Posts Tagged ‘Festival’

Questival 2011

August 9th, 2011 2 comments

Questival is an annual festival that is put on by the AHS to celebrate the ideas of skepticism and rational thinking. Featuring speakers such as Julian Baggini and Michael Marshall and performers like Matt Parker and Jonny Berliner the weekend long event attracted young people from across the UK.

Having missed its predecessors in the Yorkshire Dales, it was with some excitement that I made my way to Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire to join forty other free thinkers. At this point I must add my sincerest thanks to David and Peter from the Bradford University Atheist and Humanist Society for sorting me out with a lift down from Leeds! I arrived a little after eleven in the evening on Friday to be greeted with some bean chili and a glass of Glenfiddich and rest of the Questivillains (the collective noun according to the organisers) partying like it was 1999. I had booked my spot at Questival quite late so I had turned up without a camping spot but quickly found an old friend from university who had some room in his tent and after I had dumped my stuff I quickly joined in the party.

The theme of the main shenanigans seemed to be worms (the sleepover classic of wriggling around in your sleeping bags pretending to be worms) and the quote of weekend was soon to follow:

Andrew is the egg, everyone sperm him!
- Mark Wonnacott

The drinking and conversing continued late into the night (and the next morning by all accounts) with topics ranging from whether Socrates was a figment of Plato’s imagination to whether Oli had comfortable thighs and ankles. I gave up to hit the sack just after midnight due to the fact I had been at work and travelling all day.

The mob was awoken early Saturday morning for a breakfast of sausages and bacon (and their vegetarian equivalents) that was incredibly welcome by those that had taken the partying too seriously the night before. The rest of us wanted to fuel up ready for a full day of events. We started off with a gentle stroll into Tewkesbury that involved a water crossing! The nearest bridge to cross the Avon was several miles away, so the Questival team had organised canoes to ferry the forty-odd people from one side to the other. Despite the inherent risks of putting many people in small, unstable canoes everyone made it without getting too wet and those of us that thought the crossing was hard work were in for a surprise when we were presented the most fiendishly difficult treasure hunt I have ever been faced with!

Questivillains in Tewkesbury during the treasure hunt.

Splitting into a number of teams we set about trying to solve numerical, general knowledge, observational and physical challenges to try and unlock the secret to the philosopher’s tome (the prize turned out to be a signed copy of Professor Grayling’s The Good Book). Unfortunately, the team I was in struggled to solve the final puzzle, so settled for second prize – that of getting to the pub early! We were slowly joined by the other teams and managed to quaff our fair share of some good ale and cider before setting off back to the festival site for an afternoon of speakers and performers.

Due to a scheduling incident, the weekend’s first speaker, Julian Baggini, failed to show up but the BHA’s faith school coordinator, and former AHS President, Richy Thompson, and skeptic and 10:23 founder, Michael Marshall, stepped into the breach to talk about campaigning from both a national and grass roots level. This was followed by a presentation by the founders of the fantastic Pod Delusion about skeptical landscape and how social and internet media are used to provide balance to the “crackpots”. The talk also laid the foundation for a special live recording of a Pod Delusion podcast which featured some great segments on epigenetics, cyber security, the STEM project and a wonderful summary of the energy industry’s portrayal in the media by an insider codenamed “Steve”. The evening was rounded off by the self-styled standup mathematician Matt Parker who did a meta-gig (a gig about his other gigs) that covered everything from his uncanny ability to predict barcodes, how many times we would need to shuffle a deck of cards to see every possible combination and other fun maths stuff. He had the room in stitches and if anyone gets the opportunity to go and see him then you should jump at it! Many of the attendees then hit the bar at the campsite and spent the night drinking and dancing and wondering if Gordon Swayze was just a figment of their imagination.

Sunday was a little less frantic as we started off with a leisurely breakfast followed by the rescheduled Julian Baggini talking about logical fallacies with reference to news and media stories. The talk struck the right balance between philosophical technicality and layman application. Despite being at a number of events where he has spoken, I have never actually heard Julian talk live. He is an engaging speaker with a real knack of selling logical argument and critical thinking. The early afternoon was then taken up with a variety of activities ranging from archery to sailing to making graven images of gods. The final act of the weekend was a musical performance from the simply brilliant Jonny Berliner whose quirky science and maths based songs had people gasping fro breath whilst tapping their feet. I bought his single and EP on the spot and he is definitely a name to look out for!

