Underneath The Stars 2022

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Cawthorne
July 29-31, 2002


Collecting our passes

Underneath The Stars festival began with its eponymous song, a lovely Folk anthem sung by the equally lovely Kate Rusby – who in the terms of UTS is the ultimate local girl done good, the leading member of the Von Trapps of Cawthorne. I mean, helping to organise an absolutely top notch, ungrimy, not-for-profit music festival on your home turf, for the benefit of your mates, their mates & anybody else who wants to visit the fine village of Cawthorne & the Victorian smoking jacket it dons in its outlying fields in the form of the UTS festival – that’s pretty cool like.

Emma Hollins, festival organiser & well sound lady

I would be at the festival for just one day on my summer jaunteries– so chose the Friday as two of my favourite music-combos would be playing – the Trials of Cato & Imelda May. O my god, I love ‘Proud & Humble’ by Imelda May, & that song was the chief reason I thought I’d venture from my island retreat in Scotland down to deepest darkest south Yorkshire. That, & the fact my old time buddy Andrew Buggy just happens to live at nearby Millhouse Green – a doubling up of the raison d’etres if I ever lived one!

Andrew Buggey, being serenaded by our neighbours

Organisationwise, UTS was just so slick; a team of willing volunteers, top grade facilities – including hot showers – & a sophisticated line-up, it was all a far cry from my usual festival experience which involves getting hammered in a muddy field with loads of Scots & midgies. Alright, I did a get a bit hammered, but I wanted to enjoy Imelda May as much as possible in her full-on goddess pomp – she was as inspiring as Bjork touring Debut in 1994 – justifying me knocking back a bottle of gin at the campsite & the subsequent stagger home blind drunk & blind in the dark. But this was such a superb, honest festival that my phone, review notes & favourite cap had all been handed in the next morning! Result ! That wouldn’t have happen’d at T In The Park.

UTS is proper chilled, like, perfect for families, the deck-chair crowd & folk with camper vans wanting to get their feet muddy for a few days in a field, followed by a wipe of the butter knife morning by those aforementioned hot showers. There’s a great selection of food & drink & some interesting stalls. At times it’s a bit like a posh Butlins, having comperes go ‘hello stargazers’ when introducing acts was a bit happy campery. I witnessed this just before Trials of Cato came on – two thirds Wrexham, one third bob, whose musical suites seem’d a lot more refined than that wild folk stomps I’d witnessed in the busking streets of Chester which hooked me on the band in the first place. There’s also been a personnel change, with a Kate Bushesque lassie replacing one of the lads. I’m not quite sure I enjoy’d the new incarnation as much, to be fair, it was a bit like having Enya replace Mick Jagger!

Trials of Cato
Your reviewer at the Willowweaving

It was now time for a wander around the site, checking out the stalls – a real good, holistic selection including Mark Fraser, storyteller, Oddwood & Co tree puzzles, loads of stuff for the kids & some wonderful willow weaving that I had a go at & fell in love with. Next up was the very surreal this is your life thingy for Kate Rusby- the Cindy Lauper of folk -, a couple of thousand people being thrust into an intimate life chit-chat with Kate was a bit like being at Puttipathi ashram with Sai Baba.

Can you remember bedtime when we were allowed one plain & one fancy biscuit, two plains were alreyt, but never two fancies

Still, it was highly entertaining & reyt funny, but I did get the feeling at UTS you’re more of an acolyte than a punter – Kate was headlining Saturday night for example! But Kate is well down to earth, & epitomised the down-to-earth team behind UTC, including her sister, Emma. They represent the human spirit in its most gentlest & ambitious mode, & I recommend this festival for anybody wanting a cleaner, more cerebral experience from their festival going – & even if you don’t, the lost property is proper honest!

Words: Damian Beeson Bullen

Photography: Andrew William Buggey

Doune The Rabbit Hole 2022

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Cardross Estate
Lake of Menteith
Stirlingshire, Scotland
14-17 July, 2022


After 3 long years of silence over the hills and fields of Cardross Estate the music finally returned to the beautiful and calm festival that is Doune The Rabbit Hole. With many 300 year old Oak Trees surrounding 6 classic stages you felt like Alice in Wonderland discovering new acts and talent that will surely influence your musical journey over the next 4 days. To think that for 3 years this place fell silent during one of the most difficult times that Scotland have endured in decades, but you cant keep the dance down forever. To experience first hand the joy, the relief , the love and the appreciation of all those that had missed the connection that people and music bring to Doune was a sheer pleasure. Colourful happy smiling faces, that saturated the atmosphere like a wet blanket on a hot day filled the Festival. What more could you ask for ? Well, with the line up that Doune the Rabbit Hole had secured it was certain to be memorable festival. With a larger capacity and a new layout there was more ground to cover and more acts to see so bored was not an option. All angles were considered which resulted in so much more creative areas such as: Yoga and Mediation tents, kids storytelling and workshops and not forgetting the majestic Mary Poppins tent. Hidden steam rooms and huggable trees allowed for a moment of relation between the music and theatre that was on offer. Spoiled for choice is an understatement. There was so many incredible acts that the only down part was who we could and who we couldn”t see as one can”t be i two places at once, but we can at least try…..

The Thursday evening seen Patti Smith and Her Band take the main slot and she did not disappoint . With such a huge back catalogue to cover the classic songs just kept giving and giving.. A most delightful experience it was. With 3 full days ahead of rap, dub, rock, punk, disco, funk, dance and Scottish legendary bands to fill our guilty pleasures our legs will be doing all the talking, well dancing is more likely…. Jabbering between stages you would have come across such bands as Gentlemans Dub Club to Black Wolf Trap ( who recently smashed it at the Meadows Fair) who were on fire.. With DJ sets from Huey Morgan, Tim Burgess, Optimo, Mungos Hi Fi and the formidable house of Samedia Shebeen with all their guest DJs and performers which filled the air with tropical and African beats that shook the very ground we stood on. The Tum Tum Tree tent treated us to acts like Sex Cakes, Doss ,Storm The Palace, Yoko Pwnos, The Victor Pope Band ( one of Edinburghs best known punk rock bands) and they with Mark Macghee at the controls this was the secret place to engage in some great up and coming talent… With Amy Macdonald, Belle and Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub headlining on the weekend evenings the Douner”s were covered from all directions of musical diversity . 10 cc , She Drew Her Gun, Tide Lines, Yard Act, Buzzcocks The Rezillos, Girobabies, Los Chichanos , Utah Saints, Snapped Ankle ( weird but amazing), An Dannsa Dub, Peatbog Fairies, Billy Nomates, The Bluebells, 808 State and not forgetting the classic 70s legends Boney M and Baccara. This injection of 70s disco, funk and soul created a sea of pure love and affection for a young and old. The audience were transfixed back to a time that disco fever had given us for many decades. Smile, dance and be free was the feeling flowing through the sea of fans… Over all, after what felt like 10 years, this was a perfect reintroduction to the festival scene we all missed so deeply. Big shout out to all crew and staff at Doune the Rabbit Hole for allowing us to join your party and be free to dance in the hills again…. Until next time, take care all…


Words & Photography: Raymond Speedie

The Divine Glastonbury, 2022

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The weight of grief was looming as I set off on Sunday the 19th June to catch the overnight bus to Birmingham and then to Bristol from Bristol another bus to Glastonbury I landed at mid day, Bus lagged and knackered with a slight panic about getting to the healings fields. Then I heard some Yorkshire voices and a guy called Bruce, from Bradford offered to give me a lift to the Red Gate which is where I needed to be Health and Safety accredited, my suitcase was well packed but heavy and it was boiling hot. After meeting Bruce outside The Blue Note Cafe I was walking to Glastonbury Abby and I bumped into Helen and her boyfriend Stuart from Dunscore so had some lovely company .my lift was leaving at 6.00pm so we had a siesta, it was a stark contrast to the chilly winds in Edinburgh the morning before. It was gorgeous. Bruce was being very attentive texting to confirm my lift. So I lay back and let it all go and soaked up the Sun Rays. ❤

