Round peg looking for square hole! 4 children, 1 marraige, a big 1950s house and garden and limited budget, festival producer, art and maker, adventure haver, bargain finder, travelled and product tested.
7am wake up, feeling good. Get the boy ready for school.
8.20am push boy out of the door kicking and screaming, blackmail him with empty promises of a download for his Xbox when he gets home. Toddler still in bed..bonus.. drink tea.
8.30am decide to sweep floor, get brush out of cupboard, everything collapses. Pull everything out of cupboard in a strop. Tidy cupboard! Even wiping down the dust pan and brush, vac and bottles of cleaner.. everything looks grubby! Empty overflowing plastic bag holder ( it’s supposed to hold 100 bags… fooking lying twunts) become strangely and manicly obsessed with fitting 100 plastic bags in holder. Fit 25 bags in holder and stuff rest behind the (very clean) bottles of window and surface cleaner.
9am close cupboard door and sweep up a sleepy toddler who is very angry to have found herself waking up alone and not with her mummy besides her with her amazing milk producing boobies!
9.05am sit on sofa wrapped in blanket providing toddler with morning milk!
9.10am cereal is provided and more tea made
9.15am wipe up spilt cereal and tea from rug.
9.20am make mistake of asking toddler what she wants to wear….
9.25am toddler bounces happily downstairs in Minnie Mouse tutu dress, odd socks, two head bands, gloves and swimming cap. I shout ‘good morning’ at 18 year old.
9.30 make tea. Start cleaning kitchen and tidying up after morning chaos.
11.30am shout to 18 year old to wake up and she responds with the response she deserves a lie in as she’s been busy all week. I want to explain a couple of hours work over two days doesn’t warrant a two day holiday .
12noon make lunch for toddler and myself, we snuggle on sofa after to watch ‘we can cook’
12.05pm I see a flashing in the corner of my eye… shit.. migraine alert. Lay head back on sofa and try pretend it’s not there.
12.15pm flashing now has stabbing pain and I think a fairy came and tied a rope tightly around my head. Think through scenarios .. how can I get to sleep this off before it blows !
12.30pm body feels heavy, toddler thinks it’s the best afternoon ever, she is on her third cartoon and mummy is still sat besides her. Text 18 year old
“Don’t suppose you could look after Kitty for me, I have migraine need to sleep it off”
12.40pm text again.. the though of standing or shouting upstairs makes me want to cry.
12.50 hear footsteps… 18 year old arrives with questions about her iTunes account.. fake emails detected and dismissed… I ask carefully if she can look after her sister while I sleep off head ache. I’m reminded she has a cold but will do it anyway.
12.55 crawl into bed, best feeling ever . Fall into a deep sleep where the pain of the migraine sits quietly in my dreams .
1pm. “MUMMY ? ” I jump awake ” what’s matter ? Is kitty ok?” “Yeah where is the lid for the blender?” I mumble ” I don’t know I’ll look later” she tuts and stomps off, toddler in tow.
1.05 I fall back to sleep only slightly wondering why she needs the lid for the blender.
1.25 “mummy” I jump awake ” what’s matter” ( head feels like it’s going to explode) ” look we picked some apples” toddler holds put a box of freshly picked apples for me to see. I see them through blurred eyes and mumble encouraging words about baking later. I sink back into a sleep head pounding.
2pm “mummy? Mummy? MUMMY! ” can’t jump up anymore head has been filled with lead. I choose to groan instead ” are you getting up yet? I’ve been looking after kitty all day now and I have to go out” I groan ” you’ve only had her an hour and woke me up three times , can’t you just let me sleep a bit.. get her jigsaws out?” ” I. Have. To. Get ready!” “When you going ?” ” about 6″ “it’s only two now” “MUMMY IVE HAD HER ALL DAY”
2.30pm lay on sofa with quilt and pillow, toddler playing jigsaws.. cartoons playing on loop .
3.30pm boy arrived home..”can I buy the download?”
3.35 boy runs upstairs with my bank card.