Bank Holiday Weekend

August 31st, 2010 No comments

This is likely to be my last major blog post before I head off on my road trip of Europe as I have loads of prep to do before we leave and I want to cover that prep in my first blog post from Europe (hopefully Amsterdam).

I am writing this post whilst on the train from Carlisle to Leeds on the famous Carlisle to Settle railway route, it is beautifully sunny outside and the scenery is really something to behold. I really do love the English countryside and I am lucky enough to have experiences some stunning scenery in my time.

The reason for me being on this particular train is the fact I have spent the last few days staying with Sarann and her family whilst enjoying Solfest, a music festival based on the Solway coast. For my long memoried readers, here is a post I made about the festival last time I went.

Solfest always manages to deliver when it comes to acts. For a small festival, I always manage to see a dozen or so really good acts, with maybe four of five that are really outstanding. This year was no different – acts like Alabama 3, James, Eat Static, Utah Saints, Magic Numbers, The Jam and The Damned all being pretty big names.

I particularly enjoyed the old school combination of The Jam and The Damned on the Sunday night, followed a really nice chilled set from The Magic Numbers.

The weekend was great as a little mini break from the pressures of clearing my desk ready for the Europe trip, as well as from the stress of planning and paying for the trip itself. Sarann’s dad makes a great host, and Sarann makes a better chef – even if most of the fare was vegan! I did manage to sneak in a couple of pasties and a sausage and hash brown butty.

All in all a great weekend and well worth the £89 ticket price.

Christmas is over…

December 28th, 2008 1 comment

…and not soon enough if you aks me!

I am not a fan of Christmas. Not only do I dislike the modern festival, complete with three month build up and ridiculous commercialism, but I hate the fact that a “Christian” festival has been nationalised and rammed down our throats to such an extent that every body feels the need to suddenly pretend to be pious and religous! Seriosuly, I know muslims that celebrate Christmas! What the hell is that about?

Christmas is a Christian festival that was created in the 19th centurty when the Catholic Church decreed that the eponymous midwinter festival was now officially a celebration of the birth of Jesus (who almost certainly was not born in December, never mind the 25th!). For most of the rest of that century nobody really gave a monkey, until the Victorians started making something of the festival. The majority of the traditions we now associate with Christmas, the tree, the decorations, the food etc was all started in the latter half of the 1800s by the middle and upper classes of Victorian England and hence the rest of the Empire.

I am not a Christian, so I do not ‘celebrate’ Christmas. I, like many other non-Christians, partake in the festivities surrounding the tradition but I do not hold it sacred in any way and would have no qualms about selecting any arbitrary day to celebrate family, togetherness and peace to all men. These are not Christian ideals, all of these ideas were celebrated for hundreds of years before Christianity and will continue to be celebrated for hundreds of years after Christianity. I just wish everybody would accept that Christmas, as it exists today, has nothing to do with Jesus. We shouldn’t all be forced to take time off work and we should not be subjected to the nationalising of a religious holiday to the point of causing offence to every non-Christian. If I were a Muslim, Sikh, Jew etc I would be similarly outraged.

The fact I am an atheist means I am also outraged at the increasing nationalisation of Eid, Ramadam, Hannukah, Diwahli etc.

V Fest

August 19th, 2008 No comments

I’ve never been to one of the mainstream festivals before – Leeds/Reading, V Fest, Glastonbury etc. This is for several reasons, firstly the cost – £150 for a festival is too expensive, secondly there is the fact that they are massively ovwercrowded – 30000 people is just too many, finally there is the stigma. I usually don’t see myself as a music snob, but it seems that the sort of music fans that attend the mainstream festivals are the sort of music fan that pisses people off.

Having said all that, Muse were playing V Fest this year and, for those of you that don’t know, my girlfriend Liz is obsessed with them. The moment she heard they were playing she booked two tickets for the day they were headlining at the Staffordshire version of the festival. This mean attending one of the festivals I never thought I would, especially since the escapades of last summer!

