Lumb Farm 2008

The Ashes Demise

Following the bizarre – not to mention somewhat suspicious – short-notice cancellation of Tallington 2007, there was a temptation to knock the whole thing on the head and write the event off. Let’s face it, planning and organising a festival, even on such a small scale, is a handful at the best of times, and doing it with children in tow is simply silly. The complete farce that saw the loss of the Whistle Stop as a venue really put a damper on the experience, and the attitude of sufferance we had frequently had to contend with there in the past was something we could do without. Should we bother? If so, why, where, and how?
The Ashes had folded before, of course, after the Ufford White Horse became a wine bar, or whatever, and having risen again at Tallington, and turned into such an enjoyable experience – most of the time, we had come to appreciate the opportunity the occasion presented for renewing old acquaintances. The location was perfect, and any problems we encountered there were usually down to the reluctance of the venue to commit itself fully. Tallington was an important way of keeping in touch with a lot of people, so when the plug got pulled it was a big disappointment. Realising we wanted to continue, as it’s the only way we get to see a lot of people the way the band works nowadays, we decided to start from scratch with a new approach. This was where Lumb Farm came in. We hire the place – that’s a business arrangement, the upside of which is that we don’t get last minute calls from flaky promoters who have had better offers from an Elvis tribute band or a wedding party. The downside, of course, is that it costs money, so The Ashes in 2008 was the first such event at which we had to charge admission.

Ashes From Ashes

And the whole thing worked out splendidly. One or two qualms were experienced when it was discovered that the BNP were having their family weekend away in a field less than two miles away, and there was some anticipation of trouble, but as things turned out it simply added a degree of interest and comedy to the proceedings. Arriving at the venue on the Friday afternoon we were pleased to make the acquaintance of a riot van full of constables. It seems our campsite was beside a footpath that led across the fields directly to the BNP site, and this was closed and guarded for the duration. This meant we had a police presence the whole weekend, but as we are all good and virtuous, this was not a problem, in fact as things happened it was a positive attraction, as on the Saturday morning they allowed all the children to play with their riot shields, megaphones, CS gas, cudgels, and assorted law-enforcement equipment, and the site of small children hurling rocks at the lawmen caused some of our eyes to well-up with emotion. It’s a strange world.
Enormous quantities of tents went up, equipment was loaded into the music room, and the arrival of the hired toilet was greeted with hushed respect – finally faced with our Portaloo! This Mr. Porter had undertaken to service as janitor for the duration, a task he approached with far more relish then he ever applied to hunt sab benefits in Sunderland on Thursdays in November.
Mention in dispatches at this point for the Flag Detail, without whom we would have utterly failed to hang up the shiny new banner on the front porch. There see, you thought truck-owning convoy types were a bunch of shifty crooked villains who wouldn’t lift a finger to help their fellows unless there was money in it for them. We did too – largely due to our experiences in the Green Field at Glastonbury (‘van stuck? – tow you out for a tenner mate’), but clearly this is not always the case. Some trucks, in fact, are like enormous mobile Swiss army knives, with every manner of useful thing inside. Even a stepladder – not on most people’s lists of things to take camping. Maybe we’ll ask for a cement-mixer or a small vivarium this year.
Full menus were available throughout the weekend, without the usual complaints and swearing many will recall from Tallington’s overstressed kitchen. Lumb Farm is used to crowds, so everyone was able to get pretty much what they wanted – even the vegans, who don’t deserve to. Music kicked off around seven, and our notes claim that performers were Deacon, Paul Carter, Pog, Mark Hibbet, Chris Butler and Wob, who rounded off the night in style while around us the dark countryside swarmed with coppers and helicopters buzzed overhead.

No less than three police officers of varying rank interviewed Mr. Porter that day, eager to find out who and what we were. They rather suspected we were going to be an armed camp of anti-BNP protesters, and were possibly expecting an untidy phalanx to issue forth in the direction of the frolicking Nazis at any moment, bearing brickbats and Molotovs. We were able to persuade them that this was not so, and that the worst felony they might concern themselves over from our direction was trespass on the railway tracks at the nearby Midland Railway Centre, where some fine old diesels have their home.

Ashes On Fire

Saturday dawned early, with breakfast, showers – nice communal sporting ones – and all facilities available courtesy of the venue, which establishment did a nice job of making everyone feel like they actually wanted them there. Music kicked off at eleven with The ReEntrants and Verbal Warning overlapping with the junior cricket – which was fun but something we won’t arrange formally this year, as there seemed to be plenty of things going on around the site without it. Cracktown and the very lovely Rachael Pantechnicon followed, and brought matters up to the cricket match, which kicked off at 2.00pm. This year we were pleased to welcome a new adversary, and even though we lost, we don’t mind too much, as it was a good game and we are jolly good sports. Congratulations to Jessi Adams on his lucky and completely undeserved victory, and we’ll kick his ginger backside this year in the rematch. Nice to have a bit of room to play in again as well!

Music was back on at 5pm, and between teatime and midnight we were pleased to enjoy Alcohol Licks, Amateur Ninjas, Asbo Derek, The Charlies, Dizzy Carousel, New York Scum Haters, Eastfield and Blyth Power. Matters seem to have run smoothly, but we hope the stage and some improved lights in 2009 will make it even better. Thanks also to Mr. Henry Lawrence for the fire-eating seminar by the campsite after the show.

Ashes On Fire

Your correspondent missed most of this, of course, as he was in a huge tent putting a confused child to bed. Thus, the distant crooning of Wob and Pog served only as a faint balm to counterbalance the outraged howling of his affronted daughter, while the timeless Mark Astronaut’s performance was but an echo of a dream…

Ashes Over

Sunday morning. The policemen were wrapping things up having had a busy Saturday afternoon. Our campsite had been a little island of virtue in a sea of riot vans, bussed in protesters, Nazis, helicopters and wailing sirens, and by comparison Sunday was a day of rest. Mr. Henry Lawrence opened proceedings and was followed by an hour of children’s music and colouring, during which many of Mr. Brian Cant’s greatest hits were played. This was followed by Mourning for Autumn and the final set from Blyth Power, after which we all packed up and went home – eventually.
Sunday always used to have a faint atmosphere of weariness around it, and packing up the enormo-tent after everyone else has left is never fun, but 2008 left us feeling good about the whole thing. Best of all, we didn’t lose our shirts, and almost no-one complained about the door price. The venue was superb, and the adjacent riot only added to the sense of occasion.
See you there in 2009.