To Castle Park! …on Saturday morning for the third Colchester Free Festival. A hat trick of hyperlocal happenings in Britain’s Oldest Recorded, bringing together music, art, kids activities, comedy, poetry, local traders, local pubs and bars, oh – and also the Sunny Colch community.
Which is quite some achievement.
We’ve already had the High Street gathering (and soaking) for the 2012 Torch Relay; the ACE Colchester Carnival was the chance for the many local groups to showcase what can be achieved to the wider community.
The Colchester Free Festival is the opportunity for the achievements of the past year on the Colchester live music scene to be celebrated, all within the undoubted beauty of Castle Park.
But first, what about somewhere to park your bicycle?
Much thought has gone into the expansion and sustainability of the Free Festival in the six months of planning leading up to Saturday afternoon. It was great to see the free bicycle-parking scheme put in place by our friends @ChapeauVelo being so popular.
A brief walk around the site ahead of the official 11am opening, and the team of Festival snappers were being briefed by Head Snapper Supreme, @jjdoyleoriginal. Our instructions were to look beyond the music stages and out towards the whole Festival site. Even with a team of over a dozen volunteer photographers, the sheer scope of the Free Festival this year was impossible to capture in its entirety.
But here’s a flick bodge job attempt anyway.
The Lower Castle Park perimeter became a market place for the day. @kennedymccall put in a fine effort in persuading many of the hyperlocal traders to take up a pitch for the afternoon. They were rewarded with some early trade that continued as the Free Festival unfolded.
The Lion Walk Main Stage area slowly started to fill up just ahead of showtime. A wander up towards the magnificence of the Castle Park bandstand and some heavy dub was blasting out to signal that the Free Festival was underway – all before midday as well.
The first twangs that we came across were plucked out from Buddy Lee Dickens on the Acoustic Stage. Generations of Sunny Colch hyperlocal historical types have grappled over the years as to what purpose the Castle Park moat can usefully serve, other than filling it with over-sensitive sixth form types.
The alternative answer was found on Saturday: simply make the moat a makeshift musical stage, under the professional guidance of Ice Breaker Promotions.
The Band of Fools – a name that could *possibly* be used interchangeably throughout the afternoon – were opening a festival within a festival over on the Bowling Green Stage. This was the chilled out ying to the yang of the buzzing off yer tits over on the Bandstand.
Back down in the Lion Walk area and the first brollies of the Free Festival were starting to make an appearance.
No worries – blue skies all the way back towards Jumbo – the umbrella action was to block out all of that Sunny Colch loveliness.
The Colchester Stitchers and the Bitchers had by now set up shop alongside the bicycle boys. It was a perfect synergy between bicycles and bobbin and weaving. Probably best not to knit your own bicycle though.
Looking around Lower Castle Park and what soon became clear was that the Free Festival is probably the most inclusive event in all of Sunny Colch. You needn’t be a music / arts / poetry lover to make the most of the splendour that is the back garden of Britain’s Oldest Recorded.
Some folk just carried on with their usual weekend activities – playing football, walking the dog, having a crafty snog.
We do LOVE you Sunny Colch.
Time to take a deep breath – time to wander over to the Kid’s Area.
Emily Green and Emma Lucas had managed to transform an entire field into what looked like the best possible fun that anyone under the age of 11 could possibly enjoy. Actually it was one hell of a thrill for anyone under the age of, oooh, 43.
Put simply: the Willow Green Kids Area was HUGE. Attention to detail was incredible. We heard pirate stories being read out, a freestyle painting area to play in, and enough HYPER HYPER hyperlocal young folk WHOOP and WOO to chase away those bruising skies starting to appear in the distance over Jumbo.
Be gone, you buggers (bruising skies, not the lovely kids.)
The breakdancing and body popping demonstrations by Doc Popper and pals took us back to our own cardboard b-boy days. Regular tuition is given by the Good Doc over at Ramp Rage. The Free Festival was the chance for some of the Sunny Colch electro boogie boys and girls to show their moves.
Poetry is ACE. It gets a helluva lot more popular when it is peeing it down outside and the Spoken Word Tent becomes all the more welcoming.
Colchester Slum Poet Fred Slattern isn’t one to put dampener on things. Tales of growing old disgracefully around Highwoods hit the perfect hyperlocal tone for the afternoon.
But every Free Festival needs a Big Bang.
With the rain having washed away our inhibitions, it was time to get dirty with The Tankton Art Canon.
The brilliant but bonkers Johnny Buffalo had once again taken over a corner of Castle Park with his loose collective of Hythe based Buffalo Tank boys and girls. The Slightly Odd Village Fete was actually bloody weird.
