Lost Chance Saloon
When we first heard the Big Green Gathering might be cancelled, we didn’t take the news very seriously. We had already been onsite for a few days and had done most of the work on the bar we were building. The festival punters would be arriving in a couple of days and we could finally relax from all of the hard work and settle into much shorter shifts. Tragically it was not just a rumour. After two days of erecting marquees and three days of making benches, disbelief turned to anger-to frustration-to action. We had enough seating to sit over 350 people. We had the biggest and most beautiful venue onsite. We had almost finished creating it – even most of the decor was up. There was no question of us not having a party. That was one of the quickest consensus decisions I have ever seen.
I got the task of inviting people – trogging round site in the rain announcing that the Last-Chance-Lost-Chance-No-Chance-Saloon would be throwing a big party. Everyone said they would come. One guy asked if he could bring his horse. Ummm… ok?!
The party was quite a success. Most of the people onsite – several hundred by now – came down to our renamed ‘Lost Chance Saloon’ (we put some zero’s over the ‘A’s) The horsedrawn guy did indeed show up on his horse, which he rode into the marquee whooping and then tied up right in the middle of the party.
We all wore our best cowboy gear and wench frocks. Our beer had not yet made it to site, but plenty of people had enough to go around and there were some other outfits with cider to sell and no venue yet, so it all worked out ok- although we are still £6,000 in debt and I’m not sure what happened about the people who spent £2,000 on eggs. I didn’t notice any giant omlettes. One of the many small businesses who are threatened by a festival being cancelled so close to opening. But, I guess the police were probably quite aware of that when they put they piled conditions on that the festival had no hope of meeting. Read all about it ->hereherehere<-
I noticed that most people were trying to fit a whole festivals worth of drinking, drugs and flirting into one night. Frustration and desperation mingling nicely with beer and sweat. Still, a good time was had by all, despite the limited music available (how many hours can one put up with drum’n’base, occasionally interspersed with cheesy classics?)
The next day we burnt most of the benches we had spent days building and set about taking it all back down again. With come-downs.
The Very Short Little Green Gathering ended in a downpour, flushing away any hopes we may have had of a group camping trip. By the time I surfaced from my tent the only lift left was going to Bristol. So I sat in the back of the van, dodging drips from the light-fitting while writing my diary and trying to figure out why I was going to Bristol. I realised I had actually been meaning to go to Bristol at some point anyway but had long since assumed I wouldn’t have the time. I sent out some text messages and decided to just go where the wind took me.
Bristol has a thriving squat scene. A lot of my squatter friends have moved here over the past few months after being worn down by serial illegal evictions by police in Brighton. I stayed in my friend’s squat and a few of us from there went out to the Occasional Cinema being held at a squatted Free Shop in St Pauls.
The next day my friend Emma dropped by in her van and took us all on a group outing to the woods. Emma is one of the people I’ve been meaning to spend some time with. Mark is another of those people. After dropping the squatters back home, Emma and I continued our adventure and drove out to Radford Mill Farm where ‘Money-free Mark’ has been living in his caravan without money for the past 8 months. Here I was pleasantly surprised to bump into Tasha, a girl I met on retreat in Spain. Tasha had seen Emma play in a bar in Bristol a few days earlier… Small World!
After a night in a comfy big bed in the farmhouse I had to again decide what to do next. I almost hitched back to Brighton, but discovered I had left my waterproofs in a friend’s bag in the woods in Bristol, so took that as a sign and got a lift back to the squat with Emma.
A text message had been doing the rounds calling all BGG refugees to a smaller gathering in Hay-on-Wye in Wales. Small World Solar Stage, Triban, Lost Horizons Sauna and Pachamamas Chai Tipi would all be there. £6 a night to camp in beautiful countryside by a river, with horses, a pub and hire boat. I decided to walk to the nearest motorway junction and stick my thumb out. I found the spot Emma told me about and it was a good one. After only a couple of minutes a dreadlocked man and his young daughter picked me up and took me fifty miles to a service station. After a bit of a walk up a service road I managed to cross the M5 and waited only a few minutes on a slip-road for a bubbly woman called Louise to pick me up and take me down the M50 to Monmouth. I had been intending to get out before that, but we must have missed both of the spots I chose on the map somehow. Never mind, Monmouth will be better then.
Some passers-by described the various routes I could take to Hay, and on a whim I chose the old slow winding road which would have virtually no traffic. Don’t ask why, it just seemed like the right decision. I found the bridge and gatehouse they described easily and on noticing the Green Dragon pub (I used to drink in The Green Dragon in Brighton before it closed down), I decided to ask someone there for directions. There were a few people outside smoking, but on instinct I headed straight to the middle-aged ponytailed man sitting alone. I asked if this was the right road to Hay-on-Wye.
“I’m not sure, I’m not from around here.. Why, where are you going? Are you going to a festival?”
I said that I was.
“Will you take me with you?”
“I’ll tell you what, I need an hour to sober up. If you buy me a coffee, I’ll drive you there.”
My drivers name was David. At the time I wrote this he was playing guitar by the fire having stayed up all night having a great old time. Each time I pass him, he’s telling a different stranger the tale of how we met and how he came to be at this festival…
“…And she looked me straight in the eye and I thought, I don’t know where she’s going, but wherever it is, I’m going there with her…”
I cannot get enough of dancing these days. Minutes after getting onsite I was donning my red frock and gyrating and vibrating to the Glitzy Baghags in Small World, realising I really never had any other option than to come here. The Tribal Voices Gathering reminds me of why I got into festivals in the first place. A small gathering made up almost entirely of festival crews and musicians, with a real free festival atmosphere and ethic. A steward rota at the gate can be signed up to by anyone who wants a nights free camping and a hot meal in the pub. The kind of place you could leave anything lying around and know the worst that might happen is some hippy would spend a few hours trying to find you to give you your camera/wallet/tobacco back. The kind of place where people make truffles with lots of amazing super-food ingredients and half a gram of mushrooms in each one and sell them two for a fiver. The kind of place where a whole tent full of people share mushroom truffles and learn how to blur the lines between performer and audience, spectator and stage. Where rolling around in spontaneous contortion yoga dancing madness, the only man to look at you strangely is immediately offered some truffles by the people nearest to him.
Monday morning arrived and I finally felt like it might be time to go home. After asking around I got myself a lift to the Southern part of the M25 and hitched from there. We left late and I only made it as far as Lewes before it was very dark and hitching was getting harder. I decided to give up and get a train. I saw the ticket conductor so decided not to risk bunking. I just asked him if there was a ticket machine. He said he had one so I got on and we started chatting. I told him how I’d hitched from Wales but had decided to give up. He was so impressed he told me he wouldn’t charge me for a ticket, bless him… Wait, did I just hitch a train?