This field has been an important place for me for almost ten years now. Wilderness Festival. Where the weight has dropped off every year. I use it as my safety valve. I come here so my shoulders can loosen. I always have a wristband that says “Performer” but I always camp in the public camping. That way I can wake up in the morning and almost immediately jump into a cold lake and wash off the heatsweat. But also, in exchange for some work, I can easily refill my water, or grab a cool beer round the back.
Ken and Ginny drove me from their place this morning. I arrived about noon. It’s Sunday and the festival is running to the finish line. Everybody is already spent. Lots of people are already leaving. I walked into the park and immediately felt emotional though. Something ran through my heart on a fundamental level. I’ve processed a lot of my stuff here. I’ve depressurised fundamentally every August for almost a decade. I’ve secured deep friendships. I’ve also worked some very strange and often very beautiful jobs. Every year different. This year I was a bookie, taking bets on a silly horse race, having to do a bit of noise over the mic, making shit up as I went along. The usual … not as broad as some years, not as subtle as others.
It came through someone I’ve made friends with because of this festival. She dreams up silly fun things and then makes them happen. We trust each other. As it happens I can’t really enjoy my free ticket this year, but I’m thrilled to come and play on my day off anyway so I don’t break my streak. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to come although if I’m filming or something I’ll gladly take that instead! I might pitch for something that’s mine next year, although it’s always a risk as I rarely know what I’m doing more than two months in advance. If I’d had a successful pitch this year it would’ve been a disaster now I’m working two jobs.
Right now it’s just gone 5pm. I have no clue how I’m getting home but I’ve finished my “work”. To my right a sousaphone and accordion are jamming with a marching drum. We are in the backstage area so they’re just … playing for the joy of it. Charlie is here, who’s been the glue for a few years in the performers lock up area. “It’s been a good one this year,” she tells me, but she’s clearly exhausted now. We hug, as we have done annually. I’m glad to be here, with these people, in this field.
I’ve got my tarot cards, but I probably shouldn’t get spangled and stay overnight doing late night readings for queues of wide eyed humans, tempting though it is. Rehearsal and show tomorrow, and I’m already experimenting with the boundaries of my energy. I will, however, go with Mel to the sparkling wine bus and celebrate being here with my extended Wilderness Festival family. And then I’ll work out how the hell I can get somewhere to sleep, hopefully this time without wading through nettles in my shorts like a fuckwit.
Going home has proven difficult. I tried to hitch a lift into Oxford from the exit. Lots of people drove past and then one driver threw a bowl out the window. It was a sound bowl. A guy immediately picked it up and wandered off with it. Five minutes later the guy came back. “I’m looking for a bowl”. “Someone took it.” But opportunity knocks. “Can I jump in with you? I need to go somewhere where my phone works.”
He was going close to Oxford but I think he thought I’d picked up the bowl. The car was a tense place to be. It was an awkward drive and I’ve finally been dropped at the top of the Banbury road, about an hour and a half walk from Ginny’s. I couldn’t make conversation with him despite trying. Probably I’d come in on an argument between him and his passenger. She said nary a word. He did awkward jokes like telling me he was a porn film maker. Still I was glad of the lift.
Now I’m walking down Banbury Road. I lived here for a year once. It’s not yet 1am. I’ve done well getting out of the festival. I’d just have been better off if I’d thought about how I was going to do it, rather than just trusting to fate.
Maybe a taxi will pass by… (One did!!)