The Toast Office kept on closing, Krazy Kroquet was played with improvised broom sticks and the Art Canon fired up a big riposte to all the @firstsite knockers who still aren’t sure what is meant by the term modern art.
Colonel Mosschops [oh yes] invited five Free Festival folk to take part in an art competition. Sadly the end results were RUBBISH. The only salvage was to rip them up and stick them down the Art Canon.
A lighting of the artistic touch paper later and you are left with new art made out of RUBBISH art.
But yeah – BONKERS.
A bit like the Tankton Fairground stall – throw a goldfish into an empty bowl, and win a bag of water.
A swift half of shandy in the nearby Tankton Arms was required to recover.
Over at the Hollytrees Stage and a lovely mid-afternoon ambience was starting to build up under the banner of the very kind Tiptree Jam sponsors. Having a bar nearby certainly helped.
A wander back down towards the Lion Walk Stage and Kevin Pearce was making quite an impact for such an unassuming fella. The vocals carried all the way back towards the vintage stalls, leaving a warm glow all across Lower Castle Park.
The perfect soundtrack for… a marriage proposal.
We’re not sure how it was pulled off, but fine work fella in managing to get your fiancé to be up on the Main Stage and then going down on one knee.
And just for the record – she said YES!
Preferably with the Free Festival friendly Surfquake. Has there ever been a band better suited to the mid-afto session in the Sunny Colch? Bears dancing in formation gathered at the foot of the stage in homage to the Surfquake. Which is something that you wouldn’t have seen at V over in Chelmsford last weekend.
An afternoon tea break was required back at Tankton. Following the excitement of the Art Canon, the Slightly Odd Village Fete was now full of Flappers. A 40′s style groove was giving it some, ramped up with some happy hardcore to make quite a unique hyperlocal happening.
Back over at the Hollytrees Stage and it was Not Going Out – not to mention not leaving the Hollytrees Stage either. The first Mexican Wace of the Free Festival went back and forth from the old Hollytrees house. That’s the power of the blues, man.
Down at the Lion Walk Stage and Angry Vs the Bear had become Angry Vs the Rain. Angry eventually won the day, seeing off the slight… downpour that failed to dampen the Free Festival resolve. It’s a good job those haircuts had the protection of the stage covering…
Dingus Khan drew the biggest backstage [oh yes] crowd of the day. Much hyped hyperlocally, but with very good reason. This has been quite a weekend for the Dingus boys, with the Free Festival being the sandwich filler in-between sets at both Leeds and Reading.
The two outer gigs may be a bit crusty [aha!] but the Free Festival allowed the Stour Estuary boys to have a little sweet and sour fun on their home patch.
Quite an act to follow – thank the chuffers for Animal Noise.
There could only really be one band that could realistically hope to headline the Colchester Free Festival in 2012. Animal Noise have worked their arses off on the hyperlocal scene over the past twelve months.
The reward has been not only for a Free Festival headline slot, but also a growing reputation outside of Sunny Colch. This might be one of the last occasions that we get to see Josh, Jack and Birdie locally for a little while.
Good job that the boys got dressed dup for the occasion.
And so that was the Free Festival 2012.
The Colchester Free Festival will always be close to our hearts here at The Chronic. It was immediately after the 2011 successful second year that plans for a Hyperlocal Blog for Britain’s Oldest Recorded were first hatched.
Folk around the town approached us, asking if we couldn extend the *other* hyperlocal action over in Wivenhoe to a wider Sunny Colch audience. Out of the Free Festival came The Chronic.
You can see why we spent all of Saturday simply SMILING.
Cast your minds back to early April and that first planning meeting for the Free Festival staged @firstsite. The stated aims were to celebrate the Sunny Colch community and music scene, and to hopefully achieve this by working collectively.
Was this achieved?
Plus bloody loads more as well. The real success of the Free Festival is the feat of getting 10,000 plus folk from Sunny Colch talking together. Walking around Castle Park and apart from the ACE music, all you heard was conversations. This was the bringing together of all that is great in Britain’s Oldest Recorded and showing what potential our town has for the future.
No well-intentioned Colchester Borough Council pubic consultation can gain such a response rate as the Free Festival. If you want to know where we are currently at as a town, then Castle Park on Free Festival Day is a great indicator.
Peering down the slope towards Lower Castle Park and we’re looking and sounding rather SEXY, folks.
And so aims achieved, the Sunny Colch music scene [of sorts] celebrated plus plenty of SMILES.
Sunny Colch – you never let us down.
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