3.45 stagger into kitchen to make toddler some choclate milk. Find a blender full of berries with a food processor lid balanced on the top. It remained unblemded… my eyes grate towards a box of apples bobbing about in a water filled toy box.. there is a vague realisation that the very same toy boy was full of bricks this morning.
3.55pm back on sofa, toddler happily drinks chocolate milk. I rub my foot which is throbbing from standing on the pile of toy bricks . I can hear cartoons playing , I’m not sure if it’s in my head or in the room.. I slip into the half awake sleep that all mums do.
4.30pm daughter number two arrived home and babysits. I go to bed for second time
8.30pm wake up feeling like I’ve been run over by a combine harvester. Can her husbands voice and clattering pans.
8.35pm stagger down the stairs to check everyone is ok. Step into kitchen and see the chaos! Sink over flowing with pots. A random apple crumble (still attached to the bottom of the tin) sits on the side in a beach of crumbs that spread across every surface and floor. Tea things are everywhere, leftovers on plates and pans and serving bowls fill the sides.
8.36pm return to bed.
8am wake up with no head ache. Kitty is sleeping next to me in yesterday’s clothes and her tea still around her mouth. I hear everyone getting ready to leave.I am pleased they are all alive and greatful I slept.
9am I’m dressed, showered and energised.
9pm finally sit down after clearing the mess from my ‘night off’ yes that’s right my ‘night off’ not one but two of my brood said I’d had a ‘night off’ it took me a full day to clean the house and mess.
So I’m wondering what will happen when I go away next week for four whole days! Will the house still be standing? The thought of it gives me a headache!
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.
A few weeks ago we were getting with our evening when we felt and heard our house shake … It was apparently a sonic boom coming from two fighter jets that were scrambled to guide a passenger jet that was off course. A bit extremely I think, but that was the story. Anyway here’s what happened.
Well we heard the booms and it was totally terrifying.. After the first one crashed around us, I ran around the house checking on the kids so sure I was going to find one of the injured somewhere under a pile of rubble. (Keep in mind we had no idea what just shook our house from top to bottom at this stage.) meanwhile Keith frantically went to see if our new house was falling down , he came back announcing it must have been thunder. But just as he said this we gathered in the lounge and another one boomed and rattled the house from top to bottom once more!
It was so very loud and so powerful. The door shook the most and the loudest, we naturally ran outside, where we found the entire street outside looking up and around in shock and fear. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people out on our street in the 12 years we have lived here seeing neighbours actually talking to each other too was , on reflection a site as it doesn’t really happen so much around here.
Actually seeing everyone out calmed us all a bit, I think we realised it wasn’t something that had happened just our in our home and that we weren’t alone!
Trying to get through to Gracie and mum Anne was frantic as the phone lines were all blocked .. But I desperately needed to check in on them. Watching the news told us nothing and we simply had no clue what was happening. Facebook friends across the north reported all sorts of theories; Russian planes in our airspace, Russian planes been attacked, explosions in Rothwell , a plane coming down in Doncaster ( where grace is staying) green smoke and flashes reported in Wakefield and a hijacked plane been brought down!!! None of which were confirmed of course!
I think the not knowing was worse, would it happen again? It was so loud and so ground shaking, you could feel it in your feet and your heart.. Like when you stand next to a speaker at a concert.
So many things were running through our heads as parents, things that we didn’t dare say out loud… were we about to witness something awful? Were we under an attack of some kind? Was there more to come? What was happening?
The news showed nothing and we scrolled through the web for something official . Nothing was released for what seemed like an age, but in reality it was about half an hour. We found tweets from various official sources but it was all so vague, though it was becoming clearer it wasn’t explosions but a sonic boom from a fighter jet or two. ( although we had a two minute statement that night nothing else was said about it in the media)
Eventually we got through to everyone and we all calmed down. But Grace was in her own staying with a friend waiting for parents to come back and was frightened. Hard as a parent to have a frightened child that You cant get to.
Turned out William was really frightened, he said he’d thought that when the door rattled the second time that he soldiers were going to come in with guns! Typical 11 year old! But he was so shaken he has ended up sleeping next to me on the floor in a make-shift bed. He was very frightened.
