Monday, 19 August 2013

Festive festival benches

Yes, it's the festival season. And just to show how cutting edge I am, I'm liveblogging this from a fabulous festival that's going on right now!

Here is a gorgeous teepee in the camping field. 

Teepees are in high demand for the big music pow-wows. 

So are yurts.

Tents are popular, of course. Some of them offer just a little life.

Others are rather posh and come with their own waterparks.

Some are see-through so you pretty much know what's going on in there for the whole of the festival. I'm been keeping an eye on this one and will let you know if anything interesting happens. 

A festival tent is often a silly flowered thing that is left behind and recycled by a worthy local group to be given to people in disaster areas. 

I know these organisations mean well but if you had lost your home in a flood or earthquake would you really want to live in a Hello Kitty tent?

My editor for this post is Jovi, a rock chick who attended the original festival at Woodstock in 1969.  Jovi has seen a lot of changes in festivals since they were half a million strong. Then it was song and celebration. Now it's hotpants and designer wellies. And festive festival tents too. 

Here's Jovi with her festival calendar for 2013. She's still wearing what she wore at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970: her flower-power tank top, her velvet pants suit, her daisy beret. And bare feet, of course. 

I think she looks pretty cool, though there's a bit of a festival-pong about her these days. Half a century of festival going tends to take its toll. 

Here's Jovi's van, the same one she had when Joan Baez sang Diamonds and Rust for Bob Dylan in 1975. There's quite a lot of rust. 

Also a toilet tent. Now that she's older, Jovi finds a porta-potty essential festival kit. 

Lots of festival-goers these days demand their comforts, like these Native Americans, who much prefer the satellite TV in their motorhome to the harsh conditions of glamping. 

Actually, they aren't Native Americans. They're from Leighton Buzzard in Hertfordshire. High Plains Drifters they are not.

Jovi is reminding me that this is supposed to be a blog about festival benches. 

This sort of thing.

And this.

And this.

And longdrop toilets. 

Oh yes, festivals are famous for the conditions of their toilets. It would be fair to say that most festival toilets are the pits.

The queues for the toilets can be something like a traffic jam. 

Festival-goers tend to be very tolerant though. They understand the monumental difficulties of providing facilities for tens of thousands of people who spend all day drinking beer and cider. This festival has erected a monument to those people. 

Jovi is telling me to stop talking about toilets and tents. Festivals are about music. And benches, of course.

A lot of festival time is spent chilling out in the heat on dismal benches. 

Or sitting on anything trying to keep out of the mudfest.

But inbetween all the bench-sitting, there is much to do.

Mungo and I are off to see Johnny Cash. I am live-blogging this bench even as we sit on it. OMG how cool is that?

By the time Johnny gets out of Folsom Prison we're gasping for a cup of tea. Fortunately, there is a Chai tent with nice mugs of Earl Grey and a couple of jolly benches.

This festival is in meltdown. HELP! I need somebody. Not just anybody!

OK, these guys might do. Minor musicians with silly names like George and Ringo. Never hesrd of 'em. 

Beatles on Green Hill Almaty Kazakstan 2011, CC license 2.0

But they're the only ones around. It's seriously hot so no one wants to sit on the benches out in the blazing sun.

Earlier today the Edwardians bagged the best benches nearest the bandstand.

All manner of shade-seeking has been put into practice. Jovi and I set up a little office tent to do our editing work.

Shade-rage is breaking out as everyone runs for the trees. 

Have you ever tried to run in flipflops? A lot of us didn't make it. 

I was overcome with heat and had to be rescued by some capable guys in fancy dress.

On The Ship 1887, Julian Falat

Thanks guys!

Most of the shade is for the Festival Kidz. It's only fair as they have to go to school.

This little boy is in his onesie and all ready to be taken to school. 

Circus skills and drumming are big on the curriculum.

lol, the teacher is forever blowing bubbles.

Rumours have started going around about the headline acts for the evening. Some of them are saying l:[-]    I thinks this means Frank Sinatra but Jovi says it's Mick Jagger. She ought to know. She was one of his rock chicks in the 60s.

