The loss of an Angel

Angel Jacob
A couple of weeks ago we had some awful news. One of our young crew members was killed in a motorbike accident. 

Angel Gardens has been in business for ten years this year and over that time it has grown and developed into something very special. We’ve had our ups and downs like any business but as a business it’s success is not actually in its bank balance.. It’s in its people! 

We are a family, a group of people from all walks of life and of all ages, class and creed…and it’s that family that makes us so special.

We may only work together for a few longvweekends in each year, but when you live together 24/7 you really get to know people. 

I guess it was only a matter of time before we lost one of our people. I guess we never expected it to be someone so young and vibrant.

Jacob was 21 , he was a skater, motorbike rider, circus boy, fire performer, artist and musician.. He was creative, funny and kind. 

For a young man he was responsible and gentle while still open and honest without trying at all.

I always say to my daughters that I know I can trust a young person when they don’t watch me to see if I’m watching them. Jacob never did this,. He would look you in the eye and talk to you with truth and humility. He was one of those people that was wise beyond his years… In a very grounded way. 

He has been at his girlfriends and didn’t return home. We saw on Facebook that his mum ( also part of the crew) was asking if anyone had seen him… Over night the news broke that his body had been found.

His family are coping tremendously well, they are celebrating his life and are accepting the outpouring of love from his peers and friends. Of course they are heart broken. They are such a close and tiny unit.. I really don’t know what will happen now. 

As a crew we were badly shaken, loosing someone has a knock on effect and everyone feels it.. Some knows Jacob more than others. The younger crew members where his friends, older crew members knew him as a son and fir myself, I saw him as a skilled worker who was a vital and responsible link in our chain. 

So as we chatted together from our four corners of the country, we shared our grief, concerns and plans as the funeral came closer.  Michelle, his mum, asked us to wear our festival clothes and our crew tshirts which we did with pride. 
This is the post I put up for the  crew who couldn’t make the funeral . 

I promised many of you that i’d call and chat to you today about the funeral, but realised, i didn’t have the energy to do it over and over, so figured i’d write it down for you. I know many couldn’t attend but wanted to know how it went.. so here it is….
Just wanted to say how proud i was of the Angel gardens family yesterday, everyone looked splendid in their festival clothes, everyone one supported each other and everyone was a total credit to each other. The family had asked everyone to attend in their own festival clothes… so we wore our t-shirts and festival rags…. everyone looked lovely…
I did have a little gentle laugh to myself, the O’Briens arrived early and there was a funeral taking place, as the attendees were leaving they were very confused to find crowds of hippies, bikers and ‘weirdness’ lining the road leading unto the chapel. they must have been very confused 🙂
 I was sat on my own at the crematorium as i was speaking, and i was terrified and emotional and feeling vulnerable by myself. when the Angel gardens family came in and stood at the side, they all gave me a squeeze as they passed me, just looking over at you all face me the strength not to break… thanks guys x
Shelly and Elliot did really well and were a credit to Jacob Mogwhy Chothia , the funeral was hard bit fitting in a very beautiful way.
As we arrived we all met and gave hugs and support, the Angel gardens gardens children took sunflowers in to the chapel and they all put them on the coffin on the way out. Angel gardens gave a bunch of sunflowers all tied up with an Angel gardens bandana.. these were from us all…. I wrote the words on behalf of us all, thanking him for his time with us in Angel gardens and asking him to enjoy the great big festival in the sky.
When Jacob arrived, he was escorted by lots and lots of motorbikes, we could hear them coming and it was a very emotional and amazing site as they passed, the smell of fuel, leather and the deep rumbling sound as they passed was unforgettable. 
Jacob passed us and was in a coffin which was decorated with a magnificent tiger and the whole thing was painted in oranges and yellows, it was really beautiful;. There was a single floral tribute inside and it was from his family.
The service was strongly joyous, with laughs and lovely words about jacobs short life. The underlying theme was his ability to make people smile and his wonderful skills as well as the way he lived his life to the full. We all commented how nice it was to hear about his life outside festivals, we all know folks in our own way and we often forget its just a very small part of who they are.
The music was lovely too, with Three little birds in the middle of the service.. perfect!!!.. we sang this later too at the wake.
As we left the chapel we were all invited to take a little ‘peace’ sticker and stick it to the coffin, it was a lovely gesture and helped people say goodbye.
There was also a box of coins that Jacob had been collecting for years to make his handmade jewellery. everyone took one as a momento of the day and of Jacob’s life.
Of course it was upsetting and hard, seeing Shelly and her family struggle through such a difficult day was awful and we all found this really hard to witness. But we also saw the unity and support they had in place, so many ( and there were a LOT of people) all caring and supporting , we can all rest assured they will be guided and supported through these hard times and into the future.
After the ceremony we went to the Wake which was at a golf club near by, it was a stunning spot and with the weather so good everyone enjoyed the outdoors. Loads of people sitting around, drinking, smoking and in the end laughing and singing. There was a certain herbal smell in the air, which added to the atmosphere 🙂
The Angel gardens team supported Shelly by helping to add some music to the afternoon, Matt and Pixie Holly created music with Alison McNeil Tara Sykes Sara Rushworth Fraser Sugden Keith O’Brien and myself joining in with our voices. 
A friend of Jacobs used his fire staff and performed and Kelsie span her poi. It was perfect.
It was sad, emotional, tragic, joyful, funny, happy and more… it was a perfect send off. 
For those of you that couldn’t join us, thank you for your best wishes and messages, I have passed them all to Shelly and she sends her thanks…. 
Thanks to those that held their own little ceremonies in their part of the world. It was good to know the family and tribe were all joined together at the same time.
We are a family, we are a tribe… when we loose one of our own we feel it, even if we don’t know that person personally, we know it leaves a gap in our chain and effects us all. 
We will move on now, we have decided to name the circus/games area in Angel gardens ‘Jacob’s Green’ and we will play and have fun here with lots and lots of children and we will support lots of young people as their develop their own skills and their own walk of life . We will look at designing a nice sign for next year and create a press release in the spring to introduce it. Anyone wanting to help let us know, we will collect monies for some equipment at some point and it will be a funded and non chargeable area for Angel gardens . as I say any ideas welcome for this.
But now we need to pick ourselves up and move on with the little bit of Jacob that you have experienced. Smile at his memory and send strength to his family.
If any of you need any support or need to share your thoughts, don’t be alone.. call me , call each other… use your Angel gardens family. 
kind love and gentle hugs
Sam x