We had to watch you tube videos to find out what we could about the speed of sound so he could understand and even then he was scared to go upstairs alone…
All seems a bit silly now but it just gave us a little insight in to the fear families must feel daily across the globe as their countries are attacked. Two big booms that’s all it was.. But it shook us much more and for much longer than the second it exploded above us.
We talked about feeling safe and lucky as a family.. It was a good conversation to have and hopefully it will be an experience in which in retrospect will be healthy for the children. I wanted to ensure the children understood that this fear is a constant reality for many children across the globe. As frightening as it was for them (and us) it really gave them an insite into those living in daily terror from attack in their own homes.
While I’m not convinced the story they gave us in the press was what really happened that night, I do believe fighter jets were given the clearance to go at the speed of sound to whatever they were getting to.
It made me realise, should we find ourselves under attack we would be on our own.. Phone lines would go down and the news would not tell us anything till a good time after the event. We draw comfort from been a policed and lawful society but one has to ask how far that protection would go should we really need it? How can we be protected and looked after when a whole country would need the same level of assistance. It’s every family to themselves…scary eh? All that from a Big Bang!!!!
why do we have to consider what we share with the world on Facebook? The amount of times folk say “you need to be careful what you post” or “I don’t want to post too much” I try to work out why we think about it and I realised its not about safety or keeping stuff private it’s all about worrying about other people judging us.
Is it ok to put pictures of your kids, your meals, your holiday, your every thought? Well I think yes if you want!
I’ve been hinted at that I post ‘all the time’ and it’s been suggested I’m ‘showing off’ or ‘boring’ . I thought about it and I realised that the people who were saying this weren’t actually the people I was posting for.. They weren’t my intended audience!
If they don’t want to read my posts because they find them boring or they annoy them , then why are they stopping to read them! Why don’t they just scrim past?
I posted a post not long ago saying just that ” if this bores you then it’s not intended for you.. Move along” I mean it too, I’m not going to spend time adapting my audience list every time I post so not to offend anyone… I am posting as a way of keeping in contact with my friends and family not to keep relative strangers informed of my daily life.
My family are spread across the UK and I live in a town where I don’t really have friends and I certainly don’t have family here. I only have my mum and she lives a forty min journey away in traffic, so we are lucky to see her once a fortnight.. Keiths family are all over the world , most over the hills in Manchester but they also have a section in London and Australia too! They are a close family and would love to see more of the kids.. Just like my mum! But , like our friends who all live across the UK, they can’t , we are all busy and live away from each other.
Posting about the children, the house , work and even funny things we saw or heard keeps us part of our lives and they , like I , value that greatly! I want to be part of their day and then to be part of mine.. This is the way we do it! By stating what’s happening day to day! Hour to hour!
Before social media the only time we would see family and close friends would be at parties and gatherings. Often not getting chance to spend more than a passing kiss and some catch up pleasantries. Years would pass and you wouldn’t know anything about their day to day lives, their dreams and adventures.
Facebook is great for keeping part of people’s day to day life! We are actually close to people who we otherwise wouldn’t see perhaps for months of years! I see nieces , nephews and God children growing and achieving daily, my comments or even just a ‘like’ keeps me attached to them! And part of their life! They know who I am., it’s inportant to me!
We can support our friends, be part of their achievements, sorrows and daily grind! When you do catch up you can cut out the ‘getting back up to date’ conversations and jump straight into been friends ! How wonderful!
A few months ago I posted something about Keith’s family, I said how proud I was to be part of them and other stuff like that..a relative , who I haven’t seen or spoken to in over 6 years commented on it and publicly accused me of splitting his family up and causing him and his wife pain. I was mortified, not only was it untrue… (This person split himself up from his family by doing things like this! ) but it upset everyone, the whole family who had been excitedly commenting and enjoying the banter just dried up and went away. I deleted the post so no one else could see it and tried to ignore it ever happened. We mentioned this incident to another family member, talking about how inappropriate it was to post grievances in public rather than talking about them in person. The person we talked to doesn’t have Facebook and said that this was why.. Because it caused so much trouble!
