It’s festival season again! I’m rather delighted by the wide variety of niche, special interest, communities that set out each year to immerse themselves in their enthusiasms for a weekend whilst living in a field and drinking too much.
I’m currently preparing for two days of telling tales to an assortment of LARP (Live Action Role Play), cosplay and re-enactment fans in Gloucestershire at Fantasy Forest. I did a wedding for a sub set of this group a few weeks back and it has to be said that LARPers make a great audience, though I am expecting to be outclassed in the costume department as, for a lot of these people, getting dressed up as something spectacular, wizards, elves, werewolves, aliens, is the entire reason they are there.
Two weeks later I’m off to Valhalla, which is unsurprisingly a Viking Festival, though the location may raise an eyebrow since it’s just outside Basingstoke. There I have to compete with archery, axe throwing, blacksmiths, wolves, fire walking, ravens, boat burning, display fights featuring viking warrior bands from around the country, and the Mead Hall, complete with stage, 10 kilowatt PA and a full programme of viking related music from tinkly medieval harpists to gothic Scandinavian metal.
Now you may think that my preparation for these involves rehearsing my stories and maybe looking up a couple of new ones, which might happen if I have time but mainly it is comprised of activities like rubbing the inside of my viking boots with neats foot oil; sewing my viking tunic up where a seam has split; jump starting the car, moving it to the drive and recharging the battery which has mysteriously gone flat. I have Thursday down for loading the (hopefully fixed) car with the ridiculous array of things I need. Alongside all the obvious camping gear, tent, bedding, stove, enamel plates etc. I also need to fit in chalk boards to advertise my shows, emergency backdrops, costumes, merchandise… instruments: lyre, bodhran, djembe, thunder drum, chimes, dulcimer… then there’s all the odd stuff you have to take because it’s camping: toilet roll, solar powered torches, wet wipes, and not just camping but camping in England, so you need to have enough clothing for any and every possible weather condition: wellies, waterproofs, sun hats, umbrellas, insect repellant, factor 50 sun screen, t-shirts, jumpers.
If last year is anything to go by I could do with a fridge and a rubber dinghy too, one for when it gets too hot and the other for when the rain gets biblical, like it did at Wickham, where I was woken up at about 4am by the extraordinary pounding of the rain on my, thankfully brand new and very waterproof tent, and on going out to check on the guy ropes discovered that a sheet of water around an inch deep was flowing down the hill and under my tent.
I might get to practice my performance a bit before I go but not if I can’t find my sewing kit, I’ve looked in all the obvious places and no sign yet. It’ll turn up eventually but the sooner it does the higher my chances of getting to sit in the shade and bone up on a couple of new viking sagas.
Oh! Water carrier, chalks, tankard… and I must remember a towel this time.