Luckily I got a lift on a tractor drawn shuttlebus to the Greenfields and I was home. It had been a long 7 years since I was in the field that changed my life forever in 1994 and first called me in 1992. 7 year cycles, 28 Year cycles and 30 year cycles. Glastonbury 2022 was about Healing Grace and healing Divine ❤

I did get Covid at Eden or was it just a cold? Either way, the snotters had waterfallled out on Saturday night and when I got off the bus in Birmingham my chest and throat were feeling sore and raw. I started the healing process with my respiratory organs and was a bit concerned that another wet festival would give me a chest infection, not that rain seemed close, the sky’s were blissfully blue over Avalon and the Sun was propper hot. I pitched my tent in the Water Circle and made friends with all of my healing neighbours, giving Rainbow Lizzzie and her Spirulina Magik a welcome hug. We were to be working together for the duration of the festival.

But first I had to get myself 100% fit. The Tuesday was a write-off energetically the journey down had taken its toll so I concentrated the whole day to the healing of my chest and the cause of respiratory discomfort. not smoking much, nae cannabis, nae alcohol. the weather was subtropical as I let the healing fields heal me. By Wednesday I was feeling 100% and the cough had gone.The weight of grief had also dispersed, I was ready to centre and work my magik.

By this time there were rumours of rain. All the smart phone people were saying that it was going to start raining on Thursday and rain right through till Monday, Rubbish I said, “Spirit had told me Eden was going to be wet and Glastonbury was going to be dry” Even when Thursdays two day cloud cover started rolling in, Spirit still spoke, “Its going to be dry” Didnae stop us from super waterproofing everything just in case. But sure enough, there was no significant rainfall from the heavy cloud cover that hung there like an omnipresent brooding threat, to be fair, the scorching Sun of the last four days, the cloud cover gave everyone’s skin a break and still it didnae rain. There was an occasional light shower, but the site was parched. By Saturday the Sun was back out.

Wednesday nights burning of the Phoenix brought the festival capacity to Kings Meadows. I watched from the comfort of the Water Circle fire. The firework display was next level magnificent. The Healing Fields was the right place to be. Another early night. My Tarot Cards were speaking to me and the power of Healing was all-encompassing and I was out like a light.
I was up at 6am on Thursday, had a coffee at Healers Reception and then headed down to the Greenpeace Field for a shower. where I met Christopher from Bath. We had a really good conversation. I hadn’t showered since Sunday Morning so was looking forward to this, it was lovely. All clean and sparkly and ready for a day of Spiritual Healing and Clairvoyance in The Healing Fields. My first client of the day was a Polis Constable Detective there with her Girlfriend. Thay both had a reading and the proceeds got me my first expensive meal of the festival, it made me giggle. I had a steady flow of clientele all-day. Everywhere I pulled my cards and crystal ball out, there was someone wanting a Clairvoyant session. It was a wonderful experience, so had a productive day and finished off Reading in The Earth Circle. The Magik was tangible.

A full day of Clairvoyance and Healing and Tarot Interpretation is exhausting, there was nae way I was ready for the crowds so again I had an early night. Friday is always quiet in the Healing Fields because everyone is bedazelled and excited for the Rock N Roll. So pacing myself after my morning Greenpeace Shower I headed to the Tiny Tea Tent for a cuppa and tinkle on the piano there. It was a lovely way to start the day, The clouds were stormy and brooding and again Spirit said “It is going to be a dry festival” As I played the keys of the lovely piano opened my Angel Wings and grounded the Healing Grace and that was the nature of the day.

I borrowed a tarp just in case, I was taking nae chances after Eden, Lizzie was telling everyone the rain was coming, as i helped her triple waterproof, we both knew all too well what a wet Glastonbury is like. “Lizzie i said, Spirit told me Eden would be wet and Glastonbury would be dry” Its not going to rain. And it didnae rain.

I wandered up to Kings Meadows on Friday for the first time and really took in The Peace Project that was grounding its change of consciousness beautifully. The Vortex was twined with the sacred geometry in the Healing Fields Air Circle. This was a work of metaphysical Genius. things had certainly advanced in a really really good way in my 7 year absence Great Healing was being received by myself and all that visited Kings Meadows and The Healing Fields. Why would I want to be anywhere else, I was receiving the healing that I needed and still Spirit spoke. “Its Going to be a dry festival” So I set up, got my cards and crystal ball out and meditated deeply, knowing, I fully understood why the Healing was so powerful.

I had a tentative plan to see the Chemical Brothers play the Arcadia Spider at 7pm I ventured out of the Greenfields. It was quite a culture shock. 1000s and 1000s of people rushing, Oh my I went with the flow, it was too much though, I stopped to watch Roisin Murphy and 45 mins in I realised that it was saint Vincent, So headed through the gathered masses to search out Arcadia and take in the soundsystem. I had room to dance so let go and got down, for a bit. But nah The Healingfields is where I wanted to be. So headed back home. All the food prices had gone up £14 for just about everything in Babylon and doing a roaring trade.A Vegi Breakfast without coffee was a tenner, I discovered vegi Burgers for a fiver in the Greenfields. That was a yummy godsend. Glastonburys cuisine outlets are very expensive. This is where the beauty of the Healing Fields donation only policy is so fruitful, people can get what they need without worrying about how much it costs and with everything else so expensive The Healing Fields Appeal is more inviting and attractive than ever before. It was a relief to get back to my tent and put a log on the Fire. And still it was a Dry Festival. ❤

The greatest food godsend, was the Hare Krishna Tent which was set up just behind where I was working in The Healing Fields along with Rainbow Lizzies nutritional expertise I was well nurtured and nourished. The Sun broke through the past constant cloud cover by mid day on Saturday. Every reading I gave was for amazing creative people doing really amazing things and being successful. Each reading that I gave on Saturday was a meant to be and a tonic for my soul. So again I worked consistently throughout the course of Saturday, It was a brilliant and deeply healing experience. It always has been, It was my 30 year anniversary, so naturally I wanted to give my best and help as many people as possible. Without the Healing Fields I wouldnae be writing this.

I did make the effort to go see Paul McCartney and my first visit to the Pyramid Stage of the festival (And the last) I couldn’t comprehend just how many people there were in Babylon, it was like London at Christmas, I got to the screen at the back and watched Noel Gallagher And The High Flying Birds for three songs and contemplated trying to get into the main arena for Paul. But I thought no I cannae do this, it certainly wasnae comfortable and the tranquility of the Healing Fields was calling. In fact that was the last time I ventured out of the Greenfields till hometime. I needed its lushness. I had another early night so that I could be showered and fresh for a busy Sunday. ❤

My early Morning Greenpeace shower ritual was set with a coffee and a tinkle on the old Joanna. Sunday morning was wonderful in The Tiny T Tent a guy called Richard came and joined me and we harmonized beautifully. Its one of the reasons that I didnae take a drum, I knew I would find a piano. Sunday was a sunny day with an early morning sprinkle of rain that lasted 10mns, no more than that though, the weather Angels had blessed us and the dark brooding clouds had blown away. Sunday was a beautiful day and perfect for working my Clairvoyant and healing Magik again working steadily and consistently. It looked like my 30th Anniversary of Glastonbury, meant returning home with more money that I went with. I did work hard and gave my best. Monday was write off I was knackered , So let the healing fields heal me I slept and relaxed.

