Summer is undoubtedly my most favouritest time of year ever, of course I love the autumn, but I have to put effort into that, autumn is incredible, but summer is effortless.
I love the light of the summer, I love the brightness, the carefreeness of getting up, and being able to go out without planning, or lugging round a bag full of the changes of clothes necessary with two small children and a personal tendency to get cold at the drop of a hat.
What did happen this summer? It was very and unrelentingly hot, and I loved it! It all feels so long ago, it started as every summer should with a very early morning gig at the Chalice well on Beltaine (aka May Day, for those who don’t live in Glastonbury, it can be easy to forget when you live in or around Glastonbury for any length of time that the rest of jolly old Albion may not be celebrating the more pagan aspects of the circle of life celebrations, even this sentence may be at risk of being Glastafarian).
The Chalice well celebrations start around six am, with the music beginning at eight, we have played for Beltaine three or four times now and each time it has managed to surprise me by being unbelievably cold, not conducive at all to playing the fiddle, or any other stringed instrument, and my voice is barely awake so early in the morning.
Still we had great fun and plenty of people danced and smiled! I absolutely love the honour of playing for the maypole dance, especially as we have played one of my very own tunes each time we have done it, this year we played my tune written on the winter solstice called ‘The Returning of the Light’. The maypole dance does however go on for about twenty minutes, as people take turns to weave the ribbons in and out of each other, while the music gets gradually faster, ending on a crescendo of breathless laughter. The last couple of times I found myself needing to prop up my shaking fiddle arm with my knee somehow, as I don’t often play for twenty minutes non-stop!
It feels funny looking back over a not-so-long time ago and not remembering much about it. I can’t even remember where we were parked in our bus at this point, but not so long after Beltaine we moved on to the Shindig festival near Bruton in Somerset. I’m not really sure how I ended up at this event, it’s a completely raucous family affair. The amount of disco bling was astonishing, often very uncoordinated (in my not-so-humble opinion), entirely uncalled for and unparalleled in the known Universe!
I found myself in the craft field, which mercifully was pretty far from the Very Loud Music. I ran a fire by friction workshop for three days in a row, which was quite relaxed, but even so after countless demonstrations in the space of about two hours my arms were pretty warmed up, and I knew I would be feeling it the next day! It was with great excitement and satisfaction that I watched and helped lots of people to light their first fires by friction, using nothing but a few sticks, a bit of string and a bundle of dry grass! I love to see the looks of pride and astonishment on people’s faces when their first fire is alight, it’s not an easy job and it definitely comes with a great sense of achievement. It’s funny the amount of people who announce in their best caveman voice when it is done “Man/Woman make fire”.
When I learned to do it I felt like I had become a whole being, I can go out to the woods and light a fire without a box of matches, it doesn’t even matter if the sticks get wet, I can still light a fire!
I left Shindig and drove straight to Devon in our little bus to an event called HedgeUcation! I have to say that this was my favourite event this year! The whole thing is utterly inspired! Day-long craft workshops for children for five days, in a lovely location with a river to swim in and plenty of Horsedrawn activities, and stories at bedtime. HedgeUcation is blissfully quiet in the evenings, no amplified music after about eight o’clock!
There was a lady giving haircuts complete with clippers and barbers chair, suddenly everyone wanted one, by the end of the event the majority of the children had at least one side of their heads shaved, if not both, and plenty of the adults besides, it was like a return to the traveller fashions of the nineties!
Then at the weekend there is a shift in energy when the bands come and play and the workshops end and all the adults have a party. My secretly most favourite part of this event was watching the punk rock aerobics every day! Adults and children worked out to the dulcet tones of Polystyrene of the Xray Specs “Oh Bondage Up Yours!”
I met some lovely people at this event, slept very well, and narrowly escaped having a spontaneous haircut.
