Tuesday, 12 July 2011

825 THE 2011 SWINDON “BIG ARTS DAY”, Lydiard Park, Swindon, Saturday 9 July 2011

A welcome repeat of last year’s successful inaugural “Big Arts Day”, a one-day open air festival showcasing the performing and creative arts talent residing within Swindon, and another opportunity to take the kids to see Tim’s band The Shudders! This time we had 3 in tow; Evan was up for it, so we re-jigged his weekend visit schedule to coincide with this. So we set off about 12.30, hitting traffic which surprisingly cleared just the other side of the Link Centre, and parking up in the far field, a short hike from the Events Field and main park, about 1ish. It immediately seemed more professionally run; having apparently catered for 5,000 attendees last year and been overwhelmed with 20,000, the event organiser Steve Causer had advised us that this year they needed to bring in a better infrastructure to cope with the numbers, and this was immediately evident. It just felt better run straight away on arrival.

A concession this year was a smattering of fun-fair activities around the site; a bigger, better run event inevitably costs more to stage, so compromises need to be made to help bolster what is basically a non-profit and, more laudably, free event. Thus it was that we needed to drag Logan away from the “Hook-A-Duck” stand whilst wandering through the plethora of stalls to the Riffs/Holmes Music Stage, an inflatable raised stage which was a marked improvement over last year’s “Gazebo” affair, to catch some of THE FIXED. I’m used to seeing bands younger than myself, but this lot of indie tykes looked barely into their teens! Nevertheless, they seemed bright, enthusiastic and competent despite their age, and I’d liked to have stuck around to catch more of their set. However, I had an appointment in the belly of a whale…

An inflatable sperm whale sat in the middle of the field, with a Fish Wife beckoning the kids in; Logan wanted to go, so we entered the belly, enjoying some fishy pirate tales from a “shipwrecked” Pirate Queen, until it got too hot for Logan and we left. Rach, Evan and Kasey had met up with Sarah and Kate, and they were watching a “Time Trouble” theatre show which was apparently utterly bonkers, so we joined them, then wandered over to the Riffs stage where NOT JUST BUSINESS were rounding off their energetic, No Doubt-influenced pop set. THE SHUDDERS were next up at 2.20, only running 20 minutes late, a vast improvement from last year, so we took our places as the mid-afternoon sun emerged to welcome them. Introduced onstage as a “metal folk” band, which Liam quickly corrected to “thrash folk”, they played ostensibly the same set as their show last Saturday, albeit sounding better, more practiced and assured, and with a considerably improved sound in the inflatable stage (although Tim had suggested it would be like playing in a bouncy castle, and hoped the moorings held as he didn’t fancy playing a set floating 200 feet above the field!). Again, “Mary’s Grace” was a nice slow-burn vibe soundtrack to a sunny afternoon, and the singalong “Better Off Dead” was a well-played mid-set highlight. Logan and Kasey popped down the front for some dancing (including some incongruous breakdancing from Logan!) for the final 2 numbers “Words Of A Fool” and “Lost And Broke”, again Irish folk-tinged and fiddly-diddly fun.

Hung out awhile before we took a wander to the helter skelter for Logan, then poked around the stalls (including Nina’s beads stall, manned by the entire Prothero family!) while SLAGERIJ played a noisy, bolshy ska-punk set which drew a big crowd. Had a wander into the Lawn for ice cream afterwards, while SWINDON SAMBA plied their drumbeat dance on the Main Stage, then decided to call it a day about 4.30, as Logan and Kasey were getting a little hyper and tired respectively, and Evan and I had a Cinema appointment. I’d have liked to gotten more out of the day, but parenthood decided otherwise. Nevertheless, we all enjoyed our sampling of what seemed another fun and successful event!

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