Last week saw our return to the Great Dorset Steam Fair. What a change from Last year!
12 months ago we were sat in a field of dust, the sun blazed down and we started off to an “intimate” audience for our first performance. This year, however, things were completely different…
Day 1, Wednesday – Arrival.
We met with our entourage at Ed’s home in Newport. Ed wasn’t with us (he followed on later), but Paul and Si took his wife, the lovely Andrea, in the van with them. Following behind were Matt (our pet photographer) and his young lady Nichola. We left shortly after midday and had a good trip down. We knew that the weather wasn’t due to be as good as last year, but weren’t quite prepared for what we met on our arrival. Last year we’d heard rumours of the previous year’s mudbath and it seemed we were to encounter it for ourselves. We got in through the gate in no time, our passes all ready for us, and joined the queue getting from the gates to the campsite. This part of the journey was about 150 yards in total but took us about 45 minutes as vehicles slipped and slid in front of us. To give you an idea, this photo was taken at the halfway point between the gate and the campsite entrance – once through the hedge we travelled about the same distance again before turning left and finding a site to erect our tents:
Paul and Si hadn’t brought wellies…
We got the tents up and sat down to relax with a beer before Ed arrived, having taken about an hour for this same last part of the journey. Once we were all settled in we went for a walk round the site, discovering that wellies were essential (the liquid mud being up to 6 or 8 inched deep in places) and walking was extremely hard work! Whilst walking through the fairground, Matt decided to treat Nichola to a turn on one of the rides. They paid their money and made their way up to get seated. After a few moments of clanking, Matt moved to a different seat where the person running the ride attempted to lock the brace in place to keep Matt in his seat. After several more minutes with no success, they had to leave the ride – it seems that Matt was too “Broad shouldered” to fit safely!
It had rained fairly consistently all day, but the evening got so bad that the last act on the main stage, an Oasis tribute called Definitely Mightbe, had to be cancelled due to safety reasons. We retired to our tents for a night’s rest ahead of our first set.
Day 2, Thursday – The Shires Arms.
Today’s set was 9:00PM, timed to coincide with The Wurzels’ appearance on the main stage – they didn’t stand a chance!
We spent the day wandering round the site, looking at the various exhibits before keyboardist Simon Carswell arrived. He set up his tent and we bundled into the van to get to the venue. The journey took us back along the road past the entrance, so we knew the van wouldn’t enjoy it, although we did get there in a respectable time. Last year’s performance here was the best attended of the week and we had a similar number in tonight. The gig went well with the audience getting involved right from the start. Towards the end of the gig we decided to drown Scruffy with our performance of Irish Rover. As the boat sank, Si went out front to spin around. The ground was far better in the marquee than outside as it had been protected from most of the rain over the last few days, but there were a few ruts, and Si found one of them, his ankle twisting as he spun. The rest of the gig went by in a blur of adrenaline, but the pain set in during the night. Another victory for injury over Lost The Plot!
Day 3, Friday – The Black Bull.
Nurofen and a morning’s rest reduced the pain in Si’s ankle before Ed left us to perform with The Unlawful Men at The Countryman Stage. By this point we’d been joined by Ant (bodhran player for Ed’s folk outfit) and his lady friend, Becky. Ed tells us that the Unlawful Men gig was well attended and received, but a strong wind made it a little awkward.
While they performed, Paul and Si set off for the Black Bull for gig 2. We were joined by Ed and Si Carswell and went for it. Another success, this gig went as well as yesterday’s, although Si’s attempt at a conga failed in the most drastic way as he walked around the tent alone, people watching but refusing to get involved. The set finished at about 5:30, leaving us the evening to see a few other bands and take on some nourishment in the beer tents.
Beyond a couple of short showers, it hadn’t really rained today and, surprisingly, the ground was firming up quite well.
Day 4, Saturday – The Black Bull.
We started the day the same as we had the previous couple of mornings – emerging from our tents at various times, blinking into the bright new day, wondering whether the rain would hold off and taking on board breakfast. After our fill we split up, with Ed, Andrea and Si going off to watch the Monster Trucks and Motorcycle Stunt Team before returning and heading off for the 3rd and final Lost The Plot set of the week.
This time the conga went as well as yesterday’s had gone badly, people getting involved straight away. The Black Bull was full and the set went past in a blur.
Again, we finished and set off for an evening of bands, beer and curry. There’s a huge variation in music styles at the Fair, so there’s something for everyone (and too many to mention) and the range and quality of food is also astounding. We finished off the week by watching a Queen tribute act before disappearing into our respective pits for the last time.
Day 5, Sunday – Going Home.
Sunday morning saw the first time that people were forcibly ejected from their tents, woken unexpectedly, and generally pranked – the hard work had finished and we could get silly. Matt and Nichola woke to discover a huge pile of camping chairs atop the entrance to their tent, placed there by a mystery assailant, and Paul discovered a road cone on top of his van.
Breakfast eaten, we dismantled our tents and loaded the vehicles for the journey home.
That’s the Great Dorset Steam Fair finished for another year. We hope to be back again next year if they’ll have us, but we’d just like to thank Ryan and Lisa of Festivals 360 for inviting us and producing such a great music festival among the huge Steam Fair itself.
Now, to recover…