You don’t feel you have the right to feel sadness in situations like this.. You see a mother and brother crumbling in grief and you berate yourself for feeling any kind of sadness.

But it’s ok to grieve for those who pass, even if you grieve more for those left behind than you do the deceased. 

It’s always hard when it’s a young and good person that goes… Especially when it’s sudden and unexpected ! It hits everyone. 

I was honoured to speak at the funeral and wanted to say something that explained how doe use Jacob was. I ended up writing loads but cutting it down to the essentials was strangely comforting.

I managed to speak without faltering, which was amazing really! I was so nervous and so emotional.. But when it came to it I knew my words where more important than my tears.. Somehow God gave me strength to talk. 

Here is the full version.

Its such a cliche isn’t it? ‘Its such a loss’ ‘ he was such a great bloke’ ‘how tragic’
we all say these words, they roll of our tongue when someone we know passes to the other side 
We all feel sympathy and we all feel loss, but often out of duty and from a distance.
But today, with Jacob, these words are not true, i mean really not true… in fact they really don’t do this awful situation any justice at all. 
This awful unfair tragic accident, that has taken away someone that was more than just a ‘nice bloke’, its more than a ‘loss’, to us all, it is so much more than a tragedy,,,,, saying these words feels like an insult here today.
We are all kind of the same, we are born and raised with pretty much there same bits and pieces, hands, feet, toes, emotions, attributes and personality. 
Of course we all have ways in which we stand out too, skills, qualities and our own way of treating others. 
Some people aren’t very nice, others, like most of us, work really hard at been nice, we try hard to do the right thing, say the kindest words and feel the empathy we crave we should give… 
but some, and there aren’t many, well… they are the special ones, the ones that stand out, 

the enigmas, 

the exceptional

the unusual

the inspiring

the inspired

the charming

the enchanting

the calming

the mesmerising

the nurturing

the passionate

the precious

the priceless

the quirky

the reckless

the talented

the valuable

the chivalrous

the ethical

the loyal

the motivated

the opinionated

the gentle

the spirited

they are the Angels of the world.
They are the ones that don’t try to be nice or remember to say the right things, 

they don’t try to work hard at helping others or make an effort to be generous or honest…
They just are, 
they just do, 
they just be.
Jacob wasn’t just a nice bloke.. he was a specular example of who we need to be. Its not a tragedy … i don’t know what it is.. i don’t know a word that works well enough.. but i do know he’s too special to not be doing something important wherever he is now
 and as he leaves us here with our grief and memories… we all take forward his gifts… the gifts of knowing him… his energy his lovely gentle energy.
he is always part of us, and we will be honoured, honoured to know hime both in life and in death .. always, to be part of the family.