We got up early on the Sunday, leaving about 9am to drive the 130 miles from Leeds to Weston Park, near Cannock, Staffordshire. The drive was pretty uneventful and there were no jams getting into the venue. The queueing wasn’t too bad to get into the actual arena either – maybe 20 minutes. Once in the arena we headed over to the main stage area to try and camp out for the headliners so we would be near(ish) the front. We managed to get to the first few rows right in the middle for the first few acts – The Futureheads, Alannis Morrisette, Lostprophets and Maximo Park. Unfortuantely, as mentioned above the sort of music fans that attend these festivals are prats, so after about 5 hours of getting squashed, beaten, crushed, kicked and being generally uncomfortable (and the fact that I had managed to lose my mobile telephone for the first time in nearly 10 years) we abandoned our position and fled the main stage area. We rustled ourselves up ome food – which considering the fact we were at a festival was not too over priced. We managed to find a place that did a giant Yorkshire pudding filled with sausage, mash, onions and gravy for a fiver! We also managed to find somewhere to sit amongst all the mud.

After queueing for a while to use the “toilets” and having missed The Kooks’ set. We headed back for the headliners. We didn’t go so deep into the crowd, but found ourselves a nice little spot not too far back where we could enjoy the music and see the stage without fear for our lives. The first headline act were the Stereophonics. They were absolutely awesome live. Kelly Jones really knows how to work the crowd and their back catelogue is impressive. I know it’s a festival and bands play their singles but I really had hoped they would play a few of the album tracks! Muse were the second headline act and they know how to put ona show. I am not the world’s biggest Muse fan – most of it is just noise – but they are good live, if only for their light and special effects show! Six giant satellites mounted with lasers and spotlights aodrned or surrounded the stage!! All in all a fun day, except for the hour or so queue in the mud to get out of the car park – but even that wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

Pleasently surprised is probably the right phrase. I wouldn’t pay to go back again, but if the chance arose to attend for the day again for free then I would probably think about and it would depend on who was playing.

Keep an eye out for more detailed reviews of the sets people played.

V Festival 2008

March 7th, 2008 1 comment

I have just bought a day ticket to this year’s V Festival. Liz and I are going for the Sunday as Muse are headlining. We ummed and arred about getting weekend tickets but couldn’t justify the £150. There are some great bands playing on the Sunday though, including the likes of Muse, Stereophonics, Maximo Park, The Prodigy and The Kooks (see the full line-up here).

I can’t believe it is festival season already!

2007: A Year in Review

January 7th, 2008 1 comment

The Christmas festivities are over, the New Year hangovers have subsided and 2008 is nearly a week old. This seems like the perfect opportunity to take a look back at 2007 and the people, events and ideas that made it.

Christmas and New Year are always a time for reflection and nostalgia and this year was no different. My family was all together for the first time in a while, including some of the new additions. I had an enjoyable time with several highlights – firstly, I caught up with some old friends and relived some of those moments from my youth that I miss. I also had a good time Christmas Day as I actually felt part of the family for the first time in many years. The end of December was also a good time for me, I spent it with Liz and her family and really felt accepted.

Anyway, back to my review of the year.

January was an interesting month, fisrt it saw the blossoming of a new friendship, one that would lead to something quite special – although i didn’t know that at the time of course. This month saw the final plans for the new academic year’s housing plans and all the arguments that surrounded that decision. This is probably the time that I cemented my friendship with a number of people whom I now consider my closest allies.

January’s exam period was hard for me, not just for the obvious reasons, but because it saw the dawning in my mind that I had lost my passion in Materials Engineering, that the course was no longer the inspiration I required. I began to toy with the idea of leaving university, or at least changing course.

I don’t remember much of February apart from starting at McDonald’s and buying a new car. I also went to Langdale in the Lake District with my mum.

March was an interesting month, I saw Barenaked Ladies in concert in Leeds which was amazing, visited Sarann in the Lakes and most importantly I started this blog.

