Our Travel blog
Friday 8th July
Corbridge festival is a few years old now and is attracting some big names. Although it’s really a one day festival the campsite opens and a couple of bands play in the beer tent stage on the Friday evening. Set in the Rugby Club between the town itself and the station with the river Tyne sweeping around beside the camping area, it’s a lovely site and very professional for what is essentially a one day affair.
The site opened officially at noon today. After a morning helping set up around the site and a break to get provisions from the town we commenced car parking duties. We’ve done this at a couple of festivals and the majority of customers are lovely folk who just come to have a good time and appreciate your help. The odd ones however find something to grumble at you about. At Corbridge we had a few who objected to having to park their car and walk to the campsite. This wasn’t some Glastonbury style multi field event; they were parked in the same field as the campsite. Some asked for special dispensation on a variety of spurious grounds which translated meant they couldn’t be arsed to carry their boxes of beer 20 yards.
When you are in a windy field, being rained upon and you’ve been on your feet for 6 hours, being polite to Mr and Mrs Audi driver is sometimes hard. To tell them that “no, they can’t just park over there to set up the tent and return later and could they maybe hurry up and park because there is a queue of nice folk in sensible cars who’ve travelled miles with fractious children in the back and are now stuck behind you while you try and negotiate special treatment because you drive a fucking Audi and have a boot full of Waitrose organic craft beer in heavy recycled gluten free bottles and poor Gemma cannot possibly walk 20 yards as she might be allergic to ants” in a polite way is a skill.
But don’t get the wrong impression about Corbridge, you get these folk everywhere and mostly it’s just because they’ve had a long journey and don’t see the logistics from the point of view of the organisers, who have to jump through hoops to satisfy the local authority. Without doing so there would be no festival. In fact the folk who came to Corbridge were almost all unfailingly polite and understanding. What also helped was the attitude of the organisers who made sure we were alright, had water and sun cream when necessary, had breaks and generally made sure the whole experience went smoothly and appreciated our assistance.
By early evening we got away from car parking and wandered into the site for some food with Dave the lorry driver. He was staying on site for the whole weekend with his lorry after delivering the sound equipment, ready to take it back after the last act on Saturday, before heading off to Dusseldorf, and we’d made friends with him earlier in the day. We all enjoyed a rather good Mexican meal from one of the vendors.
Festival food has really improved in the last few years. Not that I worry too much as I was brought up on my mothers’ cooking so a greasy burger in a stale bun with limp chips was a feast when I started going to gigs. I’m not saying my mother couldn’t cook, but she really didn’t have the patience or inclination to do so. To her the cooker had two settings, 0 and 6. As far as she was concerned numbers 1-5 were just to fill up the space on the knobs. Vegetables were served as a soggy lump. Often, for reasons I’ve never understood, she’d just fry them. I may be one of the only people to have experienced peas and carrots fried in butter. There’s a good reason why this hasn’t caught on. For a start it was served as soon as the peas started to bubble, so they were at best lukewarm and the carrot was raw. Guests not experienced in the eccentricities of her culinary feats have bent the tines of their forks trying to stab a lump of carrot.
She also seemed to believe the oven was sentient and would know when she expected whatever she’d deposited in it to be ready. I was about 15 when I realised that potatoes didn’t have a stone in the middle like an avocado. We’d all cheerfully eat the thin layer of moist fluffy potato sandwiched between the charred crispy outside and the solid centre. It didn’t help that she was always busy and would forget that she had started to prepare dinner, blissfully unaware that she’d put something in the oven earlier. On more than one occasion she’d open the oven to put something in and to her surprise find a whole plated up meal she’d prepared the day before. She’d shrug and say “Oh Raymond, that’s handy, you can have this” handing me a red hot plate of shrivelled fish fingers and beans.