I got to thinking was she right? Does it cause trouble? Is it a dangerous platform to be used for evil?!? But it isnt Facebook causing the trouble it is the people using it! Just just like in any social situation ,everything is cool until someone comes along and says something hurtful or untrue. It’s exactly the same, if folks want to argue.. They will.. If they want to walk away … They will.. I chose to walk away that time ! One can’t argue with the deluded after all!
What damage does the above behaviour do ? Like any situation of bullying or public humiliation or trouble.. It pushes people to be quiet. Many people don’t post anything on Facebook because they simply think everyone is judging everything they put! It’s typical victim behaviour.., if someone tells you you are not worthy you believe it and you consciously watch everything you do and say! So you end up silently watching everyone from the sidelines, you get bitter because your not part of it and become paranoid and sensitive to everything you read. It’s not fun! I know folks who check Facebook daily but never post anything and rarely comment, they don’t allow folks to post on their wall or tag them in photos they just look around.. Watch from the sidelines.. Keeping an eye on everything but never getting involved. Silenced by the fear of judgment! That’s not good!
So anyway..if I post about my building work or my holiday or my new shoes…it’s because I’m excited, or want to tell you about something …I’m not posting ‘everything’ for you to read! And I’m not ‘showing off’ .. I’m just ‘showing’ you.. You don’t have to look or even be interested . That’s the great thing about Facebook , unlike in a real life situation, if you aren’t interested in something someone said to you, you can just walk away without any explanation! It’s not rude! *
It’s the age of communication so how folks can complain about not knowing what we are up to defys me 🙂
*(Mind you if you remove yourself from a group chat without explaination you really will look rude! I know there is another blog post about the etiquette of Facebook! For instance when you tag people in your posts so you know they will read them and they ‘NEVER’ like or comment… EVER! they then will tell you the ‘saw it on Facebook when you bring the posted subject up in conversation’ bloody hell! Acknowledge stuff then and save me saying stuff twice to keep you up to speed!!!! 🤔)
“Don’t know where kitty is going, but she’s got one hell of a dress code”
I was thinking a lot about what and why people gather from all over the country to give their time to the public at festvials. I asked myself why I did it and looked back at conversations I had had with other about the same. Its all about sharing skills and knowledge for me as well as providing safe spaces to explore in.
I wrote a little poem.. I am not a poet by any stretch of the imagination but I was really drawn to write this.. its a bit pretentious and probably poetry natzi’s out there will tell me how it doesn’t flow or something.. but its mine and here it is..
Volunteers of Change
Edit summer sun shines day and night,
and the the darkness of winter gives away to light.
An awakening of life and the break through of the green,
The start of a gathering can be begin to be seen.
The gentle breeze of a creative air,
Of so much energy it feels so rare.
In all the corners of the isle,
people busy their creative style.
Designing, packing and making plans,
Packing food, shelter, clothes and pots and pans,
– to up and leave their normal life’s demands
to create new, alternative and transient lands
Lands of music, arts and the need to be free
– of causes and speech and the ability just to be.
People of the new dawn of reality,
of love and light and strong morality.
Arrive on mass they all come one day,
knowing the change they will make during their stay.
To send a message to to masses;
teach, share and making life across classes.
To make housing and shelter across the fields,
using all they can to make their shields
– from the blazing sun and driving rains
and howling wind down man made green lanes.
They build their land to share with synergy,
for the pilgrims who come with ahunger for energy,
to combine the gifts of land and earth
with the need to share love, need and worth.
They come in droves, the folks who need,
on the fruits of the settlers desperate to feed.
They settle in the new man made village
to share the space that is their privilege.
The sharing of the music, arts and theatre,
to hear the voice of the loudest of speaker.
Celebrate life and come together
draw strength in the land, the space and in each other.
Learning and spreading their wings their own way
learning to be free to sing and to say
their hopes, their dream without fear of oppression
grasping their life to start the transgression.
The end comes too soon but the journey begins
as the fledgling community out spreads its wings
taking away its new inspiration
to the world that is hungry for a new destination.