June brought the Scythe fair near Muchelney, a one day event, which we went and camped at for a few nights. This year so many people came that they had to turn many away. I was scorchingly hot, watching the scythe races. People (presumably after learning how to scythe) are allotted patches of ground with very long grass and race each other to cut the grass. It’s definitely not a blink and you’ll miss it race! At some point there is a race between a scythe and a strimmer, which rather satisfyingly the scyther usually wins.
The Scythe Fair is one of those events that everybody I have ever known seems to go to, there are lots of stalls and plenty of music and some really good childrens’ entertainment, and everyone seems to have fun, whether its rain or shine!
What happened to the rest of June? Who knows, without Glastonbury festival. That is two years in a row I have not been to Glastonbury festival and I am very glad, this year it will be three! I decided to start counting the years I manage to remember that I don’t actually like being trapped in a muddy field with two small children and a hundred thousand drunken smelly people, and stay at home or go and visit my mum and do something wonderfully nourishing instead!
This summer solstice (21stJune) I went on a Sacred Tree Walk with my beautiful friend and Tree Sister Hannah Gwawr. Together we walked around the woods and fields surrounding Glastonbury and visited and sang to some of the Ancient and young giants who provide so much for us.
July was the Priddy Folk fair, at which this year I spent most of my time sitting outside the pub playing tunes with other fiddle players. I also managed to play in the open mic tent, I have always wanted to play at Priddy folk fair but somehow usually seem to be at another event when it is on.
Who knows what happened to the rest of July? It is December now and the leaves have all fallen from the trees, the light is gone to the point that my solar power isn’t up to much, perhaps if I am lucky there will be enough light for some electricity? Solar power is great in the summer, but mine doesn’t do much in the winter!
August was time for the Green Gathering, this has to be one of my all time favourite events! I only have fondness for the Green Gathering. I used to go to it every year with my great friend B, we would camp together with our children and she would always surprise me with her efficiency, inspiration and ability to drink rum at ten o’clock on a Sunday morning and still be coherent by the evening!
This year I was lucky enough to spend it with lovely friends and my youngest sister Teddy, whose enthusiasm for everything made me see the festival in a whole new light.
My musical highlights this year were the Mad Hallelujah Tribe who’s fantastic (and not at all cheesy) music I listened to while somebody in the audience tried to convince me were actually called the Mad Halloumi Tribe. I watched Seize the Day with my little sister Teddy who had grown up listening to them but this was her first time seeing them live! Seize the Day were absolutely brilliant, their energy, magic and fantastic harmonies brought the biggest smile to my face that I had had in a long time and I absolutely needed it.
September brought me back to Devon to Off Grid, where I had my favourite gig of all time! It was right at the end of a fairly grey and rainy event and perhaps I was not expecting much of an audience, but people came in to hear me play and kept coming until the tent was full. I made a set list like a story through my music and we all went on a journey together, this was something I had wanted to do for a long time, to weave my songs together into one long story. The audience seemed to fully engage with this and I had a thoroughly lovely time!
I tried this again a couple of weeks later at Night at the Abbey in Glastonbury, it was nice, but it didn’t have the same magic, perhaps because the venue was so tiny. It can be lovely and intimate to play in a tiny venue, and one can have a great rapport with the audience, but on the other hand it can also be a bit confining, which was how I found it that day, maybe that was because at an event like Night at the Abbey people come and go from the gigs as there are so many other stages playing at the same time. It’s harder to take people on a journey if they missed the boat at the start!
I finished off my summer festivals with a trip to Green Earth Awakening, which has more of an autumnal feel to it. I do love this event though; I love it for its simplicity, its gentleness and its peace. I also really enjoy being invited to an event to play music around a fire! Playing music round the fire is my most favourite place to play, I love that anybody can turn up and join in and you never know what to expect. Perhaps I also love to play to a fire, as it never has a bad word to say, it just reflects warmth, light and beauty!
I love my fire, and I am off now to return to its ancient warmth as I sit in my bus in the early hours and my children sleep and the half light of dawn creeps in through the windows.
The featured image is Nathan Lewis Williams and I playing round the fire at Green Earth Awakening.