I saw grief in all shapes and sizes. My own daughters handled it differently. My eldest was great friends with him, she sobbed and was heart broken for his loss. My second eldest grieved for his mother and brother and for her sister. My husband grieved for his younger brother and I grieved for them all. 

Seeing young people attend a funeral enmass is a sad but humbling experience. But I’m glad I’ve seen it.. Again I feel honoured .

Rest in peace Jacob. You will be so very missed in and by every part of your full and glorious life! 

Finally I’m super proud of our Angel gardens family , they sang and played for him at the funeral, together they did what they do best… Be a tribe xxxxx

Trucked but Happy 

So festival number three of the season… Truck festival 2016 in the heart of beautiful Oxfordshire in blazing sunshine.

After a relatively easy pack up ( thanks to our new system with pallets ) we set off down to Abingdon in Oxfordshire for the very first time. Truck festival was new to us and we were excited to discover exactly what this mysterious little festival was about.

We drove through the most glorious little village full of crumbling cottages and running roadside babbling brooks. As we had to wait at the railway crossing for the train to pass we marvelled at the tiny little road we, and all the other (even larger) rigs were having to pass down to the festival site. The road opened up to the most pucturesque farm buildings, pretty barns covered in grey woodpanelling   and  clambering ivy. Dust tracks wound between them and we crawled unsurely into site. 

To say the production is laid back is an understatement! We were fourth or fifth of our team on site, and not one person has had to give a name or show Id. They were simply waved in and sent to what can only be explained as.. the arse end of the site! 

As pretty as it was there was no doubt it was out of the main public arenas but we had been assured we would be signed up and folks would find us.

We set up tents and caravans for the night and bedding down ready to build the morning after. We were only providing a small space this weekend so with the whole team on it it was only a few hours work. 

We work up to a bright and sunny day, we ambled about in pjs drinking tea and eating breakfast together as we waited for our pallet to turn up.

By mid day we’d emptied the van and Mr O and William left to go home. William had his leavers assembly the day after and although he’s felt poorly the last two days he was excitedly keen to attend. So we planned for daddy to drive the four hours home and leave Kitty and me here until Friday night.

As it transpired things were slow! We did get electricity pretty quickly but then it all stopped, as had no radios so couldn’t contact anyone, we had no water no toilets and no pallet! The pallet had the entirety of Angel gardens on it! 

But we were ok, we lay around in the sun, the kids paddled in the little brook and played with the sand and toys we brought. The remaining crew all turned up and we simply had a very quiet day.. Waiting.

Eventually after much pestering at about 4pm and a lot of pestering it arrived , the crew jumped into action and by 7pm the space was ready! It looked lovely and we were ready for the off first thing. Punters were coming in at 10am so we imagined we’d start getting folk in by midday.

I enjoyed a lovely evening with kitty, we had an early is night, kitty had a bath and we watched cartoons together with snacks and cheese.. She fell into a happy sleep shortly after it got dark. 

As I was enjoying the quiet I remembered we had new fairy lights. I could hear the crew outside laughing and sitting around the fire and though ‘oh I know, I’ll put some lights out.’

I was super Careful with lights, we had had a number of fairy lights for the space over the years and they hadn’t last well and we were never that happy about their safety. So we have invested with new ones, more expensive and much better made.

I unfolded them carefully in the caravan before pushing them out of the caravan window and plugged them in. As I went out Matt joined me to help me string them up, as I grabbed them to string them over the caravan all I remember was having this out of body experience as I saw myself fall to the floor screaming. 
Fraser, Matt and Tara, were around me and I was covered in a blanket. I was shaking violently and sobbing uncontrollably unable to breath properly. I was in shock following a large electric shock! 

