It was a cold damp morning in Whitby up there on the cliffs. We had to get over to Staxton below Scarborough so an hours drive, I’d spoken to Ray the promoter the night before and he suggested to be there sometime between 8-9am. The B171 sweeps and turns and lifts up high over the moors along the blustering wide open coast. I’d been awake most of the night due to my stomach trying to digest Whitby kippers from the night before. My belly used to a vegetarian diet and so was having trouble. Serves me right I supposed.
I hung onto the wheel took all the bends leaning into them with my whole body like a formula one racer as if my little weight would make any difference to how Pearl handles the road, it was instinct and seemed somehow to do the trick. We swept though the outskirts of Scarborough and in just over half an hour we we’re pulling into the village of Staxton. A cheerful lady there directed us a little further up the road
“Where all the flags were flying, you can’t miss it. See you later” she said cheerfully hurrying her brood of tiny kids along like a mother duck
A few minutes later we were of tarmac and onto the grass of Staxtonbury festival. We rolled slowly up to the stewards in the high viz at the end of the field. They greeted us cheerfully, I told a girl we were traders, here to do healing and hypnotherapy and that we were to meet Ray there. I said I’d tried to call him but I’d got no answer. She came back with
“He’s not here yet, probably still in bed”
Everyone was momentarily a little confused but guy from their crew said
“There’s loads of room over there by the main sage area or if you like you could go over by the acoustic where it’ll be a be a little quieter for you”
So we just rolled in, basically they said just go in and find a spot, nobody seemed to know who were and there was lots of room we considered setting up by the corner shop tent, one because they sold crisps and secondly because as we’ve come to know festivals a little bit we figured that the corner shop would be busy.
I’d gone on a little reconnaissance and found a place on the main drag next to a stall selling African artifacts by a man called Charles, so that was that we were in we sat there for a few minutes looking out pearls windscreen the rain pouring down and it just didn’t feel great. Charles seemed like a good guy a 20 years veteran of festivals and setting up his stall, his instinct would prove to be prophetic.
He was thinking of just packing up and not coming back. We’d come just because we though we should be doing something, we’d been glad we’d found the festival but once there, and I have to say it looked quite impressive, with the fairground rides, the stalls, the security fences, and the general hive of activity, tractors dropping bails of hay all across the site for people to sit and stand on, lots of stewards all friendly and wanting it to help, but it just didn’t seem to be the right place. There were a few things that shall we say set the alarm bells off or dampened the spirits. First was the overwhelming smell from the farm right next to the festival field, at first I’d thought oh it’s the smell of the country, my dad used to say
“Bloody ell, breathe that in, it’s good for you” winding the windows down in the car “the smell of the country” Hmm
But as the afternoon rolled on, we realized it was a large pig farm right next door and it seemed to get worse as the winds carried the smell right across the whole site, like a heavy invisible but physical blanket, then there was the rain, it poured all afternoon. Later I’d gone to look at the arena and there were four great teddy bears made out of straw hay bails, not that they weren’t impressive, it was just that that they were a band, a bass, guitar, drummer and singer, it just set alarm bells ringing, I tried to muffle them, we weren’t there to rock we were there to work, it had said family festival, so I just hoped.
It was supposed to be £60 for the weekend pitch, I’d emailed and said we’d need to get off sight on the Saturday and we may not be able to get back for Sunday if we can’t get back from Glaisdale. I’d already felt premonitions but kept quiet as Orsi’s Hungarian work ethic fears were on high alert, so, try we must and we did. I just needed an exit if we needed it
We decided to work from last years Gazebo that we carry with us as we could leave it set up and come back on Sunday f need be. Perfect. It poured as we put the Gazebo up, next door to us Charles the African guy looked like doom, on our other side was the juice your own smoothie which was a liquidizer fixed to a exercise bike, which people had to peddle till the juicer had liquidized the fruit of your choice. Orsi liked their charity and the idea, but it was over my head I’m afraid, I was much to bothered about the overwhelming stench from the pig sty. I just couldn’t imagine the hypnotherapy going down to well
“Breathing in deeply now, clean cool fresh oxygen and energy” just wouldn’t wash.
In front of us across the way the pop corn seller “NYC” North Yorkshire Corn ssat and watched us like two jaded crows. Later they came across and gave Orsi a bag of pop corn, they said she looked sad and it was to cheer her up. Made me laugh and puzzled Orsi. Hungarians perhaps have that look before the lights of conversation come on, I have always said they’d be good card players.