I just got a text saying it might be Glenn Miller. So we're all prepared for Swing.

In the dance tent they're gearing up for some weird kind of electro-hiphop.

Some people prefer music unplugged, but if that's what you're expecting at a festival, you've got your wires crossed. 

Mungo and I aren't fussy about gigs. House, garage, shed. We can find a place for everything. 

Mungo likes to let his hair down. 

He's partial to grunge and he was hoping for some Nirvana but all we got was the back of the Kurt Cobain bench.

We're nipping into The Soho Tent to see Kirsty MacColl now. 


It's just luck that Janis Joplin is coming on next.

Finding a bench at this festival is a problem though. Some people have resorted to looking for a bench in other people's campervans.

Jovi is saying this would never have happened at Yasgar's farm. The bombers were riding shotgun in the sky and turning into butterflies. It was peace, man.

The DFS tent has big squishy sofas but it's a really long wait to get one. 

This panda has been standing at the front of the stage all afternoon and so far has never got a seat.

Onstage, a tribute band is playing a homage to The Monkees.

This is annoying a lot of people who are thinking why should those monkeys have a bench when we can't have one.

Right now there are a lot of very sweaty people in a very hot tent.

In the circumstances, bench-rage is inevitable. 

These girls are worried that someone is going to take their bench.

Even piano benches are in short supply. This one is set aside for Liberace, who's on later.

Jovi just got told off for trying to sit on this one. Apparently it belongs to Mozart. He'll be on later too, playing his magic flute.

So if he's got the flute, why can't we have the bench?

These kidz came all the way from Cuba to do a Jerry Lee Lewis duet and while they were playing, someone stole the bench out from under them.  

Jovi says this is not groovy. 

After the bench stealing incident, this pianist gets her dog to help her guard her bench.

We're down at the World Music tent now and there's some fierce competition for benches. 

You know those people from Leighton Buzzard in the Dakota motorhome? Well, they're getting really aggressive about keeping their bench.

A few minutes ago I mistook this musical instrument for a bench and tried to sit on it.

The guy from Bali wasn't best pleased. He says it's a rindik. OK, but 
come on, doesn't it look like a bench to you? 

Basically, you can stand around until you're blue in the face and still not find a bench at this festival.

With the absence of benches, people have started collapsing in the heat.

Wow, breaking news!

Louis Armstrong has had to stop playing because his wife has fainted in the Beautiful World Tent. He's carrying her out to First Aid and it looks like she'll be ok.

A few seasoned festival-goers bring their own seats. Here are our friends Bubba and Nathan chilling out in the Polar Zone with a couple of bears beers. 

photo by Miggy's Mum

Jovi thinks folding chairs and umbrellas and festival mats are for wimps. At Woodstock nobody came prepared and they were stardust. They were golden. Everybody had a great time finding their way back to the garden. They didn't need satnavs and solar-powered phone chargers.

Jovi does go for festival hats though. You have to have a festival hat.

Anything will do.  

I'm in a boutique shop trying to buy a hat but I don't like the look of the shopkeepers. It's kind of creepy. Both of them seemed to be having an out-of-body experience.

Maybe they've been in the Laughing Yoga tent for too long? Or had too many hot stones piled on them in the Healing Yurt. 

I'm steering clear of those places for the moment. I've got quite enough karma as it is, thanks.

In fenced-off parts of the festival A-list celebrities have everything they need, including benches. They don't have to pop out to find one.  

Inside his air-conditioned Airstream, Liberace has his own bench.

Being a celebrity doesn't necessarily guarantee a bench though. Even Jimi Hendrix can't find a bench. He's standing out in the open tuning up for his set.

And before he's on for his Pastoral Symphony gig on the Green Stage, Beethoven finds himself in a patch of weeds at the foot of Glastonbury Tor. 

I've just checked Twitter. You know who's trending right now? Howlin' Wolf. 

We're running across to the Nature Field hoping to see him.

No wonder he's howlin'. There's only one bench and another wolf seems to be after him to take it. 