My arm was numb and my hand was in excusiating pain. It took me a good hour to calm down and my breathing and body to return to normal, it was an awful and frightening experience. Needless to say the light went in the bin! 

I woke up Friday feeling much much better. I remembered it was my birthday as Mr O phoned me to sing to me and remind me that I’d been born. I stumbled out of the caravan to host our first day meeting and after we’d done introducing ourself and chatting about the order of the day and what we were expected to provide,  the crew sang happy birthday and presented my with a wonderful hand made card with everyone signatures on it. I will totally treasure it. The children had made and decorated it and the mesages were lovely.

I remembered the years of never having a circle of friends that really and truly could be trusted and could actually be called real friends.. It hasn’t happened since uni and Angel gardens has brought that back to me, I’m very greatful and this gesture reminded me of my blessings.

We got to work and prepared for the punters to arrive, we were expecting 800 children…But strangely it never happened.. All day we had maybe four families in.. And they had told us how they couldn’t find us easily. So with some creativity, a number of signs were made and placed around, and by the time the production team had caught up and put up their own signs folks started to arrive.


   Friday night was lovely , Mr O arrived with the kids and they were carrying presents and flowers for me, we had cake and champagne and I opened my presents by the campfire with my friends and crew around me.

The highlight was doing the scratch card with Matt playing a backing track to build up tension we had a hilarious ten minutes playing the games and the utter group joy and hilarity as we won twenty quid!

Saturday came and cripes we were busy. They found us and we were packed all day . Crew were on form and we had a ball. We spent another evening around the campfire laughing and singing before exhaustedly falling into bed just after midnight.

Sunday was much quieter. This event is no doubt a Saturday event. Kids and families joined us but it certainly wasn’t as busy as the day before. But we had our parade and the kids caught the bad guy and collected pockets of gold coins with glee! 


Come evening Grace was excited to watch one of her favourite bands. As I had a triple A pass, we went back stage and I went on stage during the set up to check if we could watch from the side. As I went up ( with William in tow) I saw my opportunity to get a great photo of the crowd from the stage. So I whipped out my phone and took a selfy with William .


After we’d done, I turned to get my proper photo and saw the crowd were waving as I pointed the camera. I put up my finger to tell them to wait and pressed record as the gave us a huge cheer for the camera, much to Williams delight! 

As we left the stage giggling, we told keith and grace and had a real giggle. So there we were at the side of the stage, Grace was thrilled as she filmed her band and danced and sung only metres from them. William and kitty loved it two, even keith had a ball.. We all did.

Grace came away with a song list and plectrum and met the band for photos. She was thrilled as the guitarist recognised her from the side of the stage and was totally sweet with her. They were genuine and gracious , much more than many other artists we have met before. I really was the hero of the hour. 

We fell into bed and all chatted for a while before falling into a deep sleep. I woke up an hour ago and decided to write this before I forgot,., 

It’s been a lovely weekend… It was a small and intimate crew and we worked well together. We had another team at latitude and they smashed it there too! We were all great! 

Not sure about the event, we smashed it and the vibe was lovely. Punters really enjoyed us and we had great feedback. Hopefull our clients get good feed back and we can help them develop the family side of things into the future now they can see our experience and what we can bring.

It was sunny, my kids had a great time, we had belly laughs and amazing chats. We did a good job too…and customers loved us..I really am a luck girl to own my life! 

GLEXIT ! Glastonbury 2016 

So… Glastonbury was fab! It was muddy, not rainy really , but when it did rain, it churned the mud back up and made getting about difficult. 

We managed to keep our little space nice and clear, although we had muddy entrances we maintained green grass. It did effect trade, no one wants to lounge about on the grass making stuff when it’s wet and soggy. But the workshops were really busy and financially it wasn’t a bad start to the season. 

Socially we had a great time. Libby made friends and was off with them most the time, William and Kitty just played constantly with their friends and walked all over the site having adventures. 

For the first time I took a childminder and it worked super. Not having to worry about Kitty allows me to work harder and tbh it’s the only time (ever) she’s ever gone off with anyone.. So the freedom was great! And I appreciated having her back in the evening no matter how tired I was! 

Grace and Mr O enjoyed the bands and stages, I however did my usual thing and enjoyed the festival from the outskirts. 

