Warwick Folk Festival 2018

Okay.  First time at Warwick Folk Festival.  Can’t remember what made us pick this one to do earlier in the year, but back in January it seemed like a good idea.  We’d booked Broadstairs and were looking for something different.

And it’s a very different festival to Broadstairs.  For those of you who don’t know, the Broadstairs Folk Week is a big festival at the seaside in the middle of August.  Camping is all at the big senior school about a mile from the sea front, and the venues are scattered around the town.  It’s like Edinburgh as a University – accommodation here, lectures here, here, and here.  Warwick, on the other hand, is all on one site.  It’s a campus university, everything’s within walking distance.  And that includes the beer festival!

Some of the acts at Warwick we’d seen before.  Okay, one of the acts we’d seen before – Granny’s Attic.  But their ABBA tribute act was new to us!  That might need a bit of explaining.  One of Warwick’s “One Unique Things” (quick 13th Age reference there) is their non-folk session.  Each year it’s themed, last year was The Beatles, apparently, and this year a dozen or more acts covered ABBA songs.  This session was supposed to last for an hour.  I think it was nearly 2 by the time it finished!  It was compered by one of my favourite acts of the weekend – Keith Donnelly.

Wherever you turned at the festival, Keith was there.  He finished the Friday night concert on the open-air stage.  He performed several shows for kids.  He hosted the ABBA gig!  He performed at and compered the final concert of the festival itself.  The man’s a genius.

Les Barker, performance poet, introduced us to a number of ridiculous little poems, including one most of the audience knew about the iceberg that sank the Titanic.

A common theme running through Keith Donnelly’s work was poking fun at “Show of Hands”.  We’d never heard of them, but when they were headlining the Saturday night concert, we figured we’d check them out.  Wow! Just incredible.  And they had to come on after Korontzi had rocked the hall with some incredible accordion and tambourine playing from the Basque country.  You had to be there.

And my award for the “band to watch” goes to Man the Lifeboats.  Superb folk/rock from London.

The Good…

Everything’s on one site.  You can stroll from your tent to the food, the stalls, the concerts, everything.  Plus we were in the neighbourhood for my brother-in-law and some friends from Uni so got to do some wild swimming in the Avon, had a cracking lunch at the Cottage of Content, and a picnic in the park.

The food was incredibly good – so easy for festivals to be lazy and get some so-so trucks in but the Old Granary Pierogi set the bar damn high and everyone else upped their game to meet.  Leon’s vegan food was amazing.  And the beer…  the cider…  Over a dozen ciders, 30+ real ales!  Fantastic.

The acts were great – a huge range of styles and genres.  A whole host of stuff new to us.  Brilliant.

The Bad…

There’s a lot of clashes in the programme – 2PM every day there’s 3 different concerts in 3 different venues, and a ceilidh in the hall.  Likewise at 8PM.  You’ve really got to prioritise who and what you want to see/do.  Broadstairs seem to have it covered where the ceilidh finishes then, giving you just enough time to amble up to the marquee for the afternoon concert…  Just haven’t noticed the clashes in the schedule.

The Morris…

Massively underrated, your Morris dancing.  Massively.  I leave you with the Black Swan Rapper.

Are we going back to Warwick?

I reckon so, yes.

End of Year 1

Come be a pack leader, they said. It’s only a couple of hours a week, they said. You’ll enjoy it, they said.

And you know what, they’re mostly right!

Warning. Make yourself comfortable, get a drink, this may be a long message…

This Friday just gone marks the end of my first year in Scouting. I was invested at the AGM in 2017, was assistant leader for what seems like about a minute and a half before moving up to pack leader and I’ve loved every bit of it. It made me question the job I was doing and now I’m starting teacher training in September. I’ve got my Cubs to thank for that.

It has been a busy year. I could not have done any of it without the help of my assistant leaders, young leaders, and the leaders of the other sections who have helped keep me straight in matters of scouting about which I still know little! But it’s a bad day if you don’t learn something new.

I am extremely proud of each and every one of my Cubs. Sometimes it does feel like I’m trying to herd cats, but they’re the best cats I could ever want to try and herd.

Each of the Cubs brings something different to the group, something uniquely theirs. And that’s what makes every session special.

Now for the homework…

It’s a long time until September, and the worst thing anyone looking after kids can hear is “I’m bored!” So here are a few activities that I want you all to do between now and September:

Read books. You’re never bored if you’ve got a good book on the go. I’ve got a few racked up for my summer reading – “Horror in Honduras”, “Rotherweird”, and Jasper Fforde’s complete “Thursday Next” series. Your local library will be doing a summer reading challenge and those 6 books count for your Book Reader badge.

Take pictures. The Photographer badge project would make a great way to remember a day out you take over the summer – we could have a night when we get back where everyone brings in their pictures and we can all have a look at where you’ve been! Try to take an amazing photograph in your back garden!

Enjoy nature! Right now, everything’s coming into fruit. Raspberries, strawberries, backcurrants, redcurrants… The gardens are heaving with delicious things! If you pick some of these – with the aid of an adult who can tell you what you can and can’t eat – and then use them in a recipe that counts towards both your Naturalist badge and your Chef badge. I used to pick blueberries up on the moors at Brimham Rocks with my mum and brothers – never got a chance to cook with them, though, we picked and ate!

Relax, have fun, and enjoy your break. I remember when I was this age, growing up in Yorkshire, the summer holidays felt endless and yet over in the blink of an eye both at the same time. September and our new year will be with us all too soon.

