Pre Glasto Glasto

Friday Morning…

The last 24 hours have been quiet. Sad news of the referendum result clouded my morning thoughts of a minutes silence for the Jo Cox organised by the site crews yesterday. So much of what this festival seems to be about – tolerance, creativity, charity and fun seems in tatters.

Glastonbury Festival wakes, wondering and wanders towards openning time.The overcast sky is keeping us warm but not hot. The mud is drying, still sticky, no sign of going away. Backstage acts do technical runs with tired crews, just finishing rigging their equipment in the tent or stage. I’m camped near The Amble Band, a group of musicians who share a passion for brass instruments with wearing pink. As a walkabout act at Glastonbury they come equipped with essential wellies. They have the attributes for all performers here, be seen, be heard and keep dry.
The New York Brass Band were rehearsing early near the performers food tent. A lively proficient sound mixed with rather surprisingly lack lustre vocals. Later in the morning I stumbled across them as they spring an early gig on a crowd near the Greenpeace stage. It became obvious that the missing component from this morning is the super charged vocalist who now pulls the sound together. A tight stage presence and an audience of a few thousand were quickly happily bopping to upbeat covers in the mud.
On the whole people are finding their way around by wandering. Bewildered stewards try and direct people as best they can, but one admitted to me to having no idea where anything was and no training. The Glastonbury Free Press have printed their Thursday free retro paper edition on an antique Heidleburg printing press set up in a tent. Just outside their office a young confident Tasmanian juggler took to the stage for his first Glastobury. With a smart black costume and white props, contrasted with the muddied audience. All the same his slick and confident routine held the crowd. My guess is that he may have had the best gig he will have at the festival. From now on he will be competing for attention with a hundred other acts at any one time.

I bumped into a few old friends. Palfi the Clown and partner Nikki have been ensconced in their camping place since Monday and Andy Smart looks ready for action in the impro shows. The old school busking crew swap tales in the back stage bar. The atmosphere of people determined to have a good time is in the air. A peculiar whiff of English amateurism pervades the fields as a hundreds of stalls serve strange plates of perennial “festival food”. Yesterday people paraded in sun dresses and wellies, top hats with feathers and face sparkle, on the whole, set off with big smiles. Sticky tape, instant coffee, flags and flapping tents. England comes out to play in a farm in Wiltshire.


The Cabaret Tent at #Glasto2016

A few hardy perennial favorites here. Arther Smith was on the cabaret circuit in London in the 80s when I was. Attila the Stockbroker likewise. Paddy Bramwells graduated from the gilded cobblestones of Covent Garden (as did Eddie Izzard and a good few more). Funny old world eh? Feeding the Fish look from their website to be some kind of cosmic neon kinetic billboard but I have never seen them live. Steve Rawlings and Rod Laver are likewise jugglers doubling up from the Big Top Tent.

Yuriko Kotani is a Japanese stand-up and a recent award winner so I imagine a number of the other people I don’t know on the listing are mostly stand-ups. That is kind of outside my remit.  You are on your own. If stand up if your thing, my best guess is, this is the place to be while you wait for your band to come on the main / stage / rain to stop / whatever.

Miss Behave is also moonlighting from the Circus Big Top where she is also doing shifts as a compare. These people really work long hours. Give them a big round of applause. If you can keep your eyes open…

Get the full story and times from the festival official listings by following this link



Talking to Shaena Brandel from Pirates of the Carabina

I spoke by Skype today with Shaena Brandel. She is one of the founders of the circus skills company called Pirates of the Carabina. I will be reviewing their show at Glastonbury next week.

Here she talks about running a company, working with directors, creating new work and funding it.


Walkabouts at #Glasto2016

Walkabout characters are often highlights of the festival for a lot of people. Well, what to say?  Meeting people doing very odd things is quite normal at Glastonbury. This listing is obviously not a location. It is a series of names of characters you may happen across. Most of the fun is in the surprise and sometimes the slow realisation you are watching a performer and not just some completely unhinged member of the public.