It’s not that I don’t love every inch of the place… I totally do.. It’s so jam packed full of awe inspiring art, inspiring crafts and performance… It truly is AMAZING. But for me the one most exciting thing is the people.. I love to sit and watch, listen and soak it up, I have so many friends on site and love meeting new.

While they all traipse around in the mud, I take Kitty (and sometime William) and wander into the stone circle or hit the tipi village. I sit in a tipi cafe and share chai and cake with my daughter . She runs around and plays on drums or meets other kids.. I chat with others too.. It’s the feeling of safety that allows everyone to just slip into friendships instantly.

Up in the green fields you tend to find a different kind of person from down the hill, the old hippies and crew are been working here for years, the community is great and huge. It’s within this community that the most learning takes place for the kids. They sit and talk with adults and children alike and the conversation is equal and respectful. We talk about everything and the kids are involved and active within the conversations.. Their opinion counts and it’s uniquely precious. I remember as a child feeling quite lonely while parents talked to other adults, I’m proud my children can join in the conversations as equals among our people .

The cafe I go to is in the tipi field and it is hosted in a huge 10metre tipi with an attached yurt. There is a fire in the middle and lots of low seating and tables, the yurt hosts musicians and there are loads of drums, shakers and guitars about. It’s donation only for food and drink and there is something really special about laying on furs next to a fire, drinking endless cups of tea, eating tali and  playing with your toddler . 


Of course come evenings…( And a Glastonbury evening starts around midnight)… We tend to sit in our garden. We close the workshop at 6pm and although we are officially closed we get lots of people visiting us through the night. 

After everyone returns from their adventures at stages, clubs and cafes. The fire gets going and we all sit around in blankets, watching the punters walk and stagger by, laughing at their randomness. Matt , Libby and grace all play instruments and we all sing and have a real laugh one minute and real conversation the next. 


Folks hear the music and wonder in, many borrow the guitar and give us a song. We had some truly amazing talent this year!!!!! I cannot believe so many hugely talented people are unsigned and undiscovered!!

What I love about Glastonbury is the fact everyone who works the festival scenes is somewhere on site. I say it’s like the AGM of festivals. 

Because we have a physical space with seating and in a known pitch.. People tend to visit us and use us as a base. I love seeing people and love it when one of my crew comes and says ‘You have a visitor’ I go to the front not knowing who will be waiting and ALWAYS shreak with joy when I find out. Often we only see some people once a year at Glastonbury, and only for a short time. We always have a visit from Paul and Davey (aka Wino Tyrone and scary from hobo jones and the junk yard dogs) they potter up for a cup of tea and random objects.. Paul has been spotted a couple of times sewing up his trousers or similar onnpur bench! They open the Avalon stage on Friday which is a short walk from us. So it’s tradition we visit each other’s 

On Friday morning we woke to the news we were leaving the EU . In all the years I’ve been doing Glastonbury I have never experienced anything like it! 

Usually on Friday the cheering and excitement is noisy and palpable.. But this year Friday morning was silent… With a real sense of grief.

My crew hugged each other and my friends came over to hold each other too. We all knew what a huge thing it was and we were all devistated, angry and sad.

We drank tea and quietly listened to the radio as news of the pm resigning came in, then the pound falling and then the banks announcing our credit rating falling.

It truly was like someone had died.. or as if a war had started (maybe it has) . We were among like minded people we all knew this would be a disaster for the country and the communities within it , we sat and listened to it play out live together. It was tough! 

Every performer mentioned it, everyone talked about it in sad and disbelieving voices, I’ve never known anything quite like it. 

Ironically It kind of changed the festival vibe from one of the hedonistic and exciting ‘joy of life’ we are used to , to a sense of solidarity, strength in numbers and a huge show of support for each other as we all feared for our children’s futures. 

The festival was amazing, it was different and difficult.. But it was important and we still had fun and drew strength. Weirdly getting ready to leave was quite hard, many of us dreading leaving our bubble and returning to this new country of ours that was so familiar but now so alien to us.

But after two more day of music, singing, dancing, drama, laughs, circus and more we pushed the caravan out of the mud and set off out of the biggest and best festival we know. Our lovely home.. Greencrafts had been another triumph, and Nic and Marie continue to excel themselves.

