Day two of this job at Courtyard Festival. My friend and long time collaborator Mel Cook came to help out and hang out.  She’s a real-ale enthusiast, and this is a beer festival, so it made sense to make use of my plus one.

Five years ago I embarked on a tour with FanSHEN, going all over the country with a boomchackashow, powered by bicycle, about energy and sustainability and dogs and vegetables. Just another joyful leaf in The Book of Random. The FanSHEN lot are friends, and a big part of my community now. If I hadn’t done that show I almost certainly wouldn’t be attaching socks to people at a beer festival for money. And I know that my tendency towards vegetarianism was normalised by them and that show. Plus by my father. The people you care for – they affect what you care about. I’m moving that way because loads of the people I feel connection with are there already, or have been at some time in their lives.

I wish the festival was longer. By the end of today I had already found and built a community. Loads of the staff and security had been messing about with me in their lunch breaks attaching socks etc. They were such fun I didn’t give myself a lunch break, but if I’m enjoying it I might as well keep working. By the time I got my dinner at sunset I was lucky that Vicky from Shawarmarama (I had been targeting people in her queue) refused to let either me or Mel pay, even when I tried to insist.

Then Mel and I went to look at beer. My relationship with alcohol is as odd as my one with meat. I’ve seen people killed by it, and it’s hard to be uncomplicated once you’re aware of how quickly the body goes once the liver goes. But the beer was the point of the festival. They had huge lines of kegs from different breweries. I was surprised by how few of the people I saw today were the traditional CAMRA type. Yes, sure – there were some middle aged men in old fashioned suits with beards and pocket watches. But mostly they were just a cross section of London. The thing that bound then together is that not one person I spoke to for the whole weekend shot negative energy at me. And I was invading their space and attaching things to their backs without their knowing. It really surprised me how playful and positive everybody was, there in King’s Cross, London. All they needed to do was walk through a gate that said “Festival” it seems.

And they were all talking about beer in the way that some people talk about wine. Encouraged by Mel I tried it. But I was shit at it. “I’m getting … I’m getting beer.”

I was told I should try harder, despite being clueless, and so here are my tasting notes from the three beers I sampled:

Brecon Brewing : “The Physicians of Myddfai” – Lemongrassy, like that boyo that punched the bully on the first day of term and never let you talk about it. Don’t use it to wash your cat, but on a hot day it’ll massage your feet.

Mantle Brewery: “Dis-Mantle” – That little amber minx wants you to fly blindfolded in a helicopter to an unknown destination, with your toe dipped into a vat of honey.

Glamorgan: “Jemima’s Pitchfork” – Do you feel small? Get a pitchfork.. This is the beer you should have before setting fire to that bloody castle again.

Arriving at the huge bar carrying all these choices, I was flattered to find that the woman we ordered from was one of the women I had attached a sock to earlier in the day. She had come to the stall on her break and spoken to us all, learnt about the new lateral flow test model and llama antibodies etc, and then, on her break, made llama ears with the price of the beer on – that’s commitment. She told us that her friend was off to New Zealand with one of our socks and was going to send her a photo. I asked if I could snap her with ears and sock for my blog. She obliged “I’m famous somewhere!” Legend.


As we had those three beers people kept on coming up to talk about how they connected with or enjoyed the work we had been doing. Good to know, as despite the fun it was a long time on my feet. I’m glad to be home now, and after my three strange beers, not enough food and too long on my feet, I’m ready for sleep. But happy sleep.

Oh – for beery friends: Courtyard Festival in King’s Cross is free all day tomorrow (Bank Holiday Monday). They are selling pints for £3 per pint. I won’t be there, but if you understand beer tasting this will be right up your street. Or if you want to hang out with friends and only pay £3 a pint. If you say you’re friends with the llama sock guy once you’re on site it’ll gain you either a bemused look or an ally. The staff are all lovely.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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