Jovi tries to reason with them, suggesting The Woodstock Way (peace and understanding) as a way of dealing with the problem.

Finally, both wolves get their own ends of the bench and the festive spirit of the Nature Field is restored, though a certain amount of howlin' is still going on.

Mungo, Jovi and I are really flagging now.

Hoping to find some reasons to be cheerful, we go to see Ian Dury.

OK! Things are looking up. 

In the Tantric Dreams tent, Jovi has bagged herself a comfy armchair and settled down with her knitting.

It's lunchtime so she took a little bacon and she took a little beans and she's seen the Johnny Horton bench that comes from New Orleans. 

Meanwhile, Mungo finds himself a little bench at the bus-stop. 

This is handy because the bus serves lovely tofu burgers in its upstairs festaurant.  Yummy.

Picnic benches are appearing out of nowhere. 

The Mexican benches are deserted though, maybe because all those cacti are making people feel chilli.

Did you see what I did there?  Just a little joke to liven up this liveblog. I may have said before? This blog is LIVE! 

I want to go back to camp and lie down for a bit. I'm wading through a sea of tents and I can't find our camp.

I keep hoping our tent will just pop up.

Oh, what am I like? We haven't got a tent! 

We've brought Mungo's little camping car.

As a landmark for where we're camped, I'm looking out for the penthouse camper I saw this morning.

But now there's a guy on stilts and I think he must have stolen the camper! Also, it looks like he's going to trample the guy who is trying to take photographic evidence of the crime. 

Panic stations! I'm a witness! What do I do? 

I think I might be over-reacting here. Sorry.

The noise and exhaustion gets to you after a couple of days. You need nerves of steel at a festival.

OK, here's the camper. I just didn't recognise it with a truck underneath it.

I thought I was in the camping field but no, I'm here in the Planet Zone. 

I stumble into a dance tent where some World Music is going on. Bagpipes.

Fortunately, there's a nice lake for a quick dip and this makes me feel better.

Now I'm popping into a shop to get some superdry clothes. They have vintage wedding dresses, kaftans, lots of sparkly skirts. 

The shop assistant looks like she's off her face. She could do with a good night's sleep.

It's too late for that though. It has taken me all afternoon trying to find our campsite and I never found it. It's dusk now and fairy lights are coming on all over the site. Magic! 

I've found Jovi and Mungo, who are watching some Indian dancers in the Hindu Kush Cafe. 

Mungo says that if you put a plank across their feet you'd have a bench and then finally we'd have somewhere to sit. 

There's a lot of hype about the headline acts. 

Some people are saying it'll be a thriller so we're going down to have a look for Michael Jackson. 

Yep. He's there on his bench.

A rumour is going round that the headline act is none other than The King. The symbol is 5:-) which I don't really get. 

We can't believe it but then Jovi spots a suspicious AirStream with the smell of fried banana and peanutbutter wafting from the windows. 

She hangs around for a while and sees quite a few Kings showing off their credentials.

But of course there's only one King. 

He's here and it's a great gig!

We've found a bench to stand on at last. We're waving our glowsticks over our heads and dancing for all we're worth.

So BFN from the festival! I hope you've enjoyed the live blog. (Did I mention that it was live?) OMG, I am sooooo cutting edge.


The pictures of tents, campervans, toilets, benches, and most photos of the festival site were taken by me. I'm pretty sure I took more photographs than the official festival photographer. I was so busy taking photographs that I missed most of the music. I'm not even sure there was any music.

The picture of Jovi with the festival tents is from the brilliant adult colouring book Dream Cities by Rosie Goodwin and Alice Chadwick (Hamlyn 2015). It was one of the first things I coloured and I didn't do it very well. 

The benches in the rain are made from painted railway sleepers and were at Glastonbury Festival in 2007, which was one of those memorable Glasto years. The rain and mud of Glasto 2007 were captured to perfection by Russell James Smith, who comes from Sheffield but is currently taking pictures in New Zealand. You can see them on his photostream at

The Johnny Cash bench is in Scotland at Falkland, Fife.,_Falkland,_Fife.JPG The plaque was photographed in 2012 by Kim Traynor.

