Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Cropredy Mindfulness

I've been drying out, over the last couple of days, after my visit to Fairport Convention's Cropredy Festival, at the village of that name near Banbury. (If those names mean nothing to you, other perhaps than "Banbury," I'll add a brief paragraph at the end of this post to whet your appetite...)

The Met Office were heroically incomepetent on this occasion, forecasting light showers and dry periods Thursday, and cloudy with sunny spells for Friday and Saturday. In fact, the showers were heavy and frequent right through the weekend, which made many of us cross because we came underprepared. On Saturday night there was a torrential downpour complete with lightning. The site turned muddy and a bit squalid (though nothing like Glasto mudbaths of yore.)It really would help if all us peace and love newagers stopped dropping litter into the mud.. but that's another story.

Festivals are a strange and interesting environment to me, but I'll get to the point soon, so for now, just to say that the intense throng (only 20,000, but a small arena), the evil weather, and middle-class late-middle-aged neuroses about the best time to visit the chemical toilets, (really not so bad, comparatively speaking) how to keep relatively clean in the mud, how to eat something nice that didn't cause repeat visits to aforesaid loos,anxiety over the integrity of the tent, combined to produce in your reporter a fine mix of tension and exhilaration.

How to maintain a degree of balance and calm, so as to get the most from this event?


Not easy in this context, but I can report a couple of modest successes. One brief period where I managed to feel entirely in the present moment, in my tent, at a safe distance from Rick Wakeman - only about five or ten minutes, trying to think only of my breathing, bringing my thoughts back every time they strayed. Seemed to help a bit.

Another moment: after a splendid breakfast at the village hall (what lovely people)I wandered into the large and beautiful old church and sat down. As my regular reader will know, I am not a Christian, but one would have to be exceptionally insensitive not to find in such a place an inherited calm, the result of centuries of ritual, spirituality, tranquil thought. It was not difficult to be present and undistracted in there. Not for long, though - a little girl came in with her dad, she just wanted to see what was inside. All fine. I didn't feel like shutting these people out, so "hello," and on with the day.

A different moment - the excitement of being close to Bellowhead at full throttle. Totally absorbing, and in a sense entirely present, but not the reduction of thought and feeling that you get from mindful meditation. So - a different sort of presentness.(Have you seen them? Dangerously good, brilliantly theatrical, unique.)

Lastly, in the middle of what to me was, I'm afraid, a horrible "Celtic" rock "opera" (sorry boys) about King Arthur - the storm and rain smote us. Just when I was deciding that I would never attend another outdoor festival, and wishing all heavy rock guitarists eternal incarceration in sound-proof rooms, IT happened with my doing almost nothing: instead of grumbling about what should be/might have been/won't be/wasn't, I was there, not caring about what might happen, not categorising or assessing the experience, just being there, with these people, now. I held on to that for a bit. It felt like freedom to me.

Then the Arthurians cleared off, Fairport were left to their own excellent devices, we had "Matty Groves," "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" (I get closer to tears with that as the years go by, a moment of finely-wrought sentiment) and finally and forever, "Meet On The Ledge."

Brief moments of mindfulness that enriched the weekend and helped me to get the most from it. Not the regular meditation set-up, just the best I could do on the hoof. It still helped.

I'll try to write abit more about this business of being in the present, another time.

Note: Fairport Convention - the band that more or less started the "electric folk" or "folk rock" genre. Many lineups down the years, and some truly exceptional talents (Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, Simon Nicoll, Daves Pegg and Swarbrick)they can play and have played almost anything. "Folk" is a pallid term for this music. They have run a festival in the Oxfordshire village of Cropredy, near Banbury,for thirty years. They have an excellent relationship with the village. (The festival originated in a scratch gig at the village fete - two of the band lived there then.) The festival is limited in size, very well-organised, has a very wide range of music (this year brilliant jazzer Martin Taylor, young traditional guns Breabach from Scotland, singer/songwriter Thea Gilmour, Mabon from Wales, Status Quo for goodness' sake, Little Feat, Fairport themselves etc etc - so not really just a folk festival but plenty of folk, folkesque and traditionally-derived music. Very good value at £85 or so. No or very little crime, and so far as I could see, no drunken fights etc. A powerful tradition of meeting up with friends year after year. If you don't want to camp, you can B&B in banbury. If you've a narrowboat, it's on a canal. Excellent and very large bar - Wadsworth's 6X. Nicely sloping arena field. If you want to know more, go to FC's website. If you're already bored - sorry. Even funerealists and would-be meditators have to let their hair down sometimes...


  1. Well, I don't know much about a state of mindfulness, but I have certainly enjoyed an episode of detachment amidst your words, your storytelling and your craft -- and that has given me, as a writing-nerd, a great deal of pleasure.

    As to the matter of your post (I've read it for that, now, too), I've read about this festival (probably in the Guardian), noted that it's full of oldies like what I am, and have often thought how nice it would be to go. May see you next year, GM!

  2. Many thanks Charles, so pleased you enjoyed it. Yes, the age range at Croppers ranges from the infant to those of us richer in years. It's nice to see how many young people come along, of the age group who you might think would categorise Fairport etc as distinctly uncool, as well as those of us who remember Richard Thompson as a quite unreasonably talented 19-year old. A good case of bugger the labels, just open your ears. And enjoy the atmosphere. So maybe see you there!

  3. Hi Gloria,

    Glad that you were able to achieve places of peace over the weekend. The festival sounds fab. The rubbish is the thing that gets us down the most, isn't it? I remember going to "V", must be 10 years ago now, and it was the strewn litter that got me down more than the cubicled facilites.

    Churches do have a serenity to them, don't they. Sounds like a great weekend, even with the nasty weather.

  4. Thanks XP, be reassured that when I take over, litterers will be executed at the spot where they dropped their rubbish.But of course I'm not getting more right-wing with the passing years, it's just common sense...