I had an early night on Monday. cozy in my sleeping bag. I woke up at 6am and started thinking about operation Edinburgh, My coach home was leaving Bristol Bus Station at 7pm. I got a lift down into Glastonbury Town with one of the massage Ladies and we went to have some Breakfast together. I checked out the bus times after breakfast and headed up to Saint Johns to meditate with the Holy Thorn. I was shocked to find that the church was all locked up. So meditated outside the locked gates until Margaret came along to change the posters. We had a lovely conversation, Margaret had been stewarding at Glastonbury Festival and because she lived so close to site, she drove home to watch Paul McCartney on her telly, that made me laugh out loud, Quality. I asked why the church was all locked up. She said that she didnae know, but would find out. 10mins later it was all opened up and was able to meditate with the Holy Thorn and was also able to take in Joseph Of Arimatheas Chapel. I had an Ephiny an enlightenment and a blessing. God was hearing my prayers and the peace was profound. I had a Blue Shnitzel Burger and chips with a cappuccino for Lunch and then jumped on the 2pm bus to Bristol. Just in case there was rush hour traffic, I arrived at Bristol Bus Station at 4pm so had three hours before my Bus to Victoria in London where I would get on the 10.30pm bus back to Edinburgh. It was a long haul, I was exhausted and fair chewing on the bit, by the time I disboarded the Bus at 8Am in Saint Andrews Bus Station. But with a feeling of achievement. Niddrie Mill never felt so welcoming. Am still processing a wonderful adventure. ❤.

Eden 2022

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Raehills Meadows

June 9-12, 2022


The festival experience is at the same time both an intimate one & a shared one. Like everybody else, each summerstuff’d reveler is up for the dance, the crack, the goodies & the girls, or the boys of course if that’s what you prefer. As for the intimacy of a festival experience, that would be your own very personal journey into, through & beyond the thrilling nexi of the festival arena.

To fashion a more intimate Eden for myself, last Friday I decided to take the scenic route; a boat from Arran to Ardrossan, from there a bus to Kilmarnock, then another bus to Cumnock – a fine wee town in whose library I printed out my ticket – before my last bus hurtled south thro Kirkonnel & Sanquhar before dropping me off at the Forest of Ae. It was then 11 miles of spiritually cleansing hiking, up & down some gorgeous countryside, before I reached the A701 at Parkgate. 10 minutes later my photographer arrived in his van from Edinburgh, James Wallace. He’s off to Glastonbury in 2 weeks, & saw his first Eden experience as a good chance to get his eye in, so to speak.

We park’d at the top of the hill near the main entrance & immediately got on it. The site was different – more streamlined, more focussed. The old main stage had gone – needing to be rebuilt I was told – with the Mountain Stage taking over top drawer duties. Friday night saw Supergrass whip up a storm of funky Britpop after which as a returner to Eden I was drawn to my favorite spot – the open air Lost Disco & its floor of flashing lights – it was nice to be home !

Benjamin from Newton Stewart loving his work
Supergrass

At some point in this period of beats & boogieing I met a lovely lady who latched onto me & was trying to persuade me to go to her tent. In hindsight maybe I should have gone, but I was having such a good time & never actually took her up on the offer ! She was 29 & everything & well hot ! That’s how good Eden is, I’d rather be buzzing about the garden than snuggle up with a true beauty! 

Next day dawned in roving reporter mode – & it just so happened to be my birthday! Yes, I am a June 11 boy, & that’s generally Eden weekend, so I always have a special sentimental symbiosis with this festival in particular.

Skittling downhill into the cozier, less sprawlier site, lush with June vegetation, James & I proceeded to nosy up the stall-holders for a bit, with a first port of call at Motley’s crepes, part of the Edinburgh-based ‘On The Roll’ foodstuff people. I had a birthday bratwurst while James thought his crepe was delicious, but alas lost a good third of it to a gust of wind which flipped his plastic plate like a toss of a coin. 

The weather in general was never great, but never terrible, with only a couple of heavy showers creating a smattering of mud. One of these showers propelled us to seek shelter under a tent outside the Melodrome stage where we joined in a common chorus of Queen songs & others, with laminated lyric sheets darting about the crowd while a funky conductor kept us all in order.

Blaze Watson – a kid wise beyond his years

Other cool stalls in this area of the site were the Solar Vinyl Lounge, ran by Nick from North Wales who plays whatever the public wants on some reyt retro decks. There was also Stephen Brown from Middlesborough’s stone carving workshop – a lovely guy who comes to several Scottish festivals a year, & perennially inspires the cave artists in us all. 

Steve & Nick’s stalls were just two among many intertextualising features of Eden’s central areas. Fairy Emelina entertained the kids in the children’s area, there were chill out areas with gentle acoustic vibes, & at one point I got involved in a drum circle. Nobody had the balls to got to the congas in the middle of the circle, but I did, it was my birthday & I was well buzzing. I didn’t do any shamanic wailing tho, like I usually do when in a drum circle – which is probably a good thing!

So to 5pm & the arrival of Rosie & Elaine, down from Edinburgh on a dayticket & ready for the rave. Lots of fun was soon procured from the gods of dance & karma & away we 4 went, like warriors riding our mighty stallions of groove, beercups held like lances & our enemies the minions of normality which infest our routine lives. 

The Mouse Outfit

By 9 PM I had persuaded them to find the bicycle powered Boardwalk stage onto which The Mouse Outfit stepped, oozing cool in that quirky hip-hop collaboration of theirs. A real treat & perfect for the Eden vibe. Then it was back to the dance area for more raving, followed by the Basement Jaxx DJ set which was absolutely jumping – I mean totally jumping, proper bouncing like.

After this I can’t really remember very much. I did get a call in the morning from Rosie & Elaine saying my flip-flops were outside their tent. How they got there & indeed how I got back to Camp Mumble I will never know.

It was now Sunday morning & time to do one. James drove me all the way to Easterhouse on the eastern fringes of Glasgow – he’s not a fan of the Biggar road anyway – from where I slowly floated home to Arran on a mental melange of shits & giggles.



Words : Damian Beeson Bullen

Photos: James Wallace

Two Weeks ’til Eden

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Eden, one of Scotland’s best-loved music festivals, is only two weeks away. With over 300 acts appearing this summer, this year’s hotly-anticipated festival is more than welcoming the return of the revellers to get lost within The Garden.

Set within the family-friendly woodlands of Raehill Meadows in Dumfriesshire, this alluring 10 staged festival covers all musical bases from World to Funk, Classical to Jungle, Indie to Acoustic, Dancehall to Folk, and everything in between.

Headliners are SUPERGRASS, with five Top 10 albums (six, if you include a greatest hits), ten Top 20 singles, Brit and Ivor Novello-winning Oxford ‘Alright’, they will be bringing 3 decades of top tunes to SW Scotland, so expect a party!

“We are so excited to welcome everyone back to the Garden for Eden 2022. After two years we are planning on bringing you the best Eden yet! If you want to dance the night away, chill out around the fire or hang about in the best festival tavern ever, we have your back. With a killer line up and an amazing site we have a feeling the garden might eat us all this time!” Hannah Gould, Eden Festival Director.

Right from the start of the debut album ‘Remedy’, Basement Jaxx (Felix Buxton & Simon Ratcliffe) have been bringing beats to venues and festivals all around the world as one of the UK’s most renowned dance acts. With one of their legendary DJ sets, expect the proverbial Meadows roofs to be raised and feet to be grooving.