My father accepted all this with charm and grace, although I suspect the only reason he consented to us having a dog is that she acted as a repository for all the bits we couldn’t manage. In fact the dog enjoyed the best food. Being a few miles inland from the coast we had a fishmonger call twice a week with the morning catch still twitching in the back. She’d purchase the freshest, whitest cod fillets and cook them until tender and juicy with crispy skin and perfect fluffy succulent flesh. My father and I would sit down, gently salivating and find charred fish fingers and Smash mashed potato with fried carrots shoved in front of us while the bloody dog got perfectly cooked cod. Not only that, she sprinkled herbs on the dogs dinner!
There was however a rare moment of success for my mother’s culinary skills. For years she proudly displayed her third place certificate awarded by the Saxmundham Horticultural Show for her fruit cake. What she never mentioned was that there were only two entries!
So, festival food holds no fears for me, but if it did for Alison and Dave luckily the standards at Corbridge are very high.
There were a couple of bands on in the tented 2nd stage so we did some litter picking before retiring.
Saturday 9th July
Today was the main festival and we had a few duties lined up, mostly involving litter picking and ensuring any lost children were reunited with their owners. The day passed in a bit of a blur, with big wheelie bins being trundled about the site, errands and little jobs being carried out, checking up on the campers and, when ‘free’, litter picking.
The stages were busy with a fast changing line up and we only caught a few acts in more than passing so my round up is, as ever, brief and only mentions a tiny proportion of the acts that were on:
Bessie & The Zinc Buckets – Were on the main stage today and were one of the two bands on last night. Great fun versions of well-known tunes and they went down a storm.
Mark Morris – A bloke with a guitar and lots of charm.
Frankie and the Heartstrings – Seemed very good. When they did Frank Wilsons Northern Soul classic ‘Do I Love You…Indeed I do’ followed by The Four Seasons ‘The Night’ people were dancing around their camping chairs and I skipped around the site, litter picker in hand, singing along.
Too Many T’s – South London based rappers with an energetic old school rapid fire hip hop style. Worked the crowd well and were very entertaining. I’ll return to them presently. Meanwhile next up was:
The Neville Staple Band – A short set but well delivered. They did all the crowd-pleasing Specials stuff and were particularly popular with men of a certain age and girth.
Grandmaster Flash – A DJ set by the master. His energy and a well-chosen up tempo selection of crowd pleasers had the crowd eating from his hands. People were on the shoulders of their friends, hands aloft and all but the most curmudgeonly had a broad smile on their face and a swing in their gait.
The Coral – We took a break during their set but what we heard was very good. They certainly went down well and were a fitting end to the festival.
Finally a mention for The Mercs – who opened proceedings on Friday with an energetic covers set.
To return briefly to the Too Many T’s set. They are whippet thin young men with bags of energy and skill, and are also authentic South Londoners immersed in the scene. They’ve supported the likes of Snoop Dog and Public Enemy for example. None of which applies to the middle aged white men and women who think it is ‘cool’ to grin stupidly and throw shapes and gang culture hand signs. It’s the same people who think it is fun to head-bang for 30 seconds when a heavy metal band comes on or pogo if it’s a punk act. Maybe too much Pimms and Waitrose organic strawberries makes them lose the power of speech. Instead of leaning into their beloved and whispering – “I think these chaps maybe a Hip Hop outfit dear” they have to communicate by interpretive dance.
We litter picked after The Coral had finished and made a considerable dent in clearing the main field ready for tomorrows site clean-up.
Sunday 10 July
There’s not a lot to say about today. It was mostly litter picking and the myriad of other jobs that are needed to turn a festival and camping site back into a spotless rugby club. It was hard physical work but the team at the festival are great to work with. Everyone was friendly, helpful and worked hard. Any festival of any scale stands or falls on so many variables, the line-up, the crowd, the weather for example, but overall what makes them, what actually delivers the atmosphere and energy, what brings punters back year after year, retains volunteers and crew, is the people. Corbridge was no exception. The organisers and crew were without fail charming, helpful and appreciative. All the more impressive when you consider the stress they endure during the build-up and during the festival itself.
It is one of the main reasons we are working small to medium festivals, the ones that retain the personal touch and where we can make a difference in return for experiencing some delightful parts of the country and seeing some great acts.
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