4-8 August, Wickham Music Festival – Yateley goes to Wickham!
This was our first visit to the Wickham Music Festival – quite a big 4-day bash with famous names such as the Stranglers (although we didn’t actually get to dance with them) as well as more folky bands such as Steeleye Span, Blazing Fiddles etc. There was a busy dance programme with 9 other sides including locals Wickham Morris. Yateley seemed to be the only male Cotswold Morris side though and the horse the only ambulant beast. More on his antics later.
The adventure began with camping in a prickly stubble field (or a grassy field for the more sensible) and we mostly went to bed earlyish on Friday night (or did we?) after sampling the wares of the huge real ale tent and rum for some. The aptly named Suicider Cider 8% was available but we mostly quaffed the very acceptable ales. We needed a ruling from the management on whether we needed to buy the official obligatory plastic pint “glass” or just fill our trusty tankards. We must have looked threatening as they eventually gave in.
Saturday dawned with a clear blue sky – rather too hot for dancing, but that just encouraged us to slake our thirst at every conceivable opportunity. We started in a leisurely fashion with bacon butties expertly cooked by the Squire (sporting an apron) and the nearly Dr Megan from their campervan. Then we were hurried off by the Squire looking nervous that we would wander off & sample the delights of the festival ground and not turn up on time. So we jingled off to the Farm shop via the narrow road in single file worthy of an infant school on manoeuvres, to do a spot of busking before our scheduled spots started on the dance stage. The farm shop was well stocked but obviously subscribed to slow cooking as we found out when ordering a coffee later on. That meant we had a captive audience who we entertained by dancing “Tuesday night” on a Saturday morning just to confuse matters, a vigorous Adderbury Skirmish to warm us up, followed by Bumpus of Stretton. It was nice to have Monty (an ex Squire) joining us for the weekend – proving there is plenty of life left in those legs yet.
Then onto our first scheduled spot on the dance stage where we were joined by a bunch of dubious looking clerics who claimed to be a Welsh Morris side called “Clerical Error” who we had previously met in Anglesey. On questioning as to whether they were all men & ladies of the cloth, they showed us their dog collars as proof, but we remained uncertain – particularly as one had a dragon on her back as part of her dress. Some of the lads were engrossed in discussing the impressive engineering aspects of the dress of one of the ladies in a “Gothic” side which preceded us.
There was an excellent audience at this lunchtime spot and we were gratified when one onlooker commented on how cheerful we looked & that we appeared to be enjoying ourselves. We do do this for fun, although we may not always look like it! We danced a mix of Adderbury, Bampton, and Bledington dances finishing with a nice flowing version of Banks of the Dee – Fieldtown. Bryan excelled as a comparatively new dancer and our musicians provided the usual perfectly timed accompaniment, competing with at least two music stages. The horse seemed to get stuck on the stage at one point – it seemed to have something to do with crossing his legs – are horses supposed to do that? He seemed to be sweating a lot (well like a horse actually!) in the heat so we made sure he was getting his oats and drink.
Our next official spot was dancing in the picturesque square in the centre of Wickham opposite the Kings Head pub, but we were lured into the Wine Bar for a liquid lunch (I told you it was hot!) as they offered a very satisfactory real ale for £3 for those sporting Wickham Festival wristbands. The young barman asked us after a few rounds how to get drunk and we pointed him to our fool for expert tuition. Paul was commandeered by the barmaid for a photo behind the bar but we spoiled it by all piling in too.
Suitably refreshed we moved 50 yards or so to the official spot outside the Kings Head pub where a goodly crowd were enjoying the entertainment in glorious sunshine. We performed a number of dances alternating with Vixen Morris who certainly provided a contrasting style to our dancing. Encouraged by the lively crowd we decided to add Maid of the Mill, Ilmington and hoisted the lovely Bev high into the air at the end of the dance. She seemed to like it as did all the men who queued up to wish her well. ‘Shooting’ followed soon after and our volunteer giggled as we fell to the floor and needed reviving with a kiss from her due to the heat. The horse misbehaved more than usual and in turn delighted and terrified various audience members. Much enthusiastic pinning of Yateley badges on the crowd was noted and the audience generously contributed to the hat passed around. A noisy time was had by all as we ended the set with a vicious rendition of the Upton Stick dance.
Back to the festival site for another spot on the stage – we were very grateful to the shuttle bus and its long suffering driver for carting our sticks, instruments and bell-clad dancers and musicians up the hill. The final spot of the day was shared with the splendid Wickham Morris and both sides performed a varied selection of dances including a satisfyingly slow rendition of Lollipop Man followed by the usual silliness of audience numerical participation in Postman’s Knock.
Some men scuttled off to catch the end of the Young ‘Uns set as we were now free for the evening to sample such delights as Chas & Dave and later Bill Oddie singing “Wild Thing” – whether this was good or bad thing was the subject of much discussion over a dram later in the evening. Some men went to try the “Posh Showers” provided on the campsite which were voted Posh & wonderful. Others drifted off to the ‘Elemental Tent’ for more tea and spiritual solace. Meantime one of our musicians had managed to get blocked in by parking in the staff car park. The men soon sprung his car out by moving all the other cars – I wonder if the owners noticed? Following this exertion we were treated to a gourmet barbeque steak supper cooked by Tom & Jill (many thanks – a Morris side does dance on its stomach after all) then wandered back to the festival site to hear whichever type of music grabbed our fancy. I started an official “too loud for me” area outside the main stage marquees where you could still see, listen at a more appropriate volume and as a bonus watch the International Space Station go by twice a night. More al fresco dining was enjoyed afterwards with a well-stocked cheeseboard and drinks cabinet before turning in for the night under a starry sky.
Sunday dawned a bit grey & cloudy and followed much the same pattern as Saturday, although we decided on a leisurely breakfast instead of the busking session. We descended on the Wickham Town Square at lunchtime hoping to quench our thirst at our favourite wine bar only to find it firmly closed on the Sabbath, or maybe the barman really had found out what it was like to be drunk and hadn’t woken up yet? We made do with the friendly folk at the King’s Head who witnessed another rarity – the Squire polishing the men’s shoes in the beer garden with a cloth. Such dedication to upholding the Yateley dress standards surely deserves a mention. More dancing to appreciative crowds outside the pub and during the dancing the horse tried unsuccessfully to get in a Taxi – was he trying to escape? Not danced with Rhubarb Tarts before.
Our final slot midway through the afternoon was back at the festival ground with big crowds watching when the Highwayman made a rare and noisy appearance claiming to have lost his horse. The horse duly appeared from behind the stands and much tomfoolery ensued when the horse stole the Highwayman’s hat but later returned it for an ice cream.
All in all a most enjoyable long weekend with fantastic weather. Many thanks to all who invited us and worked hard behind the scenes to make it all happen, Snickers were passed out rather randomly to appreciative stewards! It was fun to have so many Morris sides presented alongside all the music. We are looking forward to Wickham 2017 already if we are invited back!
Dancers: Andy P, Ian S, Paul, Ross, Tom, Tim, Monty, Gareth, Bryan, Elliott,
Musicians: Rod, Steve, John, Chris
1 x Horse