We’d got there early, so we spent the afternoon putting the final fixtures to Pearls kitchen it took a long time and was far more fiddly that I anticipated, but we now have a tiled kitchen top, grouted and trimmed, the pump in, the sink plumbed and most of all we now have running tap water, it was quite a mile stone.
We finished it at around 5pm. We were both really pleased with it. It has been quite a journey through many a B&Q in this green land that we live in. Running water at last, Yes!!
We’d been told 5000 by 5pm, sold out, but because of the lousy weather the only flood was vertical. The bands began and all I will say is my heart sank. I have heard some shall we say musically challenged things in my time. I won’t say there name as we met them later as they coasted around the festival on a high, but I will say they played
“Hey were going to Barbados, hey to the sunny Caribbean sea”
It was pouring, not their fault of course but the irony was un-missable, and I feel mean for saying it I suppose but I have to be straight and say it how it was. It wasn’t great, and it’s in ink and I’m being kind.
More bands came on and every band except one played cover versions. Now if your going to cover a song, either go for that note or change the key and go for the passion or simply don’t do it. No, it wasn’t good and yes I’m being kind.
Orsi and I sat there as the place filled up with teenagers from N Yorkshire, looking to be honest, really beautiful all in packs getting more and more tipsy as the evening unfolded, the music really began to wind me up, it was bloody awful. I feel sorry for the youth of the UK, what has happened to grass roots song writing, the only place up to then with any originality has been Buckle and Boots. We sat there watching the parade of recently realized hormones, nothing wrong with that, they looked lovely, but not a sniff for what we were offering and why would they be interested. Orsi did one reading at 8.10am half an hour later I said that’s enough. We were both freezing.
We went back to Pearl sat in the cab and ate a delicious salad Orsi had magiced up from out of the ether. We sat and watched little children climbing up the inflatable plastic rock face, young men doing the endurance challenge to hang onto a bar for two minutes, nobody we saw managed it and the big wheel that seemed unnervingly fast, they were the highlights for us.
Still the dumb out of key covers songs washed over us. It was dark now. I went out for a walk.
I said “I’m going to find a band that can play, there must be one”
I wandered through the teenage wonderland, navigated the hay bails. A band that looked like they were retired wrestlers in shorts and army fatigues were playing The Cult classic “She sells sanctuary” gosh, it was flat. Then into the semi acoustic tent to find a Shadows tribute band all decked out in red suits with red guitars doing a choreographed dance routine, then the acoustic tent to find Mr Ray playing, I think it was a radiohead cover. I was outraged, I’d had a Guinness it had been a long day, I marched back to the van slung Pearls side door open and said
“We’re leaving tomorrow first thing
Orsi seemed glad, there was no way I was coming back, good luck to them, but my commiserations to the youth of North Yorkshire.
Next morning we were up at 8am we’d let the smoothie bike charity store all their stuff in our Gazebo overnight so they didn’t have to strip down and set up again, I was praying that they would arrive by 8.30 as I just wanted to get off the site. Ray the organizer had not been to see us or collect, perhaps he didn’t care we’d only done £15 all that day. I did write to him a week later and offer him the £15 quid but he kindly let us keep it
We’d packed most of the stuff the night before and after 20 minutes wrestling the gazebo to the floor in the high winds, we rolled slowly and cautiously off the site and onto the A64’s tarmac and headed up the road and away.
The name Ravenscar had really appealed to me so back along the road from Staxton to Glaisdale we turned off, drove a few minutes through peaceful sleepy farm land and after a few map checks came out up on a hillside looking down out and across a great rounded bay, a full bowl of the ocean. It was such a surprise it stopped us both, a wide beautiful space that on first glance seemed still like a snap shot, but that was just our surprise, as we watched the surface of the sea began to move again, shifting greys slivers, pastel blues and dark patches of something below the surface, A white line, a seam around the bay where the waves continually tore and stitched the meeting of ocean and shore.
Just above them creamy limestone cliffs stained in places with vertical orange smears from the iron rich soil above. As I watched I began to see that the whole scene was in a state of motion, everything was moving. The tide was slowly rising covering the remains of what where one the cliffs, the shadows cast by the graceful white clouds above as dark ink blots across the green grasses and the solitary red roofed farm houses. The town of Robins hoods bay tucked away almost unnoticeable in a gouge in the cliffs.