Do and see something completely different. There may well be a special badge (completely unofficial and one for your camp blankets) if you say hello to me at the Lincoln Steampunk Festival, August bank holiday weekend…

Cubs, thank you. You’ve made this year very special for me. Leaders, thank you. Couldn’t have done this without you. Young Leaders? Thank you, you make the start of every session a gamble. Departing ex-Young Leader? Best of luck gallivanting around the globe. Do write that blog!

See you all in September.

The inevitability of _something_

To borrow some words from Neil Gaiman…

What’s the name of the word for things not being the same always.  You know, I’m sure there is one, isn’t there?  There must be a word for it…  The thing that lets you know time is happening. Is there a word?


Things change.  It’s inevitable.  The more it stays the same, the less it changes (Spinal Tap).  The problem is, while it’s bound to happen sooner or later, not everyone is happy with it.

We’re not talking the big, impossible, philosophical imponderables here, though if you read enough Sandman you’re going to be fairly well equipped to deal with them.  We’re talking Science Fiction.

Over the course of my life, we’ve had six different Star Trek series, and if they’ve taught me one thing it’s that Star Trek can’t handle continuity no matter how many devoted fans you’ve got maintaining the wikis.  And if it’s taught me another thing it’s that sometimes changes take a long time to explain (why the original series Klingons looked the way they did, f’rinstance.  It’s a long haul, but it is there).  Sometimes, though, you change things just a bit too much in one go and you end up with the Star Trek: Discovery Klingons and that’s just “nope, I’m out”.  Strangely, I’ve just stopped watching rather than popping up on the Discovery Facebook group complaining about the Klingons after every episode has aired.

Another big change is coming to Doctor Who this year.  In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard the news, the latest actor to play the title role is Jodie Whittaker.

To say this announcement made some people unhappy would be fairly accurate.  I know people who have decided now to stop watching Dr Who completely.   In much the same way Stephen Fry did when he left Twitter or the way this last winter has been coming back and back and back.

Let’s ignore the fact that this is less science fiction and more story-driven space fantasy.  Let’s ignore the fact that the show has broken its own rules on more occasions than you can shake a big stick at for the sake of the story.  Okay, so a Timelord can only regenerate 12 times.  Fair enough.  Much has been made of The Master going on a quest for additional regeneration cycles.  Much was made of the big Story Arc Achievement Unlocked that gave Matt Smith the extra set of regenerations and brought us Peter Capaldi.  I mean, it was obviously going to happen, the BBC weren’t going to end Dr Who just to stick to this magic number.  Let’s ignore the fact that on at least one occasion the show has had details of regenerations before William Hartnell and this magic number should’ve been storied away around Sylvester McCoy.

The BBC like to telegraph things a long way in advance.  The writing was on the wall for a female Doctor when Michelle Gomez stepped into The Master’s shoes and delivered a delightful performance straight out of Green Wing.  And when a Timelord was shot on Gallifrey, regenerating smoothly from a bald, white guy into a black woman and no-one around her so much as raised an eyebrow.

Regenerations on Dr Who follow roughly the same procedure.

  1. Actor currently playing The Doctor announces they’re going to leave.  Much wailing and gnashing of teeth, how could they do this, who could ever play the role better, etc. etc. etc.
  2. BBC schedule an entire evening’s “entertainment” to revealing the new Doctor.  Cue much admiration of the current incumbent, interviews along the lines of “of course, when this actor did their audition we realised we’d got our new Doctor” without ever revealing anything, and cue me tuning in to Facebook about 10 seconds before the end of the show to find out who it is without having to watch this time filler.  Seriously, just tell us.  Stick it in Newsround that morning.
  3. Now we know who the new actor is, cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth, how could they do this, how is Tristan Farnon / Casanova / Malcolm Tucker going to fit? Why didn’t they pick Paterson Joseph / Idris Elba / Rufus Sewell / etc?  And, in the case of the 11th Doctor, cue a conversation that started, in a pub in Inverness with a friend I’d not seen for 3 years, not with “How are you?” or “What have you been up to?” but “Who the f*ck is Matt Smith?”  (By a curious coincidence, a year or so later, a friend of mine was returning from a University Dean’s dinner in Inverness, walking along the high street in full regalia, when a voice behind him commented on how cool his cape was.  Dean in question turned round to find Matt Smith, in Inverness having a tweed jacket made.)
  4. And after about 2 or 3 episodes of the new team, the new TARDIS console room, you’re wondering what all the fuss was about, of course <insert actor here> is The Doctor, how could it’ve been anyone else?
  5. And repeat.

Over the years, The Doctor has officially been played by 16 men.  Okay, so one of them was Peter Cushing for the Dalek movies, and that doesn’t entirely count, and one of them was an actor playing an actor playing The Doctor but who has now officially played that Doctor (wibbly wobbly timey wimey and so on).

Now I’ve not entirely enjoyed the last few series of Dr Who.  Not because of the actor playing The Doctor, but because the writing has been poor.  I miss the good old days of a story being strung out over 4 or 6 episodes, not wrapped up in 1.  Recently, the pacing of the episodes have been off, single-episode stories have felt rushed, two-parters have dragged along.  So for me, at least, the biggest change is that Stephen Moffat is stepping down from Dr Who.

Like Mr M, the new head honcho has written episodes of Dr Who in the past.  Unfortunately, they’re no “Blink”.  Instead he’s given us “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”.  He has written some unusual episodes, though, playing more with the pacing and the episode format.  He’s also written a large portion of Torchwood.  So this change is the one I’m really excited about.  This new Doctor will survive on the strength of the stories she’s given.