So much has happened this summer and I’m furious I’ve not kept my diary upto date. With a beautiful summer of festivals, pregnancy and the threat of preterm labour for a month all teamed up with our new arrival Kitty Rose I don’t even know where to start. So I intend to start from the beginning and post something everyday till we have caught up somewhat.
Will start tomorrow with bearded theory!
A full week after the first festival of 2013 started, I am feeling up and ready to put my thoughts, musings and memories down on this electronic paper, my blog. Bearded Theory as always remains an exhausting and draining event in the O’Brien family’s life, but this isn’t a bad thing, we love it… every year it brings us something new to push us onwards. Our hearts and loyalty sit strongly at the festival and we will always do our very best to support it.
5 years ago we fell in to the arms of the bearded family and created a young and rugged Angel Gardens in the damp fields of the Derbyshire outback. Only 5 little bell tents, a cafe from a caravan awning, a campfire and about 10 staff helped us create our little space that year and it was the start of something very special. However it was the year of the tornado, which traveled right through the middle of Angel Gardens lifting up our bell tents and plonking them flat and ripped on the muddy floor. Such a strange but wonderful experience it was. I was out wondering around the arena at the time, caught under a collapsing stall selling the obligatory festival hippy shit. I staggered out to find an array of dazed and confused festival goers looking around in silence asking what on earth had just happened. Realisation dawned as our eyes gradually found the space in which the stage had once been and the realisation of what had happened dawned on us all. The stage had collapsed and many of the stalls and structures were damaged and destroyed. Those weird first few moments when everyone was silent was one that will stay with me for ever, it was like the eye of the storm, the wind, weather and festival excitement simply had paused for a few moments, moments that felt like hours as we all stood and took in what had happened. Then like any storm it returned and although his weather and improved, panic had set in and we all erupted into feelings of concern and fear. The nagging feeling that someone ‘must’ have died as the stage collapsed, surely folks must have been injured? (Thankfully and unbelievably only 3 folks had been injured) my brain flew into gear and I staggered back to where angel gardens once stood only a minute or so ago.
My brain had invited in all sorts of scenarios, my children, my beautiful children, where they hurt? My little William was tiny he couldn’t possibly have stayed standing? My husband, my best friend, was he ok, injured? Dead? My girls, where were they, were they hurt? Within seconds of my brain running though the scenarios I ran into my husband, carrying William and gripping solidly onto our girls almost dragging them up towards me with a the same sense of relief on seeing me as I had in seeing them. We were all sobbing in relief and realisation of what could have been, hugging each other tightly and thankfully drinking in everything that was important to us. Keith and I both experienced the same panic as each other as we searched to reunite our little family. I know it all seems melodramatic, a little tornado in a little field at a little festival, but I don’t think I have ever felt so responsible or vulnerable in my life, god only knows what the organisers felt. (Although I do know it was one of the most traumatic experiences of their lives)
After tucking my family safely into our nest (aka our trailer tent which unbelievably stood firm) I started to mop up the pieces, we called our crew together and ensured we were all safe and uninjured and like any team/family/tribe we got to work. Tents were re-erected with help from festival goers, we had found distressed children who couldn’t find their parents and who were in shock. (With medical staff busy with the injured, we used what medical skills we had to keep them warm and calm) reuniting them as quickly as we could with their equally shocked parents. Our fire became a hub for the shocked and distressed, as people gathered and sat in what was now a weirdly quiet time (no electric, no stage, and no nothing) the festival had changed into a rocking mass of fun to a quiet reflective place of united shock. Folks needed to talk and work through what had happened and that is what they did, sitting around accepting the never ending cups of tea that we handed out from our cafe bar and using the blankets that normally lined the floors of our tents to remain warm and comforted. I have never witnessed such a community evolving.
That night those that lost their tents, used all our bell tents to sleep and stay dry, goodness knows if we were insured to do this, or even if it was allowed, but it kind of just happened, people needed somewhere to live and we were able to provide it. Six sometime seven strangers, family members or simply groups of friends huddled together in what was once a craft and art areas. A welcomed shared dry space to call home for the night. I remember thinking they could just go home, but it seemed important to stay around and get through this together.