Then the grasslands and fields began to dance and whirl, deep emerald, olive, bottle and sea greens, the swaying hints of taller burgundy, the ruffle of thick heavier greens and in amongst this, carpets the white yarrow flowers, dots of yellow birds foot and splashes and daubs of yellow cats ear and lady’s bedstraw and the purple knap weed bending gracefully. All through this, dark lines of overgrown dry stone walls creating a patchwork of sheep cropped and nibbled fields but even they seemed to have movement as my eye moved over the rolling hill side of overwhelming green. It was spectacular, all this movement brought quietness up to the surface in me.
I just sat still I knew we had somewhere to be but the pull and the spell of the stillness there was hard to break. Orsi left me too it for a few minutes, getting used to these moments that rise up in me and wet for a walk down to the cliff edge
It was 11.30 and I knew it would be at least an hour to get to the Glaisdale festival, we’d have to set up too, so I puled up a will in me and forced the cogs to begin turning again. Turned the key in Pearl, her engines rumbled and she shook me back into the here and now, though at that moment there, I had most certainly been in the moment.
The journey to Glaisdale was spectacular, the coast there was just setting the scene. We’d been across a week earlier to see Chris and Emma the owners of Bank farm and although wed seen the beauty of the place were they lived in the valley the day we had been moving west towards the Buckle and Boots festival over in Stockport. But this time we had the luxury of time, at least we thought we had.
The journey there was like driving into a different period in time, narrow lanes, Pearl so big we had to stop regularly to let traffic past us, or they would stop to let us past, always with a wave of the hand. I honestly had no idea how beautiful this part of Britain was, the lanes demanding your attention so there is no chance of rushing along them, you are in them and the land then creeps in over the stone walls and down upon you.
We had been told of a little festival where there would be lots of local people, and they were who we had wanted to meet, it was a small festival, and had started out a few years ago as just a local or friends invite event that had started to grow due as we were to find out to the care attention and love of the two hosts, this year would be its 5th and would be bigger. We’d hit it off with Chris & Emma and they’d been interested in what we were doing and found a place for us and the dome.
We puled into the hidden valley just outside the village past the old church, a sharp turn left. From up on the road we could see that there were already a lot f cars parked in the field below the stone farm house
“Oh oh” I said “We’re late” it was around 1 o’clock as we rolled into the farmyard I saw Chris, he looked a little worried.
“Are you ok?” he asked
“Yeah” I said “We’ve just come from Staxton” Later Emma said they’d got a little worried about us. We’d misunderstood when we’d talked about arrival times. Though over in Ravenscar, my stomach had begun to churn, I knew we were cutting it fine.
There were already a couple of hundred people there and in the place it seemed busy. We just got straight down to it and begun to set the dome up between the old pathway stone gate posts. It was a windy afternoon up there on the hill side, rain threatened and winds swooped in on us almost laughing at our attempts to be serious.
We got the dome up, it covered the path so that inside we had a big clump of course grass and small stream, I tried in vain to bang the pegs down to secure the dome but we discovered the buried old stone path underneath. It also prevented securing the tarp and the parachute down securely so we nearly blew away several times.
I was getting exasperated and annoyed, which of course is a waste of time as the winds seemed to take delight at my frustrations. Taking my curses up into the air and dropping them right back on top of me. A couple of guys came over to help. Have you ever tried to peg a parachute down to a stone cobble road on the side of a wide open valley that was strafed by mischievous unstoppable winds whilst you were running late, a band playing next to you and an audience of a few hundred looking on. It took all our focus, but eventually we got is down.
Then parked Pearl up in the field below the house got changed had a shave and almost ran back up the hill to the house. We’d decided we’d work for donations as it seemed that sort of place. No sooner had I hung the signs out on the gate posts than Orsi had a reading. It was around 2.30pm and from then on she didn’t stop, right through till 9.30pm I was again the guard receptionist.
It was a good job I was as the winds never stopped playing with us, as I’d not been able to secure it properly it threatened to lift off a few times. Emma suggested weighing the frame down so I found rocks and put them all around the base it seemed to work and the frame stopped rocking and lifting.
