I’ve only just remembered that a month or so ago I went to the Larmer Tree Festival.
Now, I’m not a festival fan. I’m still undecided on whether or not I like camping but I’m certain I don’t like camping under festival conditions. It’s noisy and busy and muddy and there are drunk people and a good chance your tent will be damaged. It just doesn’t work for me.
But the Larmer Tree Festival is supposed to be quite civilised and besides, it’s pretty local. I can – and I did – pop up there after work one evening. I was actually going for the comedy – because comedy so close to my house is unusual and it makes me happy for it to come to me occasionally instead of me going to it – but I went straight after work to take in the other attractions as well.
First of all, ummm…the Larmer Tree Festival is very hippie. I did not look the part in my ordinary t-shirt and whatever trousers and my hiking boots. This is a place of arty clothes – patchwork dungarees, flowers on everything, floaty stuff, shiny stuff, sandals, maxi dresses, you name it. And pretty much everyone was wearing a flower crown. It was clearly the thing to wear and since literally every other stall was selling the things, I gave in to peer pressure for the first time in donkey’s years and bought one. And you know what? I felt like a princess in it!
I killed the first two hours ambling around the field, feeling like this wasn’t quite as big or exciting as I’d hoped. I found some me-friendly food eventually – I don’t do brilliantly on pheasant curry, various homemade wines or elderflower cordial – but I did spot the bus cafe which did, amongst other things, cheese on toast.
I wasn’t expecting to be able to get cheese on toast at the Larmer Tree, so that was very nice. I sat on top of the bus to eat it and watched what was going on around me and gradually it occurred to me that despite having circled the field three or four times, I hadn’t seen half the stuff the website had promised and further investigations led me to discover I’d only found about half the site. If you go out of the stalls field and cross the road, there’s the main stage and in the trees around it, lots more stuff going on.
Now, a lot of the Larmer Tree Gardens seems to consist of rhododendrons. Rodis are an invasive species that acidifies the soil and drives out the native flora and I’ve spent many a weekend on Brownsea Island tearing it down, so it mystifies me a little bit to see it being celebrated here.
It’s filled with coloured lights and mirror balls and it’s actually really nice to wander around the paths, spying interesting things, like the Lostwood Stage with its campfire, the giant chess set and the spider’s web and the knitting huts and the pampering place. It was surprisingly quiet – I mean, there were enough people ambling around but it wasn’t shoulder-to-shoulder packed.
I sat by the lovely campfire watching… I can’t remember who. I know I wrote it down but I can’t for the life of me work out where I wrote it down. These two, whose name suggested that they are one person. The Something Poet, something like that.
I’ve not heard live poetry before. I’m not going to convert from comedy to poetry but I stayed for the entire set.
I found Bellowhead! As a teenager, my friends dragged me (fairly willingly, to be fair) to concerts. I saw A1 and Westlife and the Smash Hits Tour and things like that and I concluded that it Wasn’t For Me. Too noisy, too many people, I hated being packed in at the front, expected to stand up and not faint for three or more hours, a few feet from the speakers, having my eardrums pounded. It put me off live music for more than a decade. But I stumbled across Bellowhead and wow! It wasn’t so loud at the back that it hurt my ears but I could feel the beat of the music vibrating through my entire body and it was exhilarating. I found I was excited and I wanted to get closer and hear more. Bellowhead, being sort of folk, isn’t the sort of music I’m into – when I saw them on the website, I thought I’d probably give them a miss but live, loud and in a crowd, it was a different matter. It was all energy and enthusiasm and talent and it was amazing and I never expected to be so happy that I saw them and I was!
The comedy, when I ambled back via several tents in that field – saw quite a bit of live music on the way but nothing that had the life in it that Bellowhead did – was packed. I wasn’t necessarily planning to sit and watch the whole thing but it turned out that if you didn’t, you didn’t get a seat. Half an hour in, people were beginning to sit down on the ground around the front and by the end, there was a wall of people all around the outside, people sitting in the aisles – the entire festival trying to squeeze into the comedy tent, by the look of it.
Of course, finding your car in the dark at gone 1am is fun. What was a car park at 6 is now just a field with a few remaining cars scattered around it. I don’t regret going home rather than camping but it was a bit of weedy end to a really good evening.