Now here is the definition of a rollercoaster ride. I reached some of the lowest points of my life but also touched some of the highest highs. I ran Rationalist Week, spent a week in a self-destructive spiral of drinking, partying and depression, I met a girl and fell in love.

May was a busy month. Liz and my relationship went from strength to strength, went to see Soweto Kinch and The Who live in concert and Blackpool won in the League One play-offs and got themselves promoted to the Championship.

Festivals were the order of the day/month for June. I went to Sunrise and Farmyard Party to work in a chip van with Sarann. I had a great time but it meant not seeing Liz for a lot of the month – the first real test for our relationship. I think we ended up stronger than ever! Chris ended up in hospital with a serious bout of appendicitis and I spent a lot of time helping Matt sort out his car.

July was quite boring compared to the surrounding months.I went to Workhouse in Wales, had minor computing issues and moved in with my new housemates – Sarann, Michelle, B and Chris.

Always a quiet month, with uni still a month away and the excitement of breaking up long since faded away. I spent most of the month taking stock and seeing what was what in my life. I did go to Solfest, however, which was definitely a personal highlight of the year!

I made only seven blog posts in September, which gives a good indication of how little I did. I did start a new course at university though and turned twenty-three – which also explains the lack of blogging! The combination of Fresher’s week and birthday celebrations will do that to a man.

A difficult month for me. A lot of things happened in my private life that left me somewhat adrift. I did get a new computer though, which is always nice!

November saw things pick up a bit with the A-Soc London trip, Atheist Week and the discovery of the Lancashire Hotpots! London was worth all the effort that I put into it, it turned out better than anyone had predicted and nothing really bad happened. Liz and I went from strength to strength and I even managed to find time to do some uni work!

A month of WoW and family. Not a lot to report on really, except what is already included at the top of this post. It was a good festive period all in all. I think it set me up for 2008 quite nicely.

All things Solfest

August 28th, 2007 1 comment

What an amazing weekend!

I attended my last festival of the summer this weekend – Solfest, on the Solway coast up in in Cumbria. It was a really good weekend, it was the ideal combination of good company, good music and brilliant atmosphere. I headed over to Kirkham on Wednesday after dropping Liz off in Potterhanworth so that I could do some of my to-do list before heading up to Solfest on the Friday. Due to traffic and general slowness on my part I didn’t actually get home until tea time, so didn’t really get much done. Ended up watching the England game then heading to bed.

On Thursday I set about my to-do list with some vigour. I managed to clean the car inside and out, pick up some replacement parts for the car and fit them and generally check to see how much work I am going to have to do to get the car through its MOT. I also managed to get all my washing and drying done ready for me to pack for Solfest. I managed to get it all done just in time to pick Michelle up from preston train station as she was flying voer from Jersey specially for the weekend. In the end, the train was about two hours late and I was sat on the platform for most of it. It was boring! Michelle arrived eventually (about 1am) and we headed for home and pretty much went straight to bed as we were leaving at nine the next morning!

The trip up to Solfest was generally uneventful, the roads were quite quiet seeing as it was the start of the Bank Holiday weekend though it did start to get busier throughout the day. We arrived at Sarann’s Dad’s house, with who we were staying for the weekend, at about lunchtime. We ate then headed out to Allonby to eat ice cream and walk on the beach. We had met up with Matt by this time too (Kat was also about, but was stewarding at the festival). We hit the festival about five o’clock.

One of the big surprises for me was how full the festival felt. Solfest is a relatively small, family orientated festival with about 5000 ticket holders and about 2000 stewards etc. The festival site itself wasn’t tiny yet the place felt full without being overcrowded. The next big surprise came when checking the programme for the weekend and discovering that Ben’s Brother were booked to play on the Bar Stage – the smallest venue at the festival. This surprised me as Ben’s Brother are currently enjoying quite a high level of chart and radio success and are tipped to headline some of the major summer festivals next year such as Leeds/Reading and V. I dawned on me that their debut album has only very recently been released and they must have been booked for the festival many months ago. I had to see them seeing as it was likely the last time they would be playing such an intimate venue!