It was weird, as the festival carried on, a few hours later, the bands returned to a make shift stage in the bar tent and many revelers celebrated their experience together by boogy-ing away. But those guys didn’t realise that in another part of the field the other half of the festival goers were bonding, talking, sharing and happily and quietly enjoying just existing together around a random campfire in a random, albeit, bedraggled angel gardens. The festival crowd had split but their method of dealing with what had happened was simply different even though both as cathartic.
It was this weekend that I realised what I wanted to do with Angel Gardens, it wasn’t about some great business plan, it was about creating a space and a community that offered something unspeakable to not only the customers, but to the crew who got involved and us as a family. As a mummy and us as parents we had been searching for a way to provide our children with a healthy, spiritual and ethical space to evolve and as ‘hippy shit’ as this sounds I knew we had found it. Witnessing this crowd come together like this and watching how we could do something to facilitate this joining, gave me the purpose and understanding of what the universe was asking me to do. I personally could never make huge change but I could use this space as a vehicle to bring people together to create something special.
So what have we now… 5 years on albeit in a different field we were honoured to be invited back into the bearded family to create what has now grown into something even bigger and better? Bearded theory has grown up and so has Angel Gardens, side by side, not always together, we have both evolved into something more than we could ever have imagined. But you know what? neither have lost that special thing that was created in that field 5 years ago. Something that other festivals cannot buy or even dream of, it is the sense of family, loyalty and community. Even those that weren’t with us that muddy messy and scary year, pick up from us the feeling that Bearded Theory is something more than just a big party, it’s like the Bearded Theory family pass down stories and tails of that ill-fated year and every new person that comes to the fold, comes with an unspoken and maybe unconscious respect and sense of ownership of the community that is bearded. Organisers have developed a working and successful festival, but like Angel Gardens it is in part a catalyst for something bigger, something special, a bringing together of like mind people all of whom need something from each other. It is the crowd and vibe that makes Bearded Theory special. I truly believe you could put us back in that little field where it all started and not even provide a stage and the magic would still happen. Of course in turn this ‘bigger’ indescribable magic is, what will take the festival in to the future for many years… I mean who wouldn’t want to be part of it?
We feel the same in Angel Gardens, we have grown and evolved, people have come and gone, we have worked some festivals that were great and some that didn’t work for us, but the one thing we can say we have done is be true to who we are and what we want. I have always maintained that making money from running Angel Gardens is not our priority ( good job!!) and we have folks come and go that have not believed this concept, thinking we are raking in thousands and using corporate ways and impersonal methods to grow the business. But I rest and sleep easy that we have remained true to our word. My priority is to three things, firstly our customers, we wanted to provide a space in which families felt safe, could be creative and play together. We do everything we can to make every moment of their stay easier and inspiring while also allow them to enter into a community and space that was
Equal and open for them to enjoy. The clients, to whom we create the best space we can possibly make for them with the budget they give us, we are honest and do our absolute best for them to make sure we represent them in the best was we possibly could. I have made some wonderful friendships with organisers over the years and it is these relationships that again are born from the magic that is Angel gardens. Finally and in some ways most importantly, my crew; making sure they get something from us that they need in their lives, I work my hardest to support them in which-ever way they need support, it may not be financially, but pastorally, professionally and with friendship I strive to value them fairly and with unconditional love.
I always say to crew on our first day… our guests always feel welcome in Angel Gardens and respect it because we as a tribe live there and take joint ownership of it while we are there. I encourage everyone to work together to look after the land we are borrowing, build and care for the gardens like it is their home. (Which it is) We live there for some times up to a week and people feel that vibe when they come into Angel Gardens. They feel like they have been welcomed into someone’s home, that they have been trusted with our space and that we honour them with this trust. It is the natural bonding and love between crew members that produce this. The sense of equality and respect for each other is palpable and something that they create themselves.