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The Divine Lindisfarne

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Lindisfarne Festival

Beal Farm, Northumberland

1st-5th September, 2021


PROLOGUE

After all the festivals that I had and planned on and have given my everything to got postponed till 2021. I didnae think that I was going to get to a festival this year. Then out of the blue, last Thursday, Damo of The Mumble sent me an EMail asking me if I would like to review the Lindisfarne festival this coming weekend. No festivals for two years, wow I really needed to shake the no festival mindset. So of course I said yes.

The Psy Party in Saint Andrews this weekend just gone was my first time in the field since Doune 2019. Playground Festy didnae count coz it was inner city. So Saturday night was my warm up for Lindisfarne. All of my fave bands are playing. Groove Armada, The Girobabies, Jakyl Trades, Colonel Mustard And The Dijon 5 (My first time of seeing the new release performed live), Leftfield, The Alabama Three, Stanley Odd, Feet Of Clay, (From The) Jam. Am looking forward to reviewing the artists at the Sketchy Beats cafe too. And after 18 months of withdrawal from live music my thirst for the muse is about to be inspired. Honestly, with a line up like this in a place of deep Holy Healing beauty. What is there not to be looking forward to. Baby the dance is on. Full Mumble Report Coming Soon.



01.09.21

I got a car share with Gillian a new pal, organized by the very wonderful Jamie of (Jamie and Shoony fame ) who came to pick me up at 3pm. Gillian very expertly drove us both to Lindisfarne. It’s a while since I have been to a new festival and over two years since I have been to a festival at all. It was also three years since I have been over the border to England. On arriving, the festival crew were ever so welcoming, pleasant and helpful, I had this really lovely warm feeling in my belly, a warm intuition that I was really looking forward to working with this team of lovely people. Arm banded up we went and pitched our tents and settled into our new home for the next 4 days. It was so lovely to put my faithful little waterproof tent up, arranged the wardobe, put my Karrimatts down and spread my quilt and placed my sleeping bag over the top, maximum yummy comfort. It was quite a cool night and the ever-present cloud cover was a stark contrast from the hot sunny day we left in Edinburgh. so went to the volunteer Crew Hub and grabbed a coffee before getting cosy in my little comfy tent and grounding the angels and setting the intention to have as best a time possible. It was nice to send healing from the Lindisfarne festival site as Mother nature Softened my heart and I left social media behind, I began to adjust to being in my new surroundings and meditated and went deep. Spirit spoke to me in the silence. “At festivals, anything is possible” “Aye” that’s why I love them.”



02.09.2021

I never sleep the first night in the field at festivals, I was processing deeply all night from Sunset to Sunrise I guess I had a lot to let go of and was wide awake as Dawn broke, I had let it all go. So I reached for my make up and started the day with colour. By the time I got coffee at Crew Volunteer point and went for an explore of the festival site and a look over to the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne itself. The peace was profound. Hmmm I thought this is going to be a nice festival and my Gigz of the day that I had penned were The Girobabies and The Smoking Jeffries later on that night. It was a pleasant morning with everyone busying around for festival beginnings at 2pm. So I headed over to check the Healing area out and the beautifully massive healing and performance art venue serving yummy chai called Shanti Bee, Immediately I knew we were going to be friends, it was so lush and so comfy with a really good Soundsystem and ambient tunes. to compliment the experience. Perfect for the days distant healing, I then explored the other Spiritual Healing Delicacies available within the Healing Village, It really was Soul Food.

After Morning Chai, meditation and distant Healing at Santi Bee I decided on a Tarot and Rune reading from the very wise and gifted Liz Hay. It was a spellbinding 30 minutes that would show me the Mountain of creativity I still had to climb, but to keep focused as I would summit successfully. Yeeeha, ❤ Then I had a really interesting conversation with a lady that was dedicated to womb healing, indeed it is the one of the things that had been an important part of my own healing journey. To understand Spiritual Healing as facilitating the release and healing of past trauma experience. It was just brilliance and one of the best and important things I have ever seen at a festival. Mizan Therapy is a must for all Ladies. (Check the Lindisfarne Web Site for more details) of Shanti Bee, Liz Hay and Mizan Therapy.)

After my morning soul food. I needed some food in my Belly so I headed to the noodle bar for some spicey noodles, nice size portions and £2 off coz I looked fabulous. Then back to Volunteer Crew Hub to organise some wood for the Volunteer Crew Fire. Pick up my drum and freshen up my make-up. My next phenomenally interesting conversation of the day was with The Earl Of South Shields, a published poet and author who was also having a film being made about him and his life as a homeless heroin and crack addict. His one ambition in life after being clean for 6 years was die sober. Blimey, once again I was grateful to Thatchers “Just say No!” Campaign in the 80’sit stopped me from trying smack as a coping mechanism. Honestly kids drugs and alcohol just make life more difficult. Mind saying that if someone had said to me taking drugs and drinking alcohol at a festival when I was in my 20’s wasn’t a good idea.

Would I have listened? The Earl Of South Sheilds was a sound bloke and a new friend. having been 12 months sober myself, I fully understood the benefits of not getting spangled at festivals. It did take me until I was 50 to get it though. After a can and a half of Cider in St Andrews the week before. I decided that Lindisfarne was to be a Sober Festival. I wanted to be able to capture and remember as much of the experience as I could. I didn’t take my opportunity to review this lovely festival lightly and I knew that for me to give it my best work. it was to be a sober festival.

Having sourced the wood for The Volunteer Crew Fire, we had a warm hub to return to. Festivals and Fire kind of go hand in hand, so tending for the volunteers and grounding the healing love was one of my duties. I made lots of lovely new friends at that fire. Back at camp, people were starting to arrive, the field filling with tents and the sound systems were being fired up. Victor Pope And His Band of Merry Men had arrived and were camped just next to me, it was a lovely neighbourhood. Spud the Mumble’s photographer was also part of that crew too. The Scottish posse were assembled and I was ready for the first live music since 2019. “The Girobabies” fronted by the Scottish West Coast Musical Entrepreneur and wordsmith Mark McGhee, with Jo D’Arc the voice and bass of The Twistettes, his creative partner both on and off-screen providing the driving force with a band of new recruits on lead guitar and drums. Together they unleashed the Girobabies cannon performed live for the first time in quite some time to which received a full house and a rapturous good time and sing along. The band and audience fully enjoyed the experience and was the brilliant opener. It was quite an emotional experience seeing a band of people that one admires deliver the first live performance that I have seen since 2019. It was brilliant to dance and enjoy The Good Time.

The next band up another part of the Scottish contingent of Rock N Roll, The Smoking Jefferies took to the stage to receive a hero’s welcome as the revellers were completely engaged with band, song and musicianship, everyone was dancing and went mental when Jamie (Of Jamie And Shoony fame) Joined the band on stage to perform his lyrical prowess. It was the brillliant warm up party for this lovely Festival, By this time Divine was Exausted, am 54 not 24. My little tent and sleeping bag were calling and I was out like a light,. that had been a massive day both my mouth and heart were smiling and ZZZZzzzzzzz


“Great wee festival. Everyone was on top form. Happy people laughing and dancing. Just the ticket!” – Carol Atkinson (right)

03.09.2021

By this time I had kind of lost my sense of time and Friday felt like a Sunday, So after Morning Meditation and distant Healing at Shanti Bee, I let go of time and concentrated on the moment, i was back at volunteer hub and one of the volunteers came crying, saying that someone had taken her bag with everything in it. My heart went out to her, it triggered memories of having everything thieved at the beginning of a festival, its not fun. So finding out that someone had handed it in to security, made my heart beam. Thank fuck for that. There were no thieves at Lindisfarne, Reading and Leeds it is not. I made a new friend too because of that, Good Time. My bands of the day, were to be Allahbama Three and “From The Jam” So I dedicated the day to Dance.