They were well worth the entry fee to the festival alone. Sometimes I am disappointed by bands like Ben’s Brother when they play live but this was not the case. In many ways I preferred their live set to their album – which it must be said is a really good album, one I would recommend to anyone – as they managed to really get the audience going with their mix of classic indie guitar riffs and soulful singing. We caught a few other bands on the Friday night including the everpresent festival band that is Ozric’s Tentacles (well worth catching if you can).

Saturday was always going to be a highlight for me – Badly Drawn Boy, The Undertones and Chumbawumba all had slots on the mainstage with the former bands headlining! What a combination – Badly Drawn Boy followed by The Undertones. You would not see it anywhere else! The amazing acoustic sounds of Silent Sigh followed by Teenage Kicks!! It was an amazing night. One of the best evenings of live entertainment in my life!

Sunday was not an obvious highlight for me musicwise. There was pretty much only one band I was bothered about and that was the final act of the festival on the main stage – the everpresent Levellers. However, Solfest had one last surprise for me and it went by the name of Show of Hands. Show of Hands are an English folk group that plays a combination of traditional folk, sea shanties and rock music. They were stunning. I actually watched their set mesmerised by them. I am going to stick my neck out and say I don’t think anything has ever moved me quite so much as their music. I loved every second of their set and could have listened to them all night.

All in all it wa sa massively successful festival and I would like to extend some thank yous. Firstly, I would like to thank everyone involved with Solfest for putting on such a warm and friendly festival. Secondly I would like to thank Michelle, Kat, Matt, Ciara, Toni and Caitlin for helping make the weekend a massive success by being cool festival buddies. A special thanks to Sarann for insisting we went and making sure we all had an amazing time and a massive thanks to Sarann’s Dad for putting up with a house full of students for four days, for feeding us and for generally providing for our every whim!

I recommend this festival to all. I literally cannot wait for next year’s tickets to go on sale!!

Work, work, work.

July 17th, 2007 1 comment

It seems that all I have done over the summer so far is work. Which is a bit misleading as I have also managed to move house, go to three festivals, make some new friends, spend loads of time with Liz, throw a house party, attend another couple and manage to do 99% of my pre-summer to do list! No wonder I am exhausted at the moment! Liz keeps yelling at me because I am being boring by going to bed at eleven or so on work nights and midnight at weekends, but to be honest the eleven hour days at work plus all the domestic issues that arise during the first few weeks of any new house share are really taking their toll physically and mentally.

Headed across to Tesco last night, something I have been needing to do for a long time. Ended up only spending £8 on myself (mainly rubbish like coke and chocolate milk) but also picked up a third of the £50 house shopping tab too. Not bad for three of us. We managed to get home just as the heavens opened and the storms began.

The storms carried on throughout the night (I know because I didn’t get much sleep last night) and into today. Kara, Si and I were not that affected by the rain, although we did see a sharp increase in sales today – £2000+ after two of the five ceremonies! George and Sarann did not fare so well, selling no frames as of 3pm.

Unfortunately, I ended up having to disappear a little ealry due to being ill. It turned out to be a lot less serious than I first thought – I had just been inadvertantly inhaling too much of the glass cleaner we use to polish the picture frames. Explains the odd hyper moods I have been having recently (I was probably high!!!)

Back to the grindstone tomorrow!

And I’m back…

July 13th, 2007 1 comment

After several weeks offline due to holiday, work, festivals and moving house (well room….) I am finally back online, although only temporarily at the moment. I am currently using a makeshift internet connection until our house network is up and running, so I cannot vouch for the regularity of my posts for the foreseeable future. I will do my best to ensure that I try to keep you all up to date on the comings and goings currently making my life about as hectic as it has been in several years!

Firslty, I am currently working ten to eleven hour days for a framing company selling certificate frames to graduates at Leeds University. Good money but hard work! I had to pass up on the last two festivals I was supposed to be working due to a) a better offer and b) the feeling that the work I was doing was going very unappreciated to say the least!

Basically, my life is good. I have a fantastic girlfriend, amazing housemates, quality friends and a bank balance in the black! Not a lot else for me to say at the moment. I am sure that my future posts will include some of the details I have skipped over, but then again they might not. Requests on a postcard please.