I run spaces as you know, albeit very different to the green crafts field, so I know the work they do to make this field so magic . Hats off to them! Let’s hope we can be part of it again next year. 

On Tuesday we left for Blissfields festival.. But that’s another blog,,.  

Day two: Glastonbury Adventure. Soggy bottoms 

I woke up pretty early this morning considering how tired I had been this morning. I love waking up first in the caravan though.. I love going outside and sitting in this huge place that’s going to be so full of people and craziness.. Just me and the odd straggler. Although I’m guessing come Wednesday night there will be more than the odd straggler at 7am.. It is a 24 hour party . 

It was quite sunny and warm this morning but by mid afternoon we were soaking! We had a cooked breakfast and Mr O got his cards for Father’s Day .

 
We managed to put up one of the workshop tents and fill it with gear. We had to help move the fire point from in front of our pitch too which involved emptying three drums of water into another, rolling the said drums over and re filling! Don’t ask! Especially as later on when the rain was really coming down we had to bail the water out of the drums before it was about to overflow into my tent,

The crew turned up this afternoon, Tara and the kids came and Sara and little victor turned up about 9pm. We have an extremely tight camp! Very squashed in.. We certainly don’t have to keep three metres apart like a camping and caravaning  site! God Tara’s tent opens into our awning and there is literally a foot of space in front of Sara’s camper van door. The plan it to tarp over between the camper van and our awning do we all have the awning as a communal ( and dry) space, Matt and Gracie turn up Wednesday ( Grace still has an exam to do) Matt will be camping in a similar place opening again into the awning, 

It’s very cosy! And we expect to see each other in our pjs!

So really that’s it today., once the rain came , the kids played with play doh and sulvanian families, we drank tea and stayed dry as much as we could. We are lucky we got hear yeast ready, it gave us some extra time so today we could have a slow ish day! 
(Keith and LIBBY did go on a bike ride, keith could barely breath when he got back and LIBBY spent most of the next hour photographing her muddy legs in selfies?!?! )

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Now Sara is in we can put the other workshop tent up, which will block us all off and we can start to make things pretty! 

Lola is dry and cosy and we are very greatful for her. Kitty came in and literally fell into bed exhausted before, and the others weren’t far behind her. Once more I’m lay here feeling warm, dry and greatful .. Just wish Grace was here and then I can  really relax! 

Payment to the volunteers 

10 years ago Keith and I decided to be a host family for a couple of children from belarus. The whole ideas is to open your home and your heart to these kids to enable them to live in a ‘clean’ land, breathing clear air and not eating food that is contaminted from the soil in which it all grow. 

Long story short is that the girls came and lived with us, at the time money was short, I was back at uni full time training to become a pshychotherapist ( A life long dream) 

I was breast feeding and working full time teaching. All this was going on and along with my kids and keith business still in its infancy, money was short.

 So we called around some local attractions to see if they could donate a couple of tickets to allow us to get the russian girls into places and allow us to give them a great experience.

One of the places we contacted was the Northern Green Gathering, it was happening just up the road from us, we offered our skills and painted up the composting loos so we could get a couple of free tickets for our guests. 

While I was there I supported the team in the welfare tent and continued to create bits of arts around the site. I’d not been to a festival for years and years and it felt like going home, talking to folks like us, letting the kids runs wild and watching our Russian girls enjoying such simple pleasures without poisoning themselves with every breath that they took.

From that weekend, lots of weird things came together and before I knew it I was selling a concept to number of festivals, offering a free creative space and asking only for donations. 

Volunteers came forward and a crew formed and we suddenly had a prospective business that could allow us to enjoy the festival scene offer something back and assist others to get into the festivals without having to buys tickets.

Looking back, Keith and I were funding it all ourselves, we bought materials and paid for insurance, fuel and various other bits and bats…( I still remain in awe of the kits we have collected over the years and maintaining it is always a challenge. ) 

by the end of that first season i had plowed over £3k into the space and was still not charging festivals for the work I was doing.. things had to change, I was funding not only the festival organiser’s profit margins but was litrally paying for my crew’s summer!

I learned fast and things got better, I started to ask for a small fee which covered costs and began to look at ways in which i could make enough money from the space without over charging and charging the public tons of money… my aim was to provide free creative activities.. I didn’t want to loose that.

