Last night Shambala

It’s so peaceful here, under the sky, after the rain. The festival is still rolling, but we are long into Sunday night now. The moon, just off full, comes in and out of cloud as I write. I’m with friends who were strangers a week ago. We have worked hard together these last few days. Now it’s time to relax.

So… what have I actually been doing? Working at a festival. Shambala. The call came in last week. It’s a beautiful game that has run here for many years in the daytime. They needed a character referee at short notice that was willing to work at a festival and put up with living in a tent. Somebody suggested me, quite rightly.

It’s the Shambala Foxhunt. It runs on the hour every hour from 12 til 4. It’s always fully booked, with excitable children. Some of them have been doing it every year since it started, and are now awkward but very tactical teenagers. The game taps into something ancient, and works on many levels beyond the obvious. Watching loads of children running around dressed in red coats, blowing horns and shouting “Fox Fox!” was unusual. But all the kids wanted to be the fox. And there was so much joy in watching teams adjusting the rules to their own needs.

It was joyful, but then the rain. Today, constant penetrating rainfall, and my job is to run around after children with a whistle, arbitraring disputes. In the open. For hours. In the pouring rain. Having slept in a leaky tent for too long now. I still love these places, and this work, but I was close to the end of my reserves when the last game ended. I was dripping wet, right through. My pants were wet. I had two pairs of socks on and they were both drenched. My fingers were prunes. And still I was running around being enthusiastic.

Now it’s Sunday. The work is done. Some of us have left, but I can now have a party. So that’s what we’re doing. Those of us remaining. Right now I’m in a platonic bundle of warm bodies, listening to a fiddler play a mean set at Chai Wallah – one of the venues on site. The guy is on stage with 40 people. How the hell do they all fit?

This is my last night of festival, I think, for certain this year. It’s been a glorious season. I’ve done the usual list of bizarre things, and at this festival where I was a last minute replacement in a big group, I’ve opened a huge wider circle of friends. These remarkable thinkers and makers who are trying to make a game that is not only fun to play but also has a narrative thread running through it, while tapping into a word of sounds and symbols that are so familiar and ancient that they resonate understanding to us on some deep level.

There’s a party going on around me and I’m going to dive in. The internet here is atrocious. Worse even than Green Man. No way a photo will land. I’ll catch up tomorrow (Monday) evening.

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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