Its about the music and not the mud!

I’m writing this on a train thats just left Castle Carey the Monday after Glastonbury. Suddenly the aroma of the cariage has changed somewhat (as has the carpet colour). The papers strewn across my table are awash with stories of ‘The Big Clean Up’ as the temporary city which is Glastonbury returns slowly to being a dairy farm. All the papers seem to want to carry a picture of festival goers battling through a mixture of rubbish and mud as the mass exodus began. The times unashamedly carries a piece obsessed with poo – its almost as if they are celebrating shit, mess and dirt

Its a complete and utter contrast to the festival site which I left today at Dartington – a site which had just hosted the second edition of the home festival (see#homefest11). Twelve hours after the festival the only evidence of the previous days activities is the odd rook scavaging on the Courtyard lawn.

Ok so the scale is completely different (Glastonbury had some 180,000 punters over 3 days whilst Home boasted a modest 1,000+ and lasted for just 1 and a half days). But it seems theres something else going on too – something which I cant quite put my finger on.

[photo – Alice Carfrae]

When we started HOME last year we deliberately chose the weekend of Glastonbury. We wanted to contrast the ‘little’ of HOME with the ‘large’ of Glastonbury. But this wasn’t a marketing gimmick – more an ethos which ran through the whole festival. HOME is an ultra small festival where VIP areas are banned – artists and audience share the same spaces allowing a dialogue, an understanding and a respect to develop which simply would not be possible in a larger festival.

That bond, that respect between audience and performer is crucial to HOME. It allows us to do what many people said would be impossible – have a completely acoustic stage (ie no PA whatsoever) . It asks an awful lot of both artist and audience. For the artists they have to completely rethink the way they do things. As many of them told us it takes them out of their comfort zones. For the audience it requires total silence, total buy in. But the pay off is in what happens as a result – as Mark kidell puts it in his review for The Arts Desk:-

‘‘Something happens when performers take the risk of leaving mics and amps behind…. The audience has to reach out to listen, picking up a range of vibrations unfamiliar to our dulled ears. The effort required on both sides produces an intimacy that is absent from the more obvious thrill-seeking that goes with the full blast of amplification”

[photo – Alice Carfrae]

Its that ‘effort’, that ‘respect’ – for both audience and artist which sets HOME apart. And its that very same ‘effort’ and ‘respect’ which meant that at HOME when it came to clear up the site there was very little to clear away. As one of our volunteers ( a seasoned festival litter picker) put it ‘the mentality was completely different – people saw others caring so they cared too’. As one festival goer put it ‘it felt like those glorious early days of WOMAD’.

I’m sure there were some outstanding performances at Glastonbury – some moments of pure creative magic and the people I saw on my train were clearly very tired but very happy. But the girls I sat opposite from Castle Carey to London spent the entire journey talking about the people that got stuck in the mud ( a fat man at the Pyramid Stage and an Ice Cream Van) with barely a word for the performances they saw. Like the press they were obsessed with the mud, the filth, the shit. Whilst the conversations I overheard at breakfast the day after HOME were all about the performances and the magic moments.

Of course I’m biased – and HOME will never be able to offer that massed experience of many thousands of people witnessing a breathtaking performance (I’m thinking here of the late Gill Scott Heron’s set at WOMAD last year where despite the thousands watching it felt as though GSH was performing only to me) – but what it does offer is perhaps far more special. Its about an intimate encounter in a beautiful environment where respect and trust are key. A meaningful dialogue which goes far beyond the norm.

Put simply its about where the conversation is about the music and not the mud, the rubbish and all thats left behind – and long may that continue.

Heres to Home 2012!

(Matthew Linley produced Home 2010 and 2011 as a associate for and on behalf of Dartington. Dartington hosts three more festival this summer – Ways With Words, Dartington International Summer School and Interrogate).


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