Wow, The Beatles on a bench! Beatles on Green Hill Almaty Kazakstan 2011 is a photograph by Ken and Nyetta and it's available on a Creative Commons generic license 2.0 

The beautiful painting of a woman overcome by heat dates from 1887 when delicate ladies made long, hot journeys to colonial climes, in this case Colombo in Ceylon. Men rushed to her aid with fans and parasols. The artist is the Polish Impressionist, Julian Farat (1853-1929), who is also known for his watercolour landscapees.  

The bandstand is in Hyde Park, Sydney, in about 1900. I found the photo at

The Danse aux Eaux-Bonnes (Vallee d'Ossau) was painted by Pierre Gorse (1816-1875). This painting is part of the Fonds Ancely of the City library of Toulouse.

I probably don't need to introduce him. Kurt Cobain (1967-1994) was the guitarist, lead singer and songwriter for the Seattle-based grunge band Nirvana. The band attracted a huge following at the time and Kurt's legend lives on, as shown by the many personal messages scratched into his bench at Viretta Park in Seattle.

I photographed the Kirsty MacColl bench in Soho Square in London this year. It's a lovely square and brilliant to find her name there amongst all the other benches. Kirsty was much-loved, is much-missed, and it is a much-photographed commemorative bench.

Friends of Janis Joplin called her Pearl. The Janis Joplin bench is in Santa Rosa, California. It was posted as a waymark by saopaulo1 in 2008 at   Janis Joplin (1943-1970) was a prominent singer at the Monterey and Woodstock festivals in the late 60s.  Her best-known hit is Kris Kristofferson's Me and Bobby McGee but she could belt out anything, even a song about a Mercedes Benz. Jovi and Pearl were great friends. 

The peace bench is on Coventry Road, photographed by THD3 in 2011.  I'm pretty sure that's not Coventry in the UK. That's Coventry in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

The Woodstock song was written by Joni Mitchell and performed most famously by Matthew's Southern Comfort. For the lyrics to the song see or better yet, hear it at

The Monkees were a well-known group from 1966-1970. The four Monkees didn't look anything like this tribute band. People said they monkeyed around but hey, they sold 65 million records. I'm a believer. Three Wise Monkey benches are easy to find in bronze, plastic and just about any material you desire but I liked these life-size Three Wise Monkeys On A Bench from  They featured in the earlier post about Monkey Business on St. George's Day

The dancers in the dance tent are from the Festival of American Folklife in Washington DC in 1989. I don't actually know how hot it was or how sweaty. The photo is available from Flickr commons at

The three lovely dancers on a bench are from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, photographed in 2008  by Jason S.

The first piano bench is in Mathew Street, Liverpool. It was photographed by Joey O'Rourke in 2005 and he thinks every city should have one. He made his photograph available at,_Mathew_Street,_Liverpool.jpg

The second piano bench is in Sarasota, Florida, one of a community project of clever and creative benches in the city. It was photographed by Kim, who is a lawyer and photographer in New York City. You can see Kim's lively photostream at

The woman on the piano bench with her dog is from Becki Harvey Myers, who sells vintage photographs from her shop at vintage  As she says, every picture tells a story and I have made several stories from her photos. I'm grateful as there are soooo many interesting ones. 

The Native American dancers are from the National Powwow of 2007, photographed by Ken Rahaim. The National Museum of the American Indian sponsored the National Powwow in 2002, 2005, and 2007 as a way of presenting to the public the diversity and social traditions of contemporary Native cultures. For dozens of colorful powow photos see

The bamboo xylophone is a rendik, an Indonesian percussion instrument. It was photographed by William Cho in 2008 at a coffee plantation in Bali.

The painting is obviously not Louis Armstrong. It's a brilliant painting called JitterbugsV by artist William H. Johnson (1901-1970) from Florence, South Carolina. The painting was done around 1941-1942 and is a wonderful series of paintings of dancers and musicians. It's from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, a gift of Mrs. Douglas E. Younger.

