Thursday, August 30, 2012

How They Do It

Hello folks! I'm just back from Greenbelt Festival, having spent a week there volunteering and enjoying myself! I was part of the Site Vibing team, which helps to make Cheltenham Racecourse, where the festival is held) look less like a racecourse and more like a festival! The festival itself runs from Friday to Monday, and I helped set up from the Monday before the festival, and also helped with the take down on the Tuesday after. This is just a little thing I scribbled by torchlight in my tent on Thursday night.

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My friend Andy does magic.

We sit at my kitchen table, with a deck of cards and two steaming mugs of tea, and he shows me magic tricks. And after every one I ask the same thing.

How do you do it?

So he shows me. All the sleights of hand, the clever shuffles, the misdirection. So next time he shows me the trick I can see how it's done and it isn't really magic after that.

When I was 16 I went to Greenbelt.

All the way in the car my friends told me stories of how amazing it would be, all the people I would meet, the incredible things I would see.

And they were right. I walked through the festival as though I was in some sort of magnificent dream. It felt a bit like a magic trick. As if by magic on a Friday morning the racecourse had been transformed into a colourful, joyful, bunting-festooned place.

I loved everything about it. The music, the crazy stalls, the huge sense of community that reached its peak at the Sunday Eucharist. I even loved sleeping on the cold hard ground of the Helicopter Field. I knew this place was special.

Five years later, I am at Cheltenham Racecourse again. Because eventually I had to ask:

How do they do it?

You see, I had hesitated before, because I was scared that if I knew it might spoil it.

But I needn't have worried really. I should have known better. I should have realised that it is a bit like Andy's card tricks, at my kitchen table.

Because even though I know how they are done, it doesn't make them any less special. I know that they are not magic, but rather something even more breathtaking; someone with an incredible talen doing what they love.

And that is exactly what Greenbelt is. It's not magic, the bunting doesn't just spring into being of its own accord. Instead it is a collection of dedicated human beings, each with unique abilities and talents, working together to create something amazing.

So as my time as a volunteer draws to a close (at least until Tuesday!) I shall settle in to enjoy the festival. And this year will be different. Because this year I know how everything is done. But that doesn't make it any less beautiful.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Underground Clown Club

Evening all.

I'm back at uni, and by golly have things been moving fast!

I'll start at the very beginning.

In late 2010, myself and a friend of mine, Andy, went to see a play called Lorca Is Dead, by the rather excellent Belt Up Theatre. It was inspiring.

In early 2011, we went to see another play by Belt Up, The Boy James. This time, we started writing.

By the summer of 2011 we had a (near enough) finished play, The Ball or How to Dance. We also had a name for ourselves.

The Underground Clown Club

The name came from a doodle I did in a seminar, just after we'd started uni. However, it was also pretty apt, in that we kept the company, and the play, pretty secret until September 2011. Because by then we'd decided to put the play on.

Thanks to various wonderful people, we went away for Christmas quietly confident that, after several false starts, we would have a space to perform in in early 2012. By the time we returned to uni we still hadn't heard anything. Then on the Friday of the first week back, we had a meeting with the technical manager of the Drama department.

We walked in, and he asked us what dates we'd like.

We were expecting to have to fight our case, to prove that we would be able to pull off the performance, so when we didn't have to that threw us a little.

We walked out of that meeting, and straight to the pub.

It was as we sat, sipping cups of tea with quaking hands, that it hit us. We were doing a show in 4 weeks time. Beyond the script we had nothing prepared.

What followed was possibly the most productive weekend of my life. By Monday morning we had a cast and crew, but it couldn't stop there. We plunged into rehearsals, found music, props and set and started on publicity work.

Now the performance is a week away! Like I said, things have been moving fast.

For now though, we'll have to keep our heads down rehearse as though our lives depended on it.

See you on the other side!

For more information on The Underground Clown Club and The Ball or How to Dance, please visit our blog or Facebook page!