My first dance of the Afternoon was at The Temple, smooth house to ease me into the Four To The Floor, It was great fun and was totally taken by the tunes presented, perfect for healing dance and grounding the Angels, then back outside to let rip with a bit of Reggae and Dub at the Dub Shack, again the dance took me. I had a few tears at this point, so emotional to be back dancing to music that I love in the heart of Mother Nature. Everyone was having such a good time. I was revving up for The Alabama Three at 7pmish. After Dancing I headed to get some food for my belly. Sweet chilly chicken on a pitta bread from The Gastronomical. It was very tasty and cost £8. After being watered and fed I headed back to my tent to put some warmer clothes on, there was quite a chill in the air, After outfit change, I headed back to The Volunteer Hub to check that Monster Andy had delivered the wood for the nights fire, He had, so I started building a warm fire for the Volunteers to return to.

The Main Stage was housed in a massive tent, just big enough to cater for the punters attending for the big names of the night. But it was a squeeze and Nicola would have been throwing a paddy if this had been Scotland. It really brought home that England is a different world, very few masks, (I only saw two) And nae social distancing. Lots of hand sanitizer though, probably the cleanest festival I have ever attended. Its always the 2nd day without a shower in a field that feels the grubbiest. After that it feels normal. Anyway back to The Alabama Three. Big Rock n Roll productions have been short on my to do list for the last two years, so this was quite an emotional moment too. The sound production was lush as The Alabama Three give us a best of set and the full house was bouncing. Again everyone was having a thoroughly Good Time.

Next up “From The Jam,” Rick Butler and Bruce Foxton replicating The Jam’s best moments and all the hits. If one closed ones eyes and imagined Paul Weller on vocals it could almost have been the real thing. I was having a chat with a chap about The Jam, back in the olden days, I did like the hits, Start, Funeral Pyre, Town Called Malice ect, but had never heard a full album. Have seen Paul Weller live once, that was Glastonbury 1993 and it taught me what a true master is. However, they didn’t wear enough make up for my liking so greatest hits it was. Again everyone thoroughly enjoyed The Jam renditions of music that touched a certain generation in a big way. Smiles and reminiscent moments of a misspent youth. Good Time.

Again it had been a massive day, I didn’t have the energy for Dizzee Rascle. Being in a massive packed tent, two bands were enough. So I headed back to Volunteer Hub for some nice socialising and fire tending with my lovely new friends. Good time Divine



04.09.21.

Saturday was the big day, Three of my favourite bands on the planet were performing. Colonel Mustard And The Dijon 5 ❤ The Victor Pope Band ❤ Groove Armada ❤ Yeeha ❤

So as usual I started the day with a makeup session and headed to The Volunteer Hub for a coffee, there was a real buzz in the air, like a communal excitement, Shanti Bee and Sketchy Beatz were to be my initial draw of the day. It had been a Scotch Mist light rain kind of morning but soon dried up, a warm change would gradually come in over the course of the day. So by midday, the waterproofs were off. I headed to The Messy Gypsy, a stall with three beautiful ladies doing glitter, makeup and hair braiding. I was after a gold sparkly sphere on my forehead, to bring Bowie to the party. It worked a treat, brilliant work from a very attractive creative festival venture. I asked if wet towel shaves might also be included for next time. Good Time. The Messy Gypsy is another must for ladies at festivals, the whole thing was just yummy.

Sketchy Beats was packed to overflowing so I never got to see the amazingly beautiful Drag Queen Show, So I headed for Shanti Bee for the days distant healing, meditating and grounding the love, while a packed Yoga class worked their expertly guided moves. It was a beautiful thing to do on a cold and blowy afternoon, it freshened me up and realigned my chakras. Programmed the healing for The Mustards and Groove Armada performances and then headed to Gastronomical for the £8 chilly chicken on a pitta bread, then back to Sketchy Beatz for The Victor Pope Band’s performance. It was a joy as always, to see and enjoy this band of experienced musicians work their magik. Everyone had a great groove and for the first time the multi-talented Roy Jackson sang backing vocals much to our delight, It was also great to see Jess Aslan on Keyboards and electronic treatments performing her magik with the band.

After thoroughly enjoying the Spangled Cabaret of The Victor Pope Band. I headed to the Dub Shack for some afternoon dancing a cappuccino and some yummy cake, I did lots of Reiki Moving meditation whilst in the dance, Grounding the love and healing through me Giving it my best moves, after all Reggae is the music of love and it was a beautiful way to spend a Saturday Afternoon. After I felt really refreshed and thought to myself “Aye have done all the right things today to make me feel wonderful. Next Gig Colonel Mustard And the Dijon 5 at 7.00pm. Beforehand I went in search of Monster Andy to make sure that The Volunteer Hub had enough wood for the volunteers Saturday night fire. then it was off to refresh my make up and lose some layers, it was really hot and sweaty the night before in the main stage tent, so dressed accordingly.

Ever since purchasing The Mustard’s new release. The DiffiCULT No2, if one doesn’t already have a copy rush out and buy one, it really is a masterpiece of rock n roll dance fusion. It has been on heavy rotation since April this year. A collection of songs that came to life on the live circuit. It is an Album that made No2 in the Charts and because of Scottish Covid restrictions, this was to be the first performance without a socially distanced audience and also my first time of witnessing the new long-player played live. The venue was rammed with the Yellow faithful and lots and lots of new recruits went wild as Colonel Mustard And The Dijon 5 took to the Stage. It was great fun and a great sing along. Ted Dancing is my fave And like all of the performances at Lindisfarne, the lush production really brought out the best performance art from this wonderful band of musicians. It was a fantastic performance and just as I suspected, the yellow magik had moved up a stage. The Mustards are going to be even more massive. It is the bands time to shine ❤

Groove Armada have been an important band for me over the years and having been a percussionist for MC Mike Daniels who wrote and sings Superstyling, it was like a bit of a reunion of friends that I havenae seen since Groove Armada played the last Playground Festival in 2019. that was a fantastic gig too. The Lindisfarne population had swelled considerably since Dusk an extra 1700 tickets were sold for the evening itself. So it was more than a packed house. It was the one performance that I wanted to get to the front for I wasn’t quite prepared for just how packed it would be at the front, the whole of the massive main stage venue was over capacity, I managed 3 numbers until I felt that I needed more space to enjoy the performance. It was quite easy to work my way through the assembled masses to find a space that I could sing along and dance to the brilliant music. The band played the same set as they did at Playground and everyone of the massive audience loved it and had a really good time. All of the hits were represented from Groove Armada’s career and vocal and lyrical prowess of MC Mike Daniels, Becky Jones, (better known as Saint Saviour,) and Veba bringing the brilliant songs to life. It was a fantastic closing gig of a weekend packed with brilliant music. My favourite singalong was Paper Romance, had been rehearsing singing the chorus for quite some time. Everyone loves Groove Armada and everyone loved being at Lindisfarne for this brilliant live experience. This is what life is all about having a thoroughly Good Time. I still think At The River should be the opening number because all the rest are dance floor bangers.

After the closing gig, I headed to Delta City for some Techno and really got down “Shakin My Ass” Then went for a coffee at the Volunteer Hub Crew Fire to check on the healing flames, then headed for the little cozy comfy tent for a rest and a bit of a sleep. Before the morning jam at the campsite. That was wonderful too as we were joined by a Gentleman called Tex who sang Bob Marley numbers to perfection another fine opportunity to practice singing harmonies and drumming some rhythms and after 3 days of dark moody sky’s the Sun made a crescendo appearance just as we were packing up and tatting down. it was to be a very warm day indeed. Once again Gillian drove me expertly back to Aulde Reekie with a suitably accomplished warm feeling in my belly that started at the moment of arrival the previous Wednesday. Hmmm I thought to myself. My Lindisfarne Cherry has well and truly been popped. What a fantastic experience.