The portrait of Liberace  was taken by Allen Warren in 1974. It's available  Liberace wasn't in the Airstream trailer; he was at home in Los Angeles. 

The painting of Beethoven shows him composing his Sixth (Pastoral) Symphony in Zurich in 1834.  The picture can still be seen in the Beethoven House in Bonn. It is available in the public domain in the United States and elsewhere because the author died more than 70 years ago.

The howlin' wolf statue is by chainsaw artist Paul Sivell on the Isle of Wight. His numerous intriguing chainsaw sculptures and benches can be seen at 

The howlin' wolf bench is by Eric Widitz in Fox River Grove, Illinois. Eric is a chainsaw sculptor who makes all kinds of statues and furniture from huge chunks of American wood. A lot of his stuff has a nature theme but he does people as well. See his catalogue and videos of his work at

The Ian Dury Memorial Bench is at Poet's Corner, Richmond Park, London. The bench is inscribed "REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL", the title of a Dury Hit single; this is the only reference to Dury as there is no descriptive label. The concept is that visitors would be able to plug in their earphones in one of the two socket in the bench and, powered by two small solar panels, listen to eight different musical pieces by Dury. I don't know if this has ever happened. The bench was photographed by Gerbis in 2009 and both the photo and this text above are made available through wiki commons at 

Mungo's camping car has been around a lot. You can read all about Mungo's trip to France at   Be warned though; there is some pumpkin rage in this post and a lot of unsavoury benches.

The Jimi Hendrix statue is at Dimbola Lodge in Freshwater, Isle of Wight.  Besides being the home of pioneer photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, Dimbola has a museum of rock festivals, featuring, of course, the Isle of Wight festival which took place nearby in 1970. There were two previous Isle of Wight festivals but 1970 was The Big One. Everybody who was anybody was there: Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Doors, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Jethro Tull, Sly and the Family Stone, Pink Floyd - need I go on? Around 700,000 people attended, including Jovi. This created a logistical problem for the tiny Isle of Wight, whose population is normally around 100,000. An Act of Parliament banned further festivals on the island until 2002 when the current festival was resurrected. Island festivals now are about a tenth the size of the Big One. 

Johnny Horton wrote The Battle of New Orleans, a song about the British/American war for American independence. You know the one: the British kept a comin' and were eventually chased down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. The Americans won. Enough said. Johnny Horton is buried in Haughton, Louisiana. The photo graph is by Billy Hathorn, available on wikimedia.

The Michael Jackson bench is a fibreglass replica made by Asian Replicas at in the Philippines. They do a lot of celebrities on benches in their extensive catalog  at

The Scottish dancers on the lakeside are from Deseronto in Canada, near Toronto. The town is picturesquely situated on the Bay of Quinte. The photograph was taken by Lloyd Thompson for the Quinte Scanner in June 1971 and shows the Kingston Pipe Band at Deseronto's Centennial Park.

The dancers in the Hindu Kush Cafe are in real life Ruth St Denis and Ted Shawn in the Dance of the Rebirth from the 1917 version of the Review of Dance Pageant. The photograph comes from the Denishawn Collection in the New York Public Library

The Elvis impersonators are all members of the Association of Professional Elvis Presley Tribute Artists and here they have set the official Guinness World record for the most Elvis impersonators in one location. The date? April 17, 2005. The location? Selfridges department store on Oxford Street in London. The photo was taken by Paul Smith for  and supplied by Martin Fox at I saw it at

The Elvis is Here bench is from Jack Huerta at   Jack, from Portland, Oregon, does a lot of great photos of beaches, carnivals, festivals, and other colourful things. It's great to have his Elvis bench.

The waving dancers at the end are not us and sad to say, I'm not the pretty blond girl on top of somebody's shoulders. I am no longer in a fit state to get on anybody's shoulders. I wanted to include this because, as you may have noticed, the musicians at the festival I've blogged about are all dead. These festive people in the picture are from the Future of Music Festival in Randwick, Sydney in 2013. The photograph is by Eva Rinaldo at   

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