You may have guessed that I’ve been a bit busy lately, firstly preparing for, then at the Larmer Tree Festival as part of Boscombe Vintage Market. It was the first time we’ve done anything like this & I don’t think any of us knew what to expect, and by all reports most of us were pretty anxious as well as busy leading up towards it. But it was great, really good fun and well worthwhile. There were some magical moments which I can’t resist sharing with you all, and the whole thing sparked some interesting trains of thought & ideas for next year.
We were in a marquee opposite one of the big “venues” and got to hear some great music. I joined in with a couple of workshops over there, which were huge fun, but spent most of my time on my stall. And so I was there when a couple of early-teenage boys ran into the marquee, probably by accident. They skidded to a halt and looked round in utter amazement, and I mentally braced for trouble. But one gasped, “This place is waayyyyy coooool! Look! Harry Potter Luggage!” at the cabin trunk beside my stall. And off they trotted, admiring our ramshackle treasures quite happily. Then there were the group of bronzed late teenage boys who wandered past, looking somewhat supercilious & uninterested. Until they spotted the bookcase… “Ooooh, books!” And the next ten minutes resembled nothing quite so much as a meeting of the Literary Society as they leafed through the various vintage volumes, made their choices and queued up patiently with their pound coins. The bored husbands-being-towed-behind who suddenly spotted the vinyl records, the young lady who needed a slip to wear beneath her diaphanous Indian draperies, the people doing up vintage caravans who found just the right fabric or trim for their curtains or cushions – I do love making people happy!
Needless to say, there were people – a small minority, luckily – who just came in to sneer. But they weren’t just sneering at us & our vintage bargains, but also at the acts, the beautiful gardens, the peacocks and the other festivalgoers, especially those who were joining in with things. But to my mind, joining in is what it’s all about; festivals are as old as mankind, and aren’t something that can just be consumed, like a film or TV programme, they’re something you have to participate in to get the most out of. There’s always something new to see, a new skill to try, something different to taste, and if you’re too busy looking superior to join in, you’re missing out. It’s not all about buying stuff, although it’s nice when when people do; it’s about celebrating life in all its infinite & glorious variety, and adhering strictly to a narrow view of how people should look & behave doesn’t half get in the way of that!
I loved seeing people express their individuality, both in their clothes (I may have to become a steampunk, if I’m not too old & round) and by spontaneously breaking into dance with total strangers. There’s somehow both something very real & fundamental about festivals, and also something deeply unreal; those of us who went home every night (we didn’t, we camped) spoke of it as going back into the “real” world and there’s undeniably something fantastical, in the truest sense, about the whole festival thing. Life isn’t & never can be all bubbles & flags, lace, glitter, music & dance, but are shopping malls, traffic jams, utility bills and the 9-5 any more “real” actually? The paradox is that I suspect people can somehow be more their real selves when they are dressing up, and that our brick & mortar habitats, our mobile metal shells & our serious workaday personas are no more real than our festive selves. And I know which I prefer…
One customer told me about her daughter, who was awarded a first-class degree in psychology several years ago. But after two years in a well-paid recruitment job, she retrained as a henna tattooist & nail artist and “works” the summer at festivals, living in a well-insulated van, and picks up whatever work she can in winter; far from worrying about her, her mother was proud of her independence and free spirit & I can understand that.
Anyway, now I have a much better idea of what kind of stock to take along next year, and how much; approximately half of what I took this year! But none of us were to know what would work, and it’s probably different for each one of us, and each year will be different too; the weather was glorious this year, but might not be so good another time. And more ideas on how to lay it out, and how to create & maintain an attractive display. All I need now is a sensible way of keeping track of all these ideas – I may have to sit down & make a book or folder of some kind, after I’ve updated my paperwork… now, that’s a good idea!