Things grew and my stratergies developed and by year 4 a system and concept had evolved. I invited subcontractors into the space who charged the public and gave me a percentage, this paid for the free activities we offered, some fuel costs and other random items such as phone bills and stationary galore. 

Suddenly it felt viable, it had taken time but we were nearly there, nearly paying for the hours per day i was working and also offer others the chance to make a few bob too.

But with growth came casualties, crew who had vollunteers wanted to develope their businesses, and quite right they were too, they like me needed to make a living. But my business wasnt ready to pay anyone, I’d only just started to cover costs and still needed £7k to come back to our savings account to repay our investment over the years. 

I didnt dare to work out what my hourly rate was, i just knew it was best not to look. But no one saw it and friends left, often unappy, feeling I had let them down, that i was been stingy and greedy. I felt awful, it hurt me to think folks could feel this way

But.. It’s our tenth anniversary and things are much clearer these days. We have an amazing ethos and the community we have created a wonderful space and business.

I have a mixture of staff now, we have paid managers and performers as well as traders who pay a pitch fee or percentage to us to be in the space. We still have volunteers and I work hard to ensure they don’t feel cheated. 

Festivals have run off the back of the work of volunteers for years and without people working in return for their ticket, the whole sector would collapse.

It’s a funny thing but it’s actually the volunteers that get more out of working for us! And in turn we get more in return! They are the ones who arrive with ideas and nervous energy and the ones who come away inspired and content. Those who are paid tend not to emerge themselves in quite the same way. 

Maybe when you get a wage you get responsibility? You need to fulfil your role and with that expectation comes more stress?  When you are employed you feel you need to fulfil an aim and objective and I find it holds people back in terms of confidence to explore their work.

I find volunteers are much more able to explore their own ideas and  happily and confidently take ownership of their roles. They come up with ideas and go above and beyond with the opportunity to experiment with their role.. Maybe this isn’t something you can do if you’ve been paid a fee for a specific task? I don’t know.. I’m trying to work it out, 

It’s important to me that all crew wether volunteers or paid , feel trusted and acknowledged. We have very high standards and expect the best , but the best way to do this is not to design and force people in to roles that simply act put your ideas. (Square peg round hole) 

Giving staff the trust and freedom to own their job means everything. We all know that if we feel secure, interested and confident then we thrive. I happily encourage everyone to take a given role with an object and aim and let them decide how to play it out. .. Let them run with it! 

This creates a collective of massive diversity, a range of exciting activities and a whole host of unique experiences for the public. 

When we started I used to set up each tent and out a workshop activity in it. Staff would be on a rota and just turn up, run the workshop and go!  It worked but it wasn’t special.. It was missing the angel gardens magic that oozes out of the space today. 

Now we have huge amounts of workshops (designed and run by volunteers) and activities. All set out differently and all looking and feeling different too. All owned and reflecting the crew who are running it! 

 It’s what brings a vibe to the space.. Each little area buzzes to its own tune.. Together the whole space sings as an orchestra playing the most modern and exciting score… I’m just the conductor.. The skill and work comes from those sat in front of me, 

We work hard to offer our volunteers not only space to explore their abilities and ideas.. But also to demonstrate what they are capable of. Working in the arts and music sectors is tough and the first step is finding a way to be heard.

By offering creatives an audience and opportunity to create something for that audience you are providing a kind of self guided aprentiship  . We encourage group and one to one mentorship but find the crew don’t need guiding into mentorshipdom as they are empowered enough to share and take freely from their fellow crew on their own terms.

I’ve never seen anyone loose their confidence in the space. We have had crew in who brought negative energy in the past and it really did bring down the group.. One bad apple can change the whole barrel! So we work hard to ensure people understand that bitching and negativity isn’t welcome. We aren’t the happy police we just encourage everyone to respect, hear and support each other openly.

If people don’t want to be there then they shouldn’t be there.. Our spaces are well fought after and we always have a waiting list, thankfully we find these days that those that don’t fit in simply move on.. No hard feelings .. It just wasn’t for them… 

Some people stay forever, some people jump in and off, some find their mojo and go off and go start doing things on their own… And getting good money for their amount work… It’s all ok! 

We don’t just ask that crew take ownership of their role in Angel gardens but ask that they learn to take ownership of their role in life. 

We will play our part in that in however they need it,, it’s our payment to them…to support and believe in them and their work.