Mark “Divine” Calvert

Knockengorroch Responds to the Coronavirus

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We’re getting in touch about the growing concerns on how COVID-19 may impact this year’s festival.  We are aware that mass gatherings in Scotland will be affected and that this may include us.

At the current time we intend for Knockengorroch to go ahead as planned on 21 – 24 May, with additional measures put in place to protect all of you, including enhanced hygiene measures.  Our chief concern is our commitment to you, our loyal audiences, and ensuring Knockengorroch is a safe event for all.

We have however formed a contingency plan.  Should the event not be able to take place in May, it will be rescheduled to September 2020. We have taken steps to ensure our license, venue and the vast majority of our line-up will remain in place should we have to postpone.

All tickets will be transferrable and anyone who cannot make the dates in September will receive a FULL TICKET REFUND, as per the Skiddle official terms and conditions. We want to reassure you that we are closely monitoring the situation and working with all of the relevant authorities to continually review national and international guidelines.

We will continue to keep you posted on plans for Knockengorroch 2020. All ticket buyers will be informed immediately if we have to postpone, and please keep an eye on our website and social media for other information, as we have it. Stay healthy everyone.

Knockengorroch Festival team

Glastonbury Festival of Performing Arts 2020: 50th Anniversary Preview Edition

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Glastonbury Festival of Performing Arts 2020: 50th Anniversary Preview Edition

Oh. Hello! Were you one of the 137,000 lucky individuals who nabbed yourselves a much-coveted ticket for the 50th anniversary edition of Glastonbury Festival of Performing arts?

If so, stay a while and I will congratulate you on your amazing luck and persistence in beating over two million other people, but you already knew that. Afterall with the near 24/7 coverage of this year’s sunny Glastonbury on the BBC it’s hard to find someone who hadn’t heard about it, so no surprises that 2.4 million people registered for the big-ticket scramble.

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Whether you’re a (tie)-died-in-the-wool, old-hand, who’s been to Glasto many times before or an excitable first-time newbie, yet to experience the initial sense of awe and amazement as you venture over the hill from one of the huge car parks or the bus station and see the vast site below. So, let’s have a think about what we can all begin looking forward to, in earnest and base our expectations on some of what has gone before, and with its 49-year history, a LOT has gone on before. The great news is, you can dispel any negativity you might have heard about losing its way or being all corporate – that’s for other festivals. Glastonbury totally rocks!!

Obviously, it’s sunglasses all the way now, gone are the days of Mudstonbury. In-fact, this year I did hear a few folk saying strange things like “it’s too sunny” or “Where’s the mud?” We don’t want that back, honestly. The Eavises and their army of talented event team have put a lot of logistics in place to ensure better drainage, better water, more metalled pathways etc. just to be on the safe side. They really deserve a lot of praise. #Believis!!

Glastonbury is basically many different festivals wrapped up in one big site, more on that later. Huge main stages, small quirky tents and everything in between. So, if you happen to be exploring the site up in the Green Fields area by the Stone Circles, yes there is a mini Stonehenge in a big field, where there’s usually a fire and drumming. Lots of drumming, kind of 24/7!

That’s another unusual thing about Glasto, you can have fires and sit around those flaming wax covered torches. Fireworks, other than the official ones though are taboo, for obvious reasons and Chinese lanterns likewise. When you are making new friends chilling by the circles, you’ll probably encounter a long-haired fire-starter in leather trousers called Steve, who’s from Bristol, probably kicking a log into the fire and permanently has a rolled-up cigarette in his mouth. He used to come way back in the day, before the giga-fence and didn’t pay back then, he’ll be able to tell you about things that may seem to the more recent visitor like folklore, as in the time when someone smart thought it was a good idea to bring a sewage truck in to suck out the giant lake-like flood that had formed inside the Dance tent but someone accidentally hit blow instead of suck…. The worst happened, exactly as you might now be imagining it! I need not dwell on it here. And yes, you read right, back in the day there was basically only one, albeit huge, dance tent.

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Next year, newbies can look forward to a whole Dance Village and many other world-class dance venues like Arcadia’s new Pangea (the amazing fire shooting crane, low-loaded in from Avonmouth dockyard) and Block-9. To this day I don’t actually know if some of the wilder things to be seen down there in the early hours of the morning are amazing art installations, fantasy projections or just my own over-stimulated imagination. Hmmmm? It’s wonderful though, and you should definitely plan to spend a few nights getting lost there, working up the numbers on your step-counters.

You know the tickets sold out in a record 34 minutes and if you are anything like me and were sitting there with laptops, desktops, tablets and phones hopefully clicking and reclicking refresh it was quite a difficult morning. A quick glance at social media reveals a lot of sadness for those less fortunate. It’s hardly surprising that the tickets are so popular though, when the show has had 49 years to prepare for the big party next summer.

It’s a truly amazing place that is constantly changing and bringing new things. The Victorian pier this year was a great new place to visit, up near the delightfully kitsch, ribbon viewing tower, whilst remaining reassuringly constant. Those who’ve been before can almost always find their way around, assuming they remain sober enough obviously.

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Unlike many lesser festivals, the camping is within the confines of the whole festival, so unless you are in a camper van, glamping (more on that later) or a Worthy View pre-erected tent once you go through the gate you are in, and don’t need to worry about access for the rest of the week. It’s exciting finally getting your all-important wrist band and other goodies, such as a free programme, tote-bag, bio-degradable tent pegs or whatever else they are giving away. And then you are free to venture off to pick one of many campsites to settle in. The best bit is you can take in as much food and drink (yes including booze) as you can carry – or even pull on a cart. The only rule here is to avoid glass bottles, as once the circus of Glastonbury packs up again, it’s a working dairy farm and guess what – cows hate broken glass as much as we do.

With over 300 food places serving up a total smorgasbord of just about every cuisine you can imagine from vegan tofu burgers to sushi to jerk chicken to gumbo. Literally everything is available and, as might be expected from a festival with such worthy heritage (donating millions to Oxfam, Wateraid and Greenpeace over the years) they arrange that most stalls will do a £5 meal-deal, so you really won’t need to break the bank.

For the uninitiated, who’ve not been fortunate enough to go before it’s worth bearing in mind that the perimeter fence of Glastonbury is something staggering like 9 miles long and the given population at any given time, including staff and performers is approximately 200,000 people, just let that sink in for a moment, that’s like a busy city-centre. There are over 100 stages to enjoy and something like 350 food stalls and many, many shops – when in doubt, just wander, don’t be afraid to get lost!

At the last count there were something like 3,000 sit-down toilets, including one, which contains a throne and art gallery, right the way to the other end of the spectrum. The Long-Drop toilets, which are basically a hole to sit on, high up over a latrine trench. The good news is that the toilet situation has come on a long way. Spare a thought for those 250 wonderful, dedicated WaterAid volunteers in the Poo-Crew. There are lots of options including she-pees for girls who can stand up and over 700 meters of male urinals. I still like to keep some wet-wipes, loo roll and hand sanitiser in my faithful bum-bag, just-in-case – along with hay fever paraphernalia.

When thinking about writing a preview edition for the forthcoming event, you might be forgiven in thinking how come I haven’t even touched on the music yet. Weeeeelllllll, Kind of tricky when the programme isn’t announced and won’t be until soon after April 2020. That’s not to say that a bunch of overexcited artists won’t accidentally self-confirm or publish their UK tour dates, with a mysterious week off at the end of June?

