Friday, 10 June 2011

Sunrise Celebration Festival 2011

It’s fair to say that we were both super-excited about our first festival together, though it’s fairer to say that I was the more excited of the two, being the only one who actually knew what a festival entailed. She just thought she was going camping and the experience would be something akin to sitting in a field with a theatre – how do you explain the British weekend festival to a four-year old?

Best to just take her there.

We had everything on our side really: it was half term week, the weather was astoundingly good and Sunrise Celebration is only a short car journey across the beautiful Mendip Hills to Bruton, just this side of Frome. And we’d managed to borrow a wheelbarrow from our neighbour – thanks Tim.

We arrived, got our pass and put everything bar the rucksack into the barrow. I was loathe to traipse miles with our load and a little girl who just wanted to get into the still bagged-up tent, but all the marshalls I asked {about a dozen of them} couldn’t tell me where to camp. They said it was mad-busy, most of the revellers having already arrived and set up.

So, I panicked a bit and found a space wherever I could, squeezed between two tents, thus becoming a guy-rope hazard. It didn’t matter too much, we spent so little time in the tent anyway and I don’t really think we annoyed anyone else. Someone lent me a mallet and another neighbour held the tent up in the wind while I pegged it securely to the dry ground. The friendliness began.

I’ve never been to a festival with a young child before and, in this respect, there’s nowhere else I can compare it to. But I can’t imagine that any festival could be as family friendly as this one. Throughout we felt safe, secure, welcome and at ease.

The Ladybird Tent was awesome, full of helping hands, happy kids and loads of activities. Here, we heard stories about Irish giants, made dreamcatchers and masks, drew pictures and relaxed. Then, in the Forest Area, we listened to an hour’s worth of stories, without a sigh of boredom, whilst enjoying leek and root vegetable soup and stone-baked bread.

Bug catching in the rolling green field that was overlooked by Sunset Boulevard was a highlight, kids everywhere, exploring, running, learning. We caught aphids, parasitic wasps and beetles with a big, white net. In the Tin Village, we sat with a family of travellers and made books and did a little sewing. In the main arena, we sat on the ‘Practise Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty’ bus, where she played very happily in the ball pit upstairs and a very nice woman brought me a free coffee first thing on a Saturday morning.

We rolled on birthing balls in the Green Dome Tent, courtesy of the Holistic Birthing team. We listened to some kind of chanting therapy, Celeste with her mouth wide open again, taking it all in. She was still singing the ‘Red River Roll’ chant ten hours later. On Sunday morning, she played the drum in Floating Lotus Free Jam Tent, as kids on stage performed parts of Smoke on the Water and Cocaine {without lyrics} in a music workshop, over and again.

Musically, we enjoyed funk, reggae and folk in the excellent Chai Wallahs’ Tent – thank you Leigh Coleman, Mankala, Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin. At the Spit and Sawdust we danced to the Ten O’Clock Horses as the sun went down and, at Floating Lotus, we had great fun with the Red Hot Frilly Knickers burlesque dancers, followed by a spot of English folk. We stared into a fire and gave ourselves ice-cream mouths.

As Celeste tried to get to sleep in her pink and yellow blanketed wheelbarrow, we listening to a poet rant on about lucid dreaming at Rag Tongue, their generator powered by bicycles. I wonder what she imagined that night?

Sunrise Celebration Festival is a true treat, with plenty of places to sit inside and out, hardly any queues and many happy faces. Please, allow me to say a word about the compost toilets, which were, undoubtedly,the best I have ever seen at any festival – clean and well stocked. My daughter was conscientious about pouring wood chippings down the hole everytime she had even a wee.

Oh and I managed most of the challenges – not to get drunk, to chill and go with the flow and to sit in the tortoise and eat grapes with bunny ears on. I didn’t make a penpal but I did have plenty of chats with some very friendly people.

Congratulations, Sunrise, all round. Even when it rained on the Sunday, we loved it and there was plenty to do. And for the first time in my life, I returned home feeling refreshed and ready to face real life.

See you when the sun comes up next year.

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