I got to watch the bands and I have to say, I wasn’t sure what to expect form the music, would it be a case well meaning clumsy amateurs the locals starved of music looking on kindly or would it be quality as Chris had said?.
Thankfully and to my great relief it was that later. The afternoon music started off on two stages swapping in between a patio below the lawn down in front of the house and created especially by Chris and up to our right on a small stone platform where the more folkie stuff played.
There were all sorts of bands on, the folkie stuff, covers, rocking and even some punky heavier bands with various shades in between, the standard was surprisingly good with some great singers, and players. I’m not sure of the what the names of the bands were down there on the lawn that looked out across the stunning beautiful valley but Chris seemed to be playing in about 4 or 5 of them and he was pretty damned good too
As the day rolled on the sun began to set and it started to get very cold, I was loosing the plot stood out there but I daren’t move, I was scared I might find Orsi had been transported to a different valley when I got back. She did really well she worked really hard, I watched many warm faces emerge from the dome, most saying
“That was great, she’s great isn’t she”
At around 9pm I was as cold as the stone post ‘d been leaning against and said shall we make this the last one. I placed more rocks around the base and let her get on with the last one and went back to the van unable to stop shivering.
When she’d done we decided to take down the dome there and then as we were sure it wouldn’t be there in the morning if we’d left it. It was dark as we unpegged and stripped it down loaded it all back into the van, I think we finally had it all packed up and away by 11pm.
The festival had moved indoors now to a stone barn behind the house where Chrir and Emma had created a great stage with a lighting rig and rocking PA. We carried the stuff through the farm yard to Pearl ducking and weaving between people and shadows who were a little drunk now, but all still genuinely lovely and helpful. We didn’t want to go back down the winding road and out to the field and it turned out that the beer stall moved their van from a spot near the sheep grid so we nipped in. It felt good to be warm. We sat in the cab cozy eating something wonderful Orsi had cooked looking out onto the farm yard, with the lights from the barn spilling out magically into the dark evening, we were right next to the barn where a great band were seriously rocking the walls down. It was great, authentic and felt like a secret up there hidden in the hills. I missed The Fits very much. What a great place.
We slept in next day then went to have toast. We’d seen the toaster there the week before when we’d gone to visit and had bought sourdough for the occasion. It is perhaps the thing that we have both missed the most. When we’d driven out after that first visit we’d both said in chorus “They have a toaster”
So after a hot shower that morning we stood in the stone outhouse with mugs of hot coffee and the thick cut crunchy hot toast with butter and peanut butter. Luxury.
The night before, people had wanted readings. There were a few enquiries about healing and Hypnotherapy but it seemed more appropriate to do them next morning. So I had a couple of sessions upstairs in the farm house bedroom, they seemed to go very well. Orsi did readings in the front room. Emma and Chris were great with us. Downstairs the house was full of people just sitting chatting dressed in woolly jumpers and waterproofs, sipping coffee and playing guitars. It was wonderfully warm cozy place.
It had gone 1.30 when we’d done, we could have done more and we most certainly could have stayed longer chatting but we had an appointment with the wonderful James Fearnley and his lovely partner Lucy over at Botton hall a few miles over the hills.
We’d talked to Chris and Emma about us coming and moving to the area during the winder season, possibly Whitby, they were enthusiastic about it. It had been another wonderful coincidence, invited right into the heart of a place, trusted and given the chance to do what we do well, we had risen to the occasion, done good work. We said very warm farewells. Emma said as we left we’ll see you soon, hoping you’ll manage to get back up here and work with us, I was touched, we liked them very much.
We had heard the odd whisper about local gossip and some not being accepted being not born in such and such a valley, that sort of thing had never bothered me, perhaps it would if I settled down somewhere, I have during all my travels considered the fact that I am not from an area as a strength, I am news, and I am interested in what happens in a place, so I am always an opportunity for people to tell their story, everyone like to tell a story if they have an audience, right?
The thing I hadn’t expected was the openness of the people in that part of the world. I hadn’t come here expecting to be accepted into the deepest part of local life, I had hoped that we’d be treated fairly and with manners. Everywhere we’d been where we’d had a chance to talk we’d been shown kindness and everywhere we’d stopped, pubs, shops, markets and along the pathways people had been courteous and warm, that was enough for me and we returned it ten fold and given the chance we would continue to do so.