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What a lot of people don’t know is that, whilst the main stages begin on Friday morning at around about 11am and usually finish around about the same time in the evening, the festival ground is actually open from 6am on Wednesday morning and those first couple of days are a great time to wander and get to know the place. There is usually a bonfire and fireworks on the Wednesday night, once it gets properly dark and there are lots of smaller tents and dance sound systems providing more than enough entertainment. That’s the thing about Glastonbury, there is ALWAYS enough entertainment. It is probably fair to say that is the only major festival in the world that sells out, when the line-up hasn’t even been announced. That doesn’t stop the rumour-mill. Although, rumours are usually just people expressing their wishful thinking, some artists do let the cat out of the bag. For example, we already know for sure that for 2020 one of the legends is going to be the fabulous Diana Ross!

There are some strong rumours around, as there always is. I think Madonna has ruled herself out and Emily Eavis sounded like she was ruling out Fleetwood Mac. Personally, I would love to see Depeche Mode there. Who would you want if you could have any? A great site for the rumours is eFestivals. They have the likes of Robbie Williams, Carl Cox, Taylor Swift, the Foals and the Kinks as strong rumours. All good of course. Please believe me when I say “it really doesn’t matter who the headliners are”. I often hear it from people who have never been, and I sigh as the place is the experience and it far surpasses any thoughts of who the headliners ever were. That’s why it sells out regardless of any kind of line up. The line-up invariably blows me away though, and I have muso friends who always introduce me to some band who are simply the best, who I’ve never till that point heard of, but who I will walk away, like at the start of a new love affair.

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The preview can’t be complete without a nod to the other areas, for example the Theatre and Circus fields, where there are so many amazing performances every day from the breath-taking to the bizarre. The Green Fields, where you can learn about permaculture and take part in political debates. The Acoustic tent is huge and can hold thousands and there are some amazing singer songwriters performing there at the top of the site, next to the Cinemas, which show some amazing films and feature the latest Sony cinema systems. Worth a look even if it isn’t raining! In fact, for the last two festivals Carmagedon has featured, where a bunch of scrap old cars have been brought in and up-cycled to form an open-air, drive-thru cinema experience too. And, in case you didn’t know, Children under 12 can go for free and that the Children’s fields contain the biggest children’s festival in the whole of Europe with loads to help entertain the little kids, maybe while the big kids are off getting into trouble!

For the lazy amongst you, or perhaps those travelling environmentally soundly in a coach, with limited luggage capacity there are some pre-erected tent options to investigate, that include several tent sizes in ‘Worthy View’ that are not too expensive. They are up a very steep hill though, which after a full day and night stomping around is an ask. It is very well set up though and on a well-drained plateaux overlooking the whole site, served by its own car park and has hot showers and VIP loos. And then there are some quite ridiculous (I only say that because I’m jealous) glamping options on offer such as big yurts and bell tents. Again some of these are a bit of a walk away. On-site there are also some native American style wigwams, which are spectacular and have neat fires in them. These are near the middle of the whole site, so a really good choice for those who don’t want to walk so much. Actually, talking of keeping walking to a minimum, we should spare a thought for those less able. Glastonbury really works hard to make the site inclusive and has many viewing platforms at all the main stages and a bus system to ferry those with disabilities around the site. Electric wheelchairs can be hired in advance and there are charging facilities in the disabled camping area.

Try not to plan too much – that being said it is great fun to visit a scheduling website in advance such as Clashfinder General and getting an idea of just how much music is actually on offer. You need to be warned though to be prepared for the pain of those clashes. For obvious reasons of safety, crowd control and general welfare the biggest acts tend to be on against each other. When you get there, it might feel like the clashes are aimed at you personally as it is often your favourite artists who seem to literally be on at the same time. You might be tempted to watch the start of one act and then try to race to catch the end of the other favourite. This can be done, and often the start times are staggered some, maybe to help this, but the best advice here is to just pick one and enjoy it to the max. Make sure you have been to bathroom, topped up with a couple of drinks, found your friends or arranged a suitable tree for them to find you by and are ready to go! One of the most beautiful sites is all the creatively inspired flags that people carry around to help their pals meet up with them in the crowds.

As you can see on the chart it usually takes about half an hour to wander between stages. Can be magnified lots if there is a big act just finishing on one of the bigger stages or it has been raining.. If you ask most folk who’ve been many times and we are of the same opinion, the less you plan and the less you anticipate seeing 23 of your favourite acts, the better your Glastonbury experience will be. One year I spent a day watching world-class Chinese acrobats, A BMX stunt comedian, The Hobbit film in an open-air cinema, A wild carnival trapeze act, a wonderfully burlesque lady playing 3 recorders at the same time, who told me salaciously that later that night an unusual performance of 4 recorders was to be witnessed somewhere up in the Theatre and Circus fields. We must always remember it’s a festival of performing arts and not just a music festival, but it really is, without doubt one of the very best music festivals in the whole world. Something to remember as you leave, expect some degree of heartbreak as you realise that Glastonbury has taken a little piece of your heart to keep there for itself. For those 5 days you lived with hardly a thought for rules and regulations, living in a magical land where you fall out of your tent and get entertained by the best entertainers in the world with no limits. That always leaves a mark. Luckily the BBC air lots of footage for you to relive your best moments. Of course, the really memorable things tend to be the quirky art installations or theatrical performers you encounter far away from the main stages, which are usually less covered by the mainstream media.

When you finally get there enjoy it with all your heart, be respectful of others (and yourself) and ‘leave no trace.’

Ian Clark

St Andrews Voices: 2019

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I do enjoy visiting the coastal pearl of Scotland that is Saint Andrews, for the city knows its culture well. I was thus in a premium state of anticipation to experience for the first time a festival there, Voices. Its artistic director, Sonia Stevenson, certainly knows what she’s doing. A loyal local lassie, being brought up in St Andrews & nurtured by its thriving & masterful music scene, by 2019 Sonia is using her national experience as a performer, teacher & events organiser – fuelled by her clear love of bringing people together – to formulate a quality program. For the 7th time in a row, she has assembl’d a venturous team of volunteers & performers to spread musical joy across the city for very freshening days. Reinventing itself each year, Voices showcases the versatility and beauty of the human voice in an amazingly broad spectrum of genres including opera, cabaret, lieder, folk, spoken word, choral, a cappella, early music, new music and more…

To experience the festival I intended to attend two evening’s worth of events – the Friday & the Saturday – & spend the weekend in the area as a bonus. The wife & I do enjoy supra-historical Fife, & booked ourselves at an air B&B in Newport-on-Tay. The view across ever the Silvery Tay reminds her of home – the Puget Sound, north of Seattle – & being only 20 minutes from St Andrews, & even less to Dundee’s TK Maxx, Newport seem’d perfect for all our needs.

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Janice Galloway enjoying the festival after delivering a special live presentation of her novel, Clare Schumann

Friday the 18th of October 2019 saw wild fits of weather lash the eastern coast of Scotland. It was absolutely brutal, but Voices is not an outdoor festival, peppering instead some of the best venues in St Andrews. Parking up near the abbey, we slipped into the splendid Byres Theatre for our first event, a recital by soprano, Carolyn Sampson, accompanied with flourishing panache by Joseph Middleton. Carolyn has an internationally acclaimed voice, performing roles for the English National Opera, the operas of Lille, Paris & Montpellier; & also appearing as a soloist across America with symphony orchestras from Boston to San Francisco. Middleton himself is a highly esteemed member of the living pantheon, being the first accompanist to be the recipient of the Young Artist Award at the 2017 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards.

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They are quite a team these two, with an invigorated history of combined performances & recordings behind them, including the fantastic Fleurs of 2015. It is from this sense of togetherness that a remarkable set of songs have sprung back to life in their hands,  lungs & vestments. It was quite an honour to be there, as this was the very public first performance ever of SONGS OF HEAVEN & EARTH. The next day, Saturaday 19th, they would be doing it all again at the Leeds leider.

