Not the usual Flickr meet!

17 08 2009

Yesterday saw some of the members of the Shropshire Community Flickr group attend the August meet at Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Village in Cheshire. This was probably the furthest I had travelled to attend one of these meets but having not attended the last couple I thought it about time that I actually went along, after all, I am one of the administrators of the group.

The property is a National Trust place and looks very impressive from the outside as you walk down the steps from the car park, this a view of the rear of the building with its many windows.

View of the back of the main mill building

View of the back of the main mill building

Being a National Trust property, photography is prohibited inside the building itself. To me this seems absolutely crazy as of the 16 people that attended there was at least half of us that decided not to go into any of the properties and instead stick to walking around the estate, this was free, so they missed out on a fair amount of entrance money by enforcing a silly rule about no photography. I’m convinced that with the plethora of photo sharing websites about these days, allowing photography inside would give them a much wider exposure, more paying customers and lots of free publicity, some may disagree?

The grounds themselves surrounded the property and ran along the River Bollin and included the Styal Estate and an old church. After we had decided that we were not going to pay to enter the property we asked at the reception if they had maps of the walks that we could take away as they informed us that they were not signposted…….maps were not available, hardly ideal. So off we set on our walk around the grounds using a map printed off by one of the members of the group.

Try and navigate properly with this map!

Try and navigate properly with this map!

Those that were interested in fungi and plants had a good time here as there were many sights to see and photograph, personally though that kind of ‘Natural History’ photography doesn’t really float my boat so my shutter count didn’t really go above two or three shots, none of which I have processed or posted. After a short break for lunch (packed) during which we were constantly harassed by wasps, six of us decided to have a walk in the opposite direction to which we originally set off. We walked all along the river until we hit a road and so decided to cross the river and follow a path back along the opposite side of the water. Unfortunately the signs quickly disappeared and after crossing over the grounds of a local rugby club we found what we thought was a path……..it had been walked on and that was good enough for us. It soon became clear that we had ventured a bit too far off the track and were soon attempting to navigate our way through shoulder high foliage, muddy streams, steep banks and fallen trees. This went on for around 45 minutes and in the humidity the sweat was certainly building up.

Well, I had to photograph something!

Well, I had to photograph something!

After a while we managed to be in a position where we could see the path that we needed to be on……..on the opposite side of the river. We had a choice, walk over a field which would have meant climbing over an electric fence, retracing our steps (no chance of this as there were more men than women and you know what men are like for turning back…….it just doesn’t happen!) or, making our way over a tree which had fallen over the river. Unfortunately the tree and river were at the bottom of a steep, maybe 50 degree,  bank but we decided after much protestation from the ladies in the group, that this would be the best way forward. So, sliding down the bank toward the roots of the fallen tree presented the first problem, the second problem was the gap in between the bank and the tree itself which required a small but brave jump, the third problem was the seemingly high instance of balance problems and height fear amongst the group. Combine this with a tree trunk that had loose bark, the value of camera equipment that needed to be carried across and of course the watery end that would meet any small slip and you end up with a situation that is both hilarious and slightly concerning. As it happened, three of the group managed to get across without incident, simply walking across the log and emerging through the undergrowth on the other side unscathed. The other three fared slightly less well, deciding that walking across was just too difficult and electing to straddle the thick trunk and shuffling their way across on their backsides, all very well until the trunk split into two and various acrobatic moves were required traverse the water without getting wet. Of course the people that managed to get across first spent all their efforts encouraging the rest of the group across by way of creasing over in fits of laughter and photographing the unfortunate positions they got themselves into. Of course, I was one of the ‘walk over it and take no notice’ people and in a completely selfless act, spent more time on the trunk helping others across, trying not to fall off from the laughter!

All safely over we decided that enough was enough and made our way back to the car park after a swift refreshment break and proceeded to sit in traffic for over an hour on the way home. Still, a quick visit to a local pub just before dropping others off seemed to be the perfect end to a very enjoyable and memorable day.