Sometimes you just have to make it on your own

June 22nd, 2007 3 comments

Well, what a week!

This week has been one of the most eventful, stressful, tiring and generally worrying week in a long, long time. Having returned from Farmyard Party on Sunday, I took Monday to recover. Well that was the plan anyway. Izzy wanted feeding, so I headed round to make some dinner – a lovely chilli and soy stir fry creation – and then decided we would venture to the pub for a swift drink. Mondays in Leeds offers a massive variety of drinking choices to the student. There is Bondi’s £10 ‘all you can drink” night of cheese and tunes; the Fruit Cupboard on Call Lane offers 80p entry and 80p a drink to their ’80s, ’90s and now evening; then there is the Library, which offers its ‘Quids In’ night – all drinks from £1. Izzy and I decided on the latter, mainly due to its locale, the group texts were sent and replies received. Sarann offered us pre-drinks at Graham’s so off we trotted.

Now, I have never been to Graham’s house before but having spent quite a bit of time with the lad recently I was quite intrigued as to what I would find. I wasn’t disappointed! I got there to discover endless supplies of Jack Frost’s white cider (3 litre bottles at 7.5%), a Nintendo Wii, a widescreen television, loud drum ‘n’ bass and to top it all I had arrived mid way through ‘pants and cape day’ – a day that was celebrated by the residents of the house sitting around in pants and capes! We stayed for a swift cider then headed down to thre Library.

To our horror and disgust we found that the Library only does its pound a pint night during term time! So after a relatively expensive drink we headed back to Graham’s, where we wiled the night away with a few beers, pizza and Nintendo Wii. About 2am we decided we were all partied out so tried to leave. It turned out that all the sets of keys to Graham’s house were not actually in the house and the doors were locked. Which meant we were locked in! We sat and waited for the keys to arrive back home, but by 3am we were getting a little impatient. By 3.15 we had decided to break out by clambering through a ground floor window. Which was a mission! It was made all the more difficult by the fact that Michelle was fairly drunk. I say fairly drunk, she was wasted!

Tuesday was a fairly quiet night, spent some time on the telephone to Liz, watched Meet Joe Black and did some chores.

Wednesday saw me finish tidying my room in readiness for Liz’s arrival from Lincoln when I got a call from Bryony. Chris had had to be rushed into hospital and would I give her a lift to LGI as her car park ticket had run out? I spent the rest of the early afternoon sat with Chris in the assessment ward at the Leeds General Infirmary, he has suspected appendicitis and lookd very ill with a fever and severe abdominal pain. Well I knew it was severe because Chris winced…twice! The doctors didn’t realise that this was a sign that he was in agony. I fetched Chris’s mum from the train station and then picked Liz up. Michelle offered dinner as it was her last chance before she moved out of halls. After a delicious meal of homecooked lasagne and bread and butter cuisine I went to pick B up from the hospital.

I was awake most of the night as I was quite concerned about Chris – I had learned the results of his blood work and was dismayed to find that not only was the appendicitis confirmed but they suspected that it had burst several days earlier!! B text me at 2.10am to let me know that Chris had come out of surgery and that the prognosis was good.

Thursday was a hard hard day. I spent the morning helping Michelle pack and move stuff from her halls. Took longer than I expected, but B came round to help (more to take her mind of Chris I suspect). I got home at lunchtime to feed Liz and spend some time with her before running off again to take Matt to see cars. However, I sat down on the end of my bed and next I knew it was gone 5pm! I was not feeling well at all, stressed out, headache and general apathy!

I ended up at the pub in the evening, but wasn’t really feeling it at all. I don’t think I was that good company, but everyone seemed to have a fairly chilled evening.

Today is another busy day. Went to see my GP at 9.40 this morning, got referred to the hospital – which is nice…. Si has just been round to drop some stuff off prior to him taking up residence in Michelle’s room over the summer. Just waiting for the girls to finish tidying so I can move his stuff downstairs. I also have to unpack my car of Michelle’s stuff, move it downstairs and then go back to move her out to Sarann’s. I hate this time of year! I truly do.