A recital such as this is window into the drawing rooms of the Romantic era. Long before the electrification & mass reproduction of music, all of it had to be done live. Haydn, appreciating the talented amateur, creative his simple but effectively entertaining Italianate Arianna a Naxos. This provided the opening three numbers of the night, all conjured with precision & liveliness by Sampson & Middleton. Next up were four songs from Schoenberg’s Vier Lieder, followed by two from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

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Switching to French after the interval, we enjoyed a miniature procession through the sapphic Les Chanson de Bilitis, written by the Belgian poet, Pierre-Felix Louis. A series of 143 poems with strong lesbian themes, some were put to music by Debussy & Koechin,  & were presented to us with continued performative excellence. Finally we were given Four Last Songs, by Richard Strauss, followed by another Strauss piece, Morgen, as an encore.

As audience members, my wife & I adored Carolyn’s stoic & quasi-theatrical performance of these soliloquyised serenades, hardly taking our eyes off her apart from when Middleton ended each piece with a downturned floating hand, as if bouncing some invisible energy-sphere off the keys. All in all, witnessing the higher cerebrality of such trilinugal musical mastery was a scintillating start to our Voices experience, especially when I heard the vaulting etherality of Debussy’s Le Tombeau des Naides for the first time.

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In the queue for ‘Late Night with Robyn Stapleton’

After the performance, we had half-an-hour out in the tempest.  We had to get ourselves to the Hotel du Vin at the other end of St Andrews, for a very different but equally magnaminous musical performance. Robyn Stapleton is a lassie of the purest Celtic tradition; raven-headed, lilly-voiced, & a consummate teller of tales. Former BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year, she was accompanied by Mike Vass, a tender guitarist who never dominated, always allowing Stapleton’s singing to willow upon his silken waters.

Her talent lies in a consummate memory for word, phrase & pitch,  while the overall song selection was stunning, keeping well within the theme of the festival, which is to shine a spotlight on some of history’s most important women, such as Sundays opera Mary Queen of Scots, by Donizetti. Among the beautifully sung numbers we heard the broken token classic, Pretty Fair Maiden, Stapleton’s personal favorite, Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now, Violet Jacob’s excuisite poem ‘Halloween‘ (music by Jim Reid) & a Burnsian ‘bothy ballad’ – I cant recall the writer or name – that got the crowd singing along for the first time.

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The performance was over only too soon, despite most of the crowd now getting quite delightedly on board with the choruses. We were like a boiled sweet that had finally sucked down into the honey-sweet centre. By the end I really understood the remit of the festival – I had heard two very special & different singers, but if you add the unique & idiosyncratic playing styles of Middleton & Vass then perhaps I had hear four Voices.

It had been a wonderful initiation into what Sonia Stevenson is trying to achive with her festival, & as I stepped out into the skin-stripping Viking blast, I was warm enough inside to get to the safety of the car heater without too much discomfort. On the drive back to Newport, my wife & I were breaking quite randomly, but in perfect synchonicity, with diddly-pom choruses based upon Robyn’s own brilliant selection – the pure pudding proof of a top night out!

The view from our place in Newport

Weatherwise, the next morning was a much less sanguine affair; clear skied & breezy, the quintessence of the east coast Autumn. While I followed the Rugby World Cup, my wife hit Dundee & its celebrated TK Maxx. ,Before we both knew it, daylight was rapidly running out of room in the sky, so we drove the 20 minutes back to St Andrews & began the rather serious hunt for a good restaurant. It was a great excuse to meander about the trident streets of St Andrews, & we eventually settl’d on an incredibly tasty Chinese called New Dynasty.

So to our second & final evening at Voices. It began with a tour of the dreamlike Luxumralis installations, guided by Sonia Stevenson herself, still effervescently sprightly considering she is mid-term with her second child. By her side was the equally charming Amanda Macleod, in her second year of assisting Sona, while the guest speaker was Dutch astrophysicist Anne-Marie Weijmans. The tour began in the Zest Cafe, where for 20 minutes or so we were regaled with a scientific introduction to the light-show we were about to see.

Sonia Stevenson centre, Amanda near right, Anne-Marie just behind Sonia

Luxmaralis are currently taking a light & music spectacular into cathedrals & churches across the land. It was bordeline beatific to experience a papal score & fabulous 3D images swirling into every physical & metaphysical crevice of St Andrews Holy Trinity. We British may be a much more agnostic bunch these days, but if anyone would have seen such a ‘miraculous’ show even 150 years ago, they would have downed tools & immediately joined some kind of religious house.

Spiralling through time on a 20 minute loop throughout Voices, of its installation in the festival, Luxmaralis mastermind Peter Walker told the Mumble; We have been working for around 12 months with the festival director, looking at the subject of Space and the cosmos and considering how this works not only as an artwork but also bringing in a concert element with a collaborative choir which, although we have worked with choirs before, is in this case directly linked to the artwork. The Space link comes from the Lunar landing anniversary, although its not the only reason – being in a church reanimating the space and the architecture and creating a different visual experience for the festival was also key (read the full Interview).

Towards the end of the sequence, into the church stepped 4 members of festival’s ensemble in residnce, the Gesualdo Six. They were singing some utterly divine Latin homily, reinforcing once more the exploration of the capabilities of the Human Voice that is the  eclectic & entertaining theme of Voices. This sonic wonder was rapidly followed by the arrival of spacecraft projected onto the Holy Trinity masonry & its illuminated glass, the piece’s proper pinnacle & one which all othe best of performance art needs to possess.

After our 20 minutes, a portion of the tour group followed Amanda out into the St Andrews night, for the relatively short walk to a wee gem of a church, All Saints, & its own portion of the Luxmaralis experience. This instigated a less epic, but equally as intense severing of the consciousness from the self, & once more I drifted into quasi-spiritual thought.

We’re gonna be late,” whispered my wife, snapping me into full action for our final show of our Voices experience, back where we started at the Byres. This was to be David McAlmont, famous from his collaboration with Suede’s Bernard Butler, which turned out be a startlingly pleasurable show in which he sang some of the best songs by  Billie Holiday.  The ultimate ariel blueswoman, she was an enigmatic, hard-partying, bisexual, junkie black jazz singer who the shoved the Jim Crow laws where the pale-visag’d sun doesn’t shine, via the magic of her singing.  Her ability to conjure a thrilling atmosphere was replicated with some success by McAlmont & his immaculate band. Their set consisted of 14 songs, inbetween which McAlmont & his pianist, Alex Webb, told the fascinating story of Billie Holiday’s rise & fall drawn directly from Holiday’s autobiography,  Lady Sings the Blues.

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Through songs such as ‘I Cover the Waterfront‘ & ‘Fine & Mellow,’ McAlmont gave a subtle but refined performance, allowing me to enjoy the watching of each member of the band as they strutted their pristeen stuff – Sophie Aloway’s drumming was especially entrancing. I thoroughly loved the stage-space, which helped my mind to focus on each member of the ensemble, tho’ my wife disagreed & said she’d have preferred a more distill’d version in a jazz bar or something. I reminded her that the show was meant to be emulating Billie Holiday’s famous second, sold-out comeback show at the rather large Carnegie Hall in 1956.

We both agreed to both agree & disagree, & were soon enough happily singing some of the splendid songs we’d just heard on our drive back to Newport, just like we did the previous evening. For two nights in a row the Voices conjured by Sonia Stevenson, her team & the superb performers were flying flowing through our brain channels like naiads, & we look forward already to what ‘soup of the day‘ selection of Voices will be pirouetting about St Andrews next Autumn.

Damian Beeson Bullen