My aim is to create something for the people who come and work in Angel Gardens (I know this is going to have you rolling your eyes) but I truly believe the universe brings us folks who needs us as much as we need them. Every crew member that comes to us has an agenda, it might be they simply want a free ticket, want to build up experience in their fields or interest, start working independently in their area and need to start getting their faces known. Often they might need to become part of a team or family, need to make new friends or have a place to take their children that is safe and educational, some are coming through difficult times, mental health problems, relationship splits or deaths, loneliness or simply need a change of scene to get them back on their track. Whatever it is Angel gardens as a space (not a company or person) helps these people and, before you start rolling your eyes and asking ‘who the hell does she think she is?’, I am taking no responsibility for any of this, I provide a space and do the organising, and the people who come to us and create this safe accepting space to work in and share are the ones that mould this magic into whatever spell they need to nurture. It’s amazing to watch, Keith and I may facilitate this coming together by finding us work and bringing the catalyst that is a load of tents and activities, but the universe does its magic with the people it sends and the community they create together.
Every year we have a wobble, Keith and I both have a moment every year where we consider packing it all in and just concentration on the sensible stuff in life, our real jobs, the ones that pay our daily bread and ones we trained years to do, the ones that keep us homed and secure, will pay for our children to go to university if they so wish and allows us to travel and experience life in the way we want to. But every time we start to feel disillusioned with it all, the paperwork, the insurance, the health and safety, the gossip, the grief the finances, budgets and fees, the crb checks and the planning of timetables, PR and social networking we remember the magical moments we experience regularly within our work.
There is no doubt some folk that come to us are not suited for the work we do or the community we create. Many times they take advantage or cause trouble within the camp, bringing down the mood and letting down their team. But often this only strengthens the community, allows for change and discussion, changes the energy and tests our loyalties and objectives. In the past we have had folk steal from us, steal from the festival and its customers. Some crew work less than others and others have even dealt drugs from our space. Every time these actions have had reactions and as a community we have had to deal with these together. Like any family we need to go through the rough to learn to appreciate the smooth.
This weekend was a special one. It was for me the start of a new beginning. For angel gardens last year was such a strange year. I witnessed so many friends and colleagues having health issues, relationship issues and mental health issues. We personally experienced, once friends, creating rifts and upset from misguided gossip and loss of trust, our own personal illness and scares, losses and there is no doubt I felt lost and saddened. Much of the year had me not knowing if I had the strength to carry on, pushing what once such an easy job to do was hard work and exhausting. But this winter has cleared and so have our minds and souls. Huge lessons have been learned from last season and my trust in people has been restored. I found bravery to to reassess and consider the whole the picture and not been frightened of shedding negative energies and creating new and fresh relationships and ideas. Once again Bearded Theory was the catalyst and home that healed me and allowed Angel Gardens to be reborn as we entered a new phase in our relationships and community. Something fresh and exiting took the air this year, crew bonded quickly and smoothly and a very special magic was released… a magic that many of us will feed from and use in whichever way we need.
So with the first festival over of the year, we are starting to look forward to the rest of the season and the rest of our special year. Our baby comes into the fold in September and we build on to our house too, so we have many exciting times ahead… but all I can think about right now is the special weekend in a field last week that soothed my soul, cemented friendships and created a whole load of strength to carry on.
I am utterly honoured to be able to care for and drive the little wagon that is Angel Gardens, I recognise all the people who hitch a lift on her and drive her from time to time, and my family and my man are richer for their presence and love. As our wagon rolls on from field to field we touch so many folks on the way, for better or worse our hearts are working hard to share the love and respect we feel for each other…our community.. Our family…. our tribe.
REAL RADIO: We found our BARNSLEY MASCOT for this Sunday’s match against Cardiff. Libby O’ Brien from Pontefract is the lucky young lady who will be walking out at Wembley with the team. According to the text vote, she did the best impression of our very own Justin going mad at the Barnsley v Chelsea game, but she had some very stiff competition! The two runners up were also given tickets to the match.
We were picked up in an official FA cup Car and driven to Wembley, Libby walked onto the pitch in her kit and I sobbed!!!! was a really special day! Shame they lost 😦 x