A last minute planning meeting!
Memories of NiddFest 2016 by our outdoor events co-ordinator and all round superstar Astrid:
The final team meeting – two days before the festival:
Children eat a packed dinner at the planning meeting while the rest of us sit around a not quite big enough table and worry if we have enough leaves for signage.
“Plenty of leaves,” declares Elrond, the new name for our festival director, “However I do think someone needs to bring in the trees after Saturday night, just in case someone takes them.”
This elicits a ripple of laughter around the room, as people have simultaneous mental pictures of walking ten-foot foliage. It’s right up there with the “free range bees” and their alternative, with their tiny leads. The images float around with the more serious components of back of festival chat: first aid kits; hay bales; display boards; lights, sound and video; acoustics… whether or not some of our local colour will remember to come.
Despite the nerves, the opening night goes off well. We sit with bowed heads as poets, peacemakers and story tellers take us where they will with their words. From Glasgow to India, through the great British postal system, and into the front room of a borderline alcoholic… Astronomers turn up in the middle and provoke a flurry of activity by asking where North is. We start the shapeshifting role play of a small festival team. Bar staff, to ticket sales, to promotion, to replacement compass: the first row of the many hats we will wear over the weekend. Judi finds North by following her nose. We pour out healthy glasses of white and red and pretend we are Raquel from Coronation Street before it all went horribly wrong and she ended up in Happy Valley. I manage to get Ali Shaw a glass of warm water before I realise he actually said “more water”. You need better ears to do this job right…
Six o’clock the next morning, bright sunshine sharpens every one of the many shades of green. Crisp blue skies make the heart sing. One of the cuckoos has stayed back past migration for expert Nick Davies. A couple of the team congratulate the Outside Events Coordinator; I take a mock bow. Ros digs out binoculars and insect repellent from her Mary Poppins carpet bag of everything you could ever need. Colin Slator transmogrifies from bird guide to photographer and ejects my high vis jacket from his shot of ancient ant hills.
Down in Pateley, things are warming up in the Children’s tent. Katy’s freshly ironed bunting crowns a locally-sourced feast. Hayley gives a verbal salute to all the talent on display. Park View Stores has made a flurry of chocolate mice for our Brambly Hedge picnic. The Bakehouse has outdone itself with icing flowers on the birthday cake. The Barrow Band sets up in front of the half circle of deck chairs outside as the growing crowd of children proves it will do anything for a free strawberry. Parents, and perhaps the odd team member, doze in the golden afternoon warmth.
Middlesmoor, by contrast, rarely feels so hectic. Ros has swapped Mary Poppins for traffic policeman as she orchestrates the flow of cars through the tiny streets. In the cool quiet of St Chad’s church, we enjoy the rare pleasure of being read story and poetry. Then, like cosseted children, we drive back down the valley to listen to someone sing to us.
Memorial Hall has got in on this transformation act. She is all decked out like a cabaret with soft lighting between those beautiful trees. Gone are the boards and the ceremony; she is an intimate concert hall now. Kathryn Williams feeds our minds with Sylvia Plath flavoured music. We are inspired and energised as we play roadie, theatre hand and pot washer at the end, before a good old knees up at the back of house party.
The last day:
Sunday rises less bright than the previous day and not just because the evening has dulled our senses. Morning on the door of the Memorial Hall involves catching it before it slams an unwelcome interruption into our talks, making calls for author pick-ups, directing people to coffee. I do one more turn as taxi driver before going into the woods with the children. Den building and leaves and stories of the woodland. We are back to where we began.