Buried in the dress-up box, were three Waitrose shopping bags, packed with bread, ginger beer, thick, dense, semi-sweet chocolate bars, toothpaste, toothbrushes, organic sesame rice crackers, whole wheat baps, peanuts and on and on.  I took a bar of chocolate as I hadn’t brought any with me, a bottle of ginger beer to quench my thirst, and a package of rice crackers – which were really nice with the oatmeal in the morning – and left the rest.

When I went back Saturday evening to help dress-up a friend, there was still a loaf of bread left, as well as the toothpaste – though the tooth brushes were gone – and the other packet of organic sesame rice crackers.  But all the chocolate and ginger beer was gone! What does that tell you about festival folks?

One wonders why I would whinge about the food tickets when I was surrounded with so much bounty!

Well, it’s the principle of the thing.  I appreciate the Playgroup festival is a new one and it takes a few years for a festival to get on its feet, yet there are certain standards that should be adhered to.  If you aren’t going to pay your fringe artists – when you are paying your security staff – the least you can do is feed the artists at the very least one proper meal on the day they perform, and ensure that all artists are treated equally and respectfully, most importantly by their contact and the crew on their stage. Maybe the top acts – who one presumes are paid – could offer to work for a little less so the plebs can have something?

The Sunday afternoon Gong Bath cleared away lots of negative energy and opened me to a chain of good luck bringing wonderful, loving and kind energy to make the journey home so much easier.

Just as I finished packing-up my gear, a fellow who had camped next to me came to get his blue van to pick up the dinosaur skeleton.  He was so sweet, and gave me a lift with my bag to the bus, then carried my bag and put it in the bus’ boot. Luckily, it had just finished loading when we arrived – and bravo, there was a vacant seat and time for quick wee!

My good fortune continued, and just as we got back to Brighton, the heavens opened and a torrential rain fell from the sky. I dragged my bag to an awning and met a couple who kindly shared their taxi with me.  Then just as we pulled into my road a friend rang to offer to pick me up from the bus stop and bring me and my bag home! Then the fellow sharing the taxi carried my bag to the door.  How great is that!

Yes, there’s good and bad everywhere.  And oh yes, the technician on Saturday night did a great job setting the mic to my specifications – and after such a long day! Thanks for that!  And special thanks to Juliet and Catherine – they know why!

I’ve written to the Playgroup organisers about my stage management and meal voucher concerns, this blog post was written specifically to talk about the wonderful experiences I had at the festival! 

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