The next Shropshire Community Flickr meet is at the hill climb at Loton Park, hopefully that will be as enjoyable but with less chance of injury!

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The Big Chill Festival, The Big Issue, The Undead and too many Mojitos.

10 08 2009

I was lucky enough to be doing some volunteering for The Big Issue magazine at The Big Chill festival just outside Ledbury in Herefordshire over the last weekend. I have done some volunteering before (blogged in this section), so when I was asked to help out at the festival I jumped at the chance. My friend went down to the festival on the Wednesday to help set up and get organised, very helpfully he took my tent, sleeping bag and boots down with him and even put my tent up for me. I arrived on Thursday and, in slightly damp conditions, walked round the festival site for about 3 hours looking for my tent. One of those daft situations where when the tent was erected there were no others about and by the time I arrived there were thousands! It did give me a good chance to have a good look around and take in all the sights, some of which were very strange.

Thursday’s are normally a very quite day for weekend festivals with the majority of people there involved in setting up stalls, organising stock, testing electrics and all the other things associated with the ‘business’ side, but this occasion was slightly different.

Zombie Alert

Zombie Alert

On the Thursday night there was a huge gathering of people dressed and made up as zombies, a very surreal experience with the people dressed in anything from wedding dresses to police uniforms all with varying amounts of blood and various ‘injuries’. The reason they were there was twofold, there was an attempt to break the world record for the most amount of zombies gathered in one place, previously 3894 people in Seattle. This was easily beaten with a total of well over 4000 zombies here. Secondly  they were there to take part in a film being made by Film4 and Warp Films called  ‘I Spit on your Rave‘ which stars Noel Fielding as the Zombie King. I tried to get a few shots of Noel Fielding during the rehearsal and then during the parade but really didn’t have too much luck.

Noel Fielding as the Zombie King

Noel Fielding as the Zombie King

As I was still wandering around waiting for my mate Ash to finish his shift at work I also managed to get a few shots of some of the people who had dressed up, I tried a few candid shots but really the best ones come when you talk to the people before hand and then get them to pose how you want them to be, gives a lot more options for this type of portrait.

The Undead?

The Undead?

After a while I was able to meet up with Ash and go and find my tent, the weather weather wasn’t brilliant with a few spots of rain but that has never stopped us having a good time, especially at festivals where we are kind of used to walking around in 8 inches of mud. We decided that Thursday would be a fairly quiet night as I was working from 9.30am the next day, however, the best laid plans always seem to go awry when there is alcohol involved, especially Sailor Jerry rum. We also met up with one of Ash’s friends which made three of us wandering around for the night. A bit of rain later and we were all stood in the crowd watching and listening to British Sea Power playing their latest offering Man of Aran which is a soundtrack to a 1934 film. The combination of the film and the music was a real experience and it was a bit of a privilege to be there for the performance.

British Sea Power perform Man of Aran

British Sea Power perform Man of Aran

After a fairly sleepless night, mainly due to the tent been in very close proximity to a generator which was running all night, I was up and out by 8.30am, ready for my days work for the Big Issue. Essentially I was looking after one of the vendors in the morning and another in the afternoon, supplying magazines, programmes, lanyards and handling all of the money. It was certainly quieter than the previous day on the pitch I was on as the car park attendants were guiding cars toward the ‘wrong’ end of the field meaning that the crowds were missing our sales point and were guided toward another.

I worked until about 5pm in the blazing sunshine and after a long walk back to the main Big Issue office on the main field, cashed in and made my way back to the tent for a lie down. Ash was working a later shift than me and so we didn’t see each other until much later in the evening so I had the very strange experience of walking around a festival site by myself. I had arranged to meet another friend later in the evening and prior to this happening I spent a good hour or so talking to someone who I thought I had spoken to at length the previous night, only to realise that we hadn’t actually met before. Luckily she was in exactly the same position and it was only when she said ‘Oh your mate had a zombie mask on didn’t he?’ that I looked at her and realisation slowly dawned for both of us……….one of those normal ‘festival experiences’ that stay with you. Ash turned up later on that night and we did the usual thing of missing every performance that we planned to see. We did turn up for the Basement Jaxx concert but actually didn’t think much of it so wandered around for a bit longer.

