A midsummer afternoon’s reality..
Travelling up to Thorne near Doncaster for an event designed to engage the local folk with the arts might seem a strange thing to do, but as Pete and Becky (organisers of Something to Smile About and also responsible for the malign influence that is the MeadEvil Bar) had set it up and we had a free weekend it seemed like an excellent way to pass the time. A Midsummer’s Music was a pay-what-you-think-it’s-worth gathering in Thorne Memorial Park which would help fund both the park itself and the community woods.
It would also help to treat the people of Thorne to some excellent musical entertainment. And the people in our party of Hertfordshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire – but still! I drove up with Snotty, quickly spotting the MeadEvil marquee in the park as we drove past and to the carpark we thought was the one we were meant to be aiming for – more on that later – and wandered back to the park to find Tina, Rhii, Kev and Rachel already there. Tim had called to say he could make it too with Lisa after getting out of work early.
The sun was shining, as I was driving back no mead for me – but the cafe on the park was there to provide soft drinks and food, as the finishing touches were being made to the sound system. All in all, an idyllic setting for Thorne Charity Events to stage this mini-festival of entertainment. Five musical acts were lined up for the band stand in all, with a healthy pause in between for plenty of chatting, laughing and general messing around (including repeatedly running off with Tim’s trainers).
First on the stage was Fran Minney – she took to the stage along with a guitarist and kicked everything off in fine style – an enchanting voice in a poppy folky soulful style that was just perfect to sit in a pretty park with friends letting it wash over you in a slightly hippy way. She was followed after a pause by Martin Black who entertained us with his guitar and singing. Earlier on in proceedings there was a limited local crowd but people were starting to arrive, including a chap from Right Up Our Street who was interviewing folk attending (including our lot!).
The first full band to take to the stand were The Seniors and they really were excellent – a six-piece folk-indie ensemble with energy and a bit of personality too, I really enjoyed their set. Early doors they chucked some wristbands out into the crowd – we thought it was only fair to offer them one of Tim’s trainers in exchange. We immediately made a mental note of them to pass on to Lisa or Suzy who are busy plotting small festivals – really engaging, fun and talented performers who I’d thoroughly recommend checking out.
In the meantime Zooey, Andrea and Ed had arrived to join the fun too – Andrea organises awesome events in Barnsley and it’s great to see folk who put on gigs and festivals all supporting each other in their endeavours, really typifying the splendid support network that Ferocious Dog types build for one another.
Beggar’s Bridge were the penultimate act – hailing from Hull they beguiled with more traditional story-telling folk music tinged with darkness and no small amount of bitterness about some incident involving Russians. You’ll have to check that out for yourself! As Snotty and I were heading off to Devon to see Lisa and Paul the following day I’d planned to grab a bottle of mead to take from the bar – I left it too late and they’d once again managed to sell out of the honey-made nectar. Oops! Good for the business though I suppose!
The final act as dusk settled on the park and made it pretty pointless for Snotty to get photos due to poor light, and it’s a pity (in one way, not so much that she got to just sit and enjoy the music) as Bo Weavil were really bloody excellent. Lively folk and blues with a kick is their description and that’s probably fair – but the four of them really got my attention – highlight for me was a swirling and sinister cover version of Leadbelly’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night (which admittedly I only came to love due to Nirvana covering it, but still).
Made all the more sinister by the darkness descending and making it difficult for us to see them in the bandstand – some learning for future events in the park, lighting could be handy (although in this case it was perfect for the mood of the music!). With the music over it was time for goodbyes and heading back to the car for Snotty and I, only to find that the car park we’d left the car in had been locked since 6:30pm. There was a sign, although not a particularly prominent one, so really it’s my own daft fault – so with a due sense of ridiculousness we went back to the park to confess our dilemma…
After the laughter had subsided we were very kindly offered sanctuary by Becky and Pete, and set about helping them dismantle the fencing and tents and packing everything away before strolling back to their house to be reunited with Jazz – their awesome but massive and ridiculously excitable dog who’d been at the event earlier – and join the impromptu mass Hell Hound sleepover that their house had become. After some pizza and chatter it was sleep time and mercifully the car park was open on Sunday morning for a getaway!
But I digress – it’s small community events like this that really inspire me – the amount of work that goes into it is incredible and for Pete and Becky and the folk who help them to put this time in to make their community better both through great entertainment and in raising funds for the local parks and woods is amazing. Talking about plans for the next Something to Smile About festival in 2016 – also a non-profit fundraising event – gave light to exciting possibilities – I don’t think this is an event you’re going to want to miss! Watch out for announcements.
Back on to the weekend’s A Midsummer’s Music – even if the music wasn’t good it was a great opportunity to get outside with folk and have a great time in the park with a few cheeky drinks to boot. The music WAS good, and if nothing else it made me realise that folk should really make more effort to appreciate and engage in what is on their doorsteps for very little cost. Having said that, who knows what similar events might’ve been happening in my village if I’d not trogged up to Yorkshire for this. Whatever it was it wouldn’t have been as good!
After all this goodness we’ve had an amazing couple of days down in Devon and Dorset with Lisa, Paul and Pixie (yet more Hell Hounds!), and are revving up for Farmer Phil’s – tomorrow I’ll be heading on down there with Tina to get things set up – with many of the extended Hell Hound family either already there or arriving in the run up to the festival proper starting on the Friday. The line up, the people going, the lovely folk organising – yeah, so what if the weather looks a bit ropey thursday/friday? It’s going to be brilliant.
How much I will remember about it to write about remains to be seen. Finally thanks to Snotty for letting me pinch her photos since I didn’t take any in Thorne. Oops! You can check out the rest of her photos of the day in her Facebook album.