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!

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6 responses

10 08 2009
nezza

Love your photies. I would never have put you down as a mojito drinker though! 🙂

10 08 2009
Steve Green

Nor me……..but they were soooooooooo nice!

10 08 2009
David

I’d put Steve down for a drinker of anything that’s available!

Interesting account and some great photos. Have you ever thought about taking up a career as a newspaper circulation executive?

10 08 2009
Steve Green

Been there, done that David 🙂

10 08 2009
Pete Tiley

Good work mate and those drinks are weird arent that. Bit like drinking nettles !

13 08 2009
Simon Butler

These photos are great Steve, especially the zombies. The one in the glasses has a bit of the bloke from Psychoville and League of Gentlemen.

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