For some the dank, gloomy months at the beginning of the year are a chance to take stock, to jot a few idle lines on the futility of horticulture, to review ones’ Port collection and to find a combination of armchair and cushion that makes sense in our increasingly globalised economy. For others this is a period of frenetic activity as they butter-up performers, juggle running-orders, organise hospitality, ensure sufficient pulled-pork sandwich, haloumi and gassy beer provision and recruit needle-workers skilled in yurt repair. I am of course talking about Festival Organisers.
As I write the dining-room table is strewn with brochures and invites from the best and brightest of Europe’s many music, arts, food, drink, drama and haberdashery festivals. And so it falls to your humble correspondent to sort the wheat from the gluten-free and select which festivals would most benefit from the presence of the Pitshanger Poets. At one end of the scale there is the poetry tent at Glastonbury – perhaps the biggest event of its kind but not to be tackled without keen preparation for mud, typically requiring a diving suit and full breathing apparatus. Roskilde in Denmark makes much of its Viking roots but should not be attended by anyone unwilling to wield an axe or set fire to a village in order to obtain a beer. At the other end of the scale some of the UK’s smaller festivals take boutiquery to an obsessive extreme, for example Festival Number 6 takes place entirely in one scaled down Tuscan fisherman’s cottage in Port Merion in North Wales. I am told that when busy the queue for the toilet can stretch all the way to the main stage, which is not surprising as it is just outside the back door, but at least you can answer the needs of biology while not missing any of your favourite performance.
While we piece together the Pitshanger Poet’s next wildly successful European Tour, it is time to review this week’s Workshop. A special Questors Event in the Library had us ejected from our usual haunt and roughing it in the Theatre Office, which is always a risk. The last time we were there we carelessly left a number of copies in the Producers’ Inbox and within a week a random set of PP Workshop poems had been re-worked into a three-act verse play set on a trawler in the Irish Sea with the motifs of a tricky banoffee pie and the unrequited love of the Captain for the First Mate, while time ran mysteriously in reverse. Luckily, we managed to clear things up before much work had been done on the set.
While the cosy office environment does lead to a more intimate meeting, removal from their usual rendezvous is something the poets do not take lightly. John Hurley paused the photocopier to read his description of the last time we were locked out of the office; only John’s Irish brogue is licensed to rhyme ‘choir’ with ‘foyer’. Pat Francis adjusted her office chair to the right height before giving us two traveling cats, one in time and one in space. Doig Simmons, next to the water-cooler, has been drinking wine and thinking of love, surely he is not the first to do this. Owen Gallagher, partially obscured by the filing cabinet remembered when he was taken Nessie-hunting by his father but found a teenage awakening. Martin Choules worked up a thought-experiment about trams into a tirade against automation, as only he can. Nick Barth was dissuaded from leaning back and resting his walking boots on the desk opposite before reading his impressions of Death Valley. Finally, Peter Francis noticed that the calendar still read December 2017 before launching into his rumination on a visit to a Holyrood Hotel in Ireland.
The debate continues – any contributions to festival planning are gratefully received. In the meantime, thank you for reading.