I feel like these performers don’t get the kudos or credit they deserve. They don’t get a link to their contact details on the official website either.

The Natural Theatre Company from Bath were early proponents and are still strutting their stuff this year. Original Mixture have been  Glastonbury fixtures for a long, long time. Original Fixtures perhaps? (Ho ho ho).

Rumpel has been travelling the world for years. He is a non stop performance. Palfi has been visiting Glastonbury since it started I imagine. I’m not sure he is listed. He will be there. Big Rory and The Other Half are just people I know. There are many, many listed…

Get the full line up here with times from the official site (no mention of location).

The Pavement at #Glasto2016

As this name might suggest, it’s home to street acts. I will try to catch Logy as I know him from Belfast. A funny and dexterous juggler. The Liverpool School of Cantonese Kung Fu just because of the name. The Mighty Gareth because he features in a book I have just read. Billy No Mates – because I think he has been around for the last 30 years and I just have to ask him…. …well, why? Has he not figured it out yet?

I can only recommend again getting the latest estimates on running times from the horses mouth, The Pavement act times are here



The Astrolabe at #Glasto2016

The Astrolabe Theatre is a new venue to me, May be it is the old Theatre Tent witrh a new name? There are certainly a few friendly faces… …Los Excentricos and Jonathan Kay. It’s a bit tucked away from the hustle and bustle so it may be a venue with more focus. From a look at the photos I can find there seems to be seats. Los Excentricos are theatre clowns based in Barlcelona and their work is funny, subtle and detailed. Alan Sands, The comedy hypnotist and Stephen Frost Impro Stars are going to need focus so my guess is there is going to be less hustle and bustle. We will see! I haven’t looked up who anyone else is apart from Sir Henry at Rawlinson End which if it uses Vivian Stanshall’s script can’t go far wrong.

As before, I recommend getting the latest estimates on running times from the horses mouth, the full official astrolabe
schedule here

The Circus Big Top at #Glasto2016

This is the main big top circus tent on the festival site as the name might suggest. It has a raised stage and theatre style lighting. Inside there is a rolling variety show with comperes who also fill in if there is a need to change rigging and so on. Pretty much a variety show format. It almost repeats each day. More or less. Seats there are not. Sightlines are not great as the stage is only slightly raised and the ground is, well… flat. You can wander in and out and people do which makes for a rather distracted atmosphere for the performers.

Having said all that there will be some rather more extended acts in there as well and Flown by Pirates of the Carabina is one such (on around 6.15pm Friday – Saturday and Sunday – all times may vary! (I have done a mini chat with Shaena one of the founders and performers just here). Some super high-quality speciality acts look really good here and most people can sustain interest for 8 – 15 minutes. Steve Rawlings is a skilled character juggler who has had a long and successful solo career and The Space Cowboy is younger but well established on the variety circuit. He hails from Byron Bay in Australia and swallows swords among many other skills. I’ve seen Steve over the years, not recently, I also look forward to watching and hopefully meeting Chayne aka The Space Cowboy…

All the compares in the Big Top: CAPTAIN RUINTHE MIGHTY GARETHBUNNY MORETHANMIKE RAFFONE and MISS BEHAVE deserve special mention as they do long shifts and have to cope with all manner of sudden changes of schedule on the fly.

Of course, there is a mass of crew backstage. Riggers, stage managers, sound people, lighting and another mob looking after them, the catering and admin crews. Yes, what you see is the shiny tip of the iceberg…

In general, there is a good mix of modern circus and a few locally based circus schools who showcase end-of-course student shows as well. (Wookey Hole (Gerry Cottle’s school) and Circo Media in Bristol came the last time I was here).

Check back at the venue for running times. The latest news will be on a blackboard outside most venues. The master schedule is here on the Circus Big Top and it has the target times for the acts. It’s on a section of the official Glastonbury website.