Brief thoughts about spending two Saturdays on the trot in fields
As you know, yer man Russ L is more urban than 50 Cent using an expensive mobile phone in a multi-storey carpark. Fields are alien to me; the very presence of grass makes me feel ill*. Nevertheless, my ever-present Thanatos-stylee self-destructive urges recently lead me to spend two consecutive Saturdays standing and sitting on vegetation, and this is my story.
The Lunar Festival at The Umberslade Estate in Tanworth-in-Arden, Saturday the 2nd of June
A new indie-folksy do from the good people who bring you Moseley Folk and Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul, the Lunar Festival takes place in awfully terribly posh Tanworth-In-Arden, where Nick Drake came from. It was on from Friday till Monday, but I only went to the Saturday. Each artist was required to do a Nick Drake cover as part of their set, which means that this probably qualified as high-concept.
~ It was very soggy and wet, although still not as bad as was predicted by the type of doomsaying Cassandras who (unaccountably) pay heed to weather forecasts. It got cold later on, too. The following day was even worse, so I do feel sorry for those who camped there.
~ The actual place is pretty inaccessible, which is a bit of a shame really. Danzey train station is nearby, but the last trains heading back finish earlier than you’d want. The organisers apparently arranged a coach from Moseley, which was no doubt awesome if you live in or near Moseley. I would’ve had difficulty going to this if the lovely Family Daffern hadn’t given me a lift in their motorcar.
~ Presumably as a result of the two things above, there weren’t too many punters there. Obviously I don’t object to having a bit more breathing space, but I assume this whole thing lost money and we don’t want that.
~ Umberslade Estate is nice. The approach/driveway was absolutely gorgeous, with the prettiest row of meticulously spaced trees. The actual field where all the doings a-happened was alright, although not as nice as Moseley Park (to which it will inevitably be compared).
~ The bar was run by Purity, because – as Mr Ford nearly wisely noted – their ass is everywhere. There were no four pint jugs like you get at Moseley Folk, though. Boo to that. If there’d been a larger number of punters then there could’ve been delays, and (as we all know) time is money on the folk music scene.
~ Oh yes, of course – there was some music as well. Good music it was too, I thought everyone I saw all day was at least alright. Highlights included: Joseph Topping’s bluesy slidey-picky folk with what sounded on first listen like they may have been some interesting lyrics; Boat To Row’s up-tempo multi-instrumented electric folk striking me as the best of the three times I’ve seen them; Goodnight Lenin who by this point you’ve seen and you’ve heard and you know; Hannah Peel, about whom I remembered very little the last time I saw her but here found to be beautifully hypnotic and bewitching (and it’s very hard not to love a cover of “Blue Monday” done with an olde-time-y music box); Eliza Shaddad, who did that rude song again but we won’t hold it against her**; and Michael Chapman, de facto headliner for us, who as ever proved that other guitarists might as well not even bother trying.
The Women Chainmakers’ Festival at Bearmore Mounds Playing Fields in Cradley Heath, Saturday the 9th of June
In 1910, Mary McArthur led the women chainmakers of Cradley Heath on a ten week strike for a living wage. Nowadays there’s a festival in honour of it, and quite right too (as I’m sure you’ll agree if you’re not one of these people who thinks that employers should be able to sack you at will). Last year, pretty much no-one came.
~ Actually, things started on the other side of town for the unveiling of a statue of Mary, and I would say she’s an excellent candidate for the ranks of public statuary. It was unveiled an hour later than it was supposed to be, though. That’s quite a long time. There are only 24 of them in an entire day.
~ Still, the weather was much nicer than the previous weekend (which I wrote about above, you may recall). It was very cloudy early on, but a lovely blue gap opened up in the sky right over Mary’s head when the cover came off the statue. The sun it shineth on the righteous.
~ Walking back over to Bearmore Mounds, we saw that a bus driver had managed to get onto the high street that had been closed off for the banner parade. That might not sound funny in the re-telling but trust me, it was hilarious.
~ Happily, there were a lot more people in attendance at the festival than there were in 2011. It still wasn’t exactly jam-packed and there was practically no-one left by the end, but I’m very glad it wasn’t as poorly puntered as last time.
~ I approve wholeheartedly of Workers Beer, but here they were selling cans only with no cups/glasses. Doh.
~ I liked the massive, massive slide even if I didn’t have a go myself. Lots of children were very nearly killed. It’s a shame it had to be blue, though. It would’ve been better if they could have hired a red one.
~ There were some nice turns throughout the day – no-one absolutely amazed me music-wise, but I quite-liked quite a few and I did particularly enjoy Tom Martin & Helena Rosewell doing a bluesy-folk-with-pretty-swells-of-cello thing that wouldn’t have been out of place the previous weekend. I was greatly amused by some poetry/spoken word stuff from Brendan Hawthorne & John Edgar, too.
So there we go. Two lovely days out.
* They tell me that the condition is called ‘hayfever’, but I refuse to get bogged down in such jargon and quackery.
** Don’t lower yourself to the obvious joke. It’s beneath you.