Basement Jaxx at The Big Chill Festival

Basement Jaxx at The Big Chill Festival

Neither of us were due to work on the Saturday so we had arranged to have a bit of a lie in, a nice steady morning and then a good old party on the night when Orbital were headlining. I seem to remember that the idea was to make sure that we weren’t too worse for wear until well after 5pm but this went out of the window after pretty much the first hour………damn those mojitos!

Sailor Jerry Rum Promo People.

Sailor Jerry Rum Promo People.

We eventually decided on a lie down at about 7pm so a steady walk back to the tent was followed by a complete failure to get any decent rest, both of us preferring instead to have some quite time away from the festival grounds but to carry on with the drinking, chatting and taking photographs. We headed back to the main grounds at about 10pm to make sure we could get some food, more drinks, meet friends and get where we wanted to be to see Orbital play at midnight. Amazingly we actually managed to do what we planned and were able to watch all of the Orbital set which was excellent, not my usual type of music but in this atmosphere you can’t help but enjoy it.

Overall a weekend of great company, great music, great drinks, surreal conversations, too much smoking and just a small excess of walking. I’m not convinced that the Big Chill festival is one that I would go to every year, the music isn’t entirely to my taste and the ground is a bit spread out for my liking but the atmosphere was excellent………plus, I was there when the world record for the largest gathering of zombies was broken!





Shropshire Community Summer BBQ

2 08 2009

You would think that organising a barbecue for the 1st of August would be a pretty safe bet weather wise however, being England I suppose you should definitely never take the weather for granted. To be fair, the forecast had said all along that we should be expecting heavy rain all day so preparations were made to give us some cover should the forecast actually be right for once, updated forecasts on the day suggested that the rain would stop later on in the day. As it happens they were spot on with their predictions, the rain came, very heavily at times, soaking the gazebos we had put up and even leaking through in places so all we could do was hope that the forecasts were right. 3pm came and the clouds cleared and by the time people started arriving at 4pm even the sun was trying to make an appearance………bonus!

Rarely in front of the camera

Rarely in front of the camera

The barbecue was being held for members of the Shropshire Community group on Flickr, the photo sharing website where I seem to spend most of my on-line time. The group has around 150 members but a core of around 30 that are regular contributors who go on monthly meets and stay in touch via the website. It’s a really vibrant and friendly group which has made both Lorna and I some really good friends, so hosting the barbecue was a real pleasure for us.

As well as a common love of photography there is also a select group of us who share a common love for real ale, so a trip down to the All Nations to get a barrel of their Dabley Gold ensured plenty of liquid refreshment was available………a real bargain too, £85 for 72 pints 🙂

Cheers!

Cheers!

For a bit of fun, Lorna and I decided to have a raffle with some really great prizes all sourced from the depths of some of our less used cupboards and drawers. Prizes included an 8Mb compact flash card (8Mb??!!), a sandwich toaster that Lorna won in a raffle a while ago, a telephone extension cable, a DVD of The Producers which we never managed to watch past the first ten minutes, a VHS tape of Heartbreak Ridge (one of my favorite Clint Eastwood films)……..all quality items!

Some of the group

Some of the group

That shot was taken well into the night so some were edging toward being a little worse for wear, either that or they had been sampling some insanely hot home made chilli sauce that one of the group bought with them. As is normal with any kind of gathering at our house, later into the night the karaoke machine came out and some rather ropey singing made a great finish to a wonderful evening. We even managed to raise some money for the Severn Hospice








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