To Camp or not to Camp…that is the question? by Andrea Bramhall

Happy Sunday! Today we have the British hookup with author Andrea Bramhall. She’s just back from Lfest and is here to share the fun with us. Before you continue reading though, here are some magical links that you can click to learn more about Andrea.

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To Camp or not to Camp…that is the question?
by Andrea Bramhall

A few weeks ago I participated in the UK Lfest event at Uttoxeter race course with Amy Dunne, Gill McKnight, Crin Claxton, and Vic Oldham. We had been granted two panels for readings and such…and boy was the ‘and such’ a moment to remember!

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Andrea Bramhall, Amy Dunne, Crin Claxton, Victoria Oldham (behind Crin), and Gill McKnight

Crin Claxton took charge of the first panel, her patented ‘Bards on the Buzzers’ round. A literary quiz which is literally literary…with a queer bent as she likes to put it. In and amongst she likes to take snippets from each panellists work and act out a scene whilst making everyone guess who the writer is and what book/story it’s from. Hugely entertaining, and I’ve got to say we were all holding our breaths at this round as Vic Oldham writes erotica short stories, and we were definitely before the watershed! However for me it was Crin singing ‘Agadoo’ by Black Lace whilst acting out a scene from one of my novels will live on…and on…and on.

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Andrea, Amy, Crin, Victoria, and Gill

*Shaking head.

Lfest itself had been set up like a music festival but with a little bit of everything thrown in. Paintballing, comedy acts, live music, fancy dress disco, volleyball, a dog show, workshops, Indie authors, a massage tent, thousands of lesbians…it had all the ingredients to be a fabulous weekend, especially when there was free child care available in the day for all those who were travelling as a family, and doggie day care for those with fur-babies.

Of course this is England and its summer, so the weather had to get involved and thunder storms put paid to any outdoor entertainment on the big stage on the Friday night and Saturday. This seemed to really deflate the mood across the festival that was hard to reinvigorate when the clouds lifted on Sunday. Having said that, the dog show was by far the highlight for everyone. Well, not quite everyone, actually. My collie, Merlin, was calling for a steward’s enquiry. She feels she was robbed of the prettiest bitch title by a ten week old puppy called Dolly. She’s still sulking now, bless her.

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Andrea and Merlin

Now, those of you who know me, know that my partner and I have a camp site here in England, and that we both like to part take in a variety of outdoor activities, including camping. As with most festivals here in the UK, camping for Lfest was included as part of the package. And this was Louise’s first ever festival experience…and to be totally honest, it was the first one I’d been to of this kind of size. So, you’d think we were availing ourselves of the free accommodation and sleeping under soggy canvas for the weekend, wouldn’t you?

Not so, tent dwellers!

On the Friday morning that we were due to leave, I was up to my neck making flood preparations at our campsite, so Louise decided that she didn’t fancy a busman’s holiday this time. Quickly phoned around and managed to get us a dog friendly hotel as a nice-slightly-early-anniversary present to us both. But I do wonder if we lost something of the festival experience as a result.

Yes, we were dry, and not kept up to the small hours with drunken drummers dancing—seriously, you have to ask Gill McKnight from the depths of her campervan about that one—and we had hot showers that we didn’t have to queue for, but we didn’t feel integrated into the experience when we packed up at the end of the day and then headed twenty minutes off site. I wonder if we missed a lot of the little details that make it a weekend to remember, despite the bad weather.

For example, in 2004 Louise and I had the holiday of a lifetime when we went to watch the Olympics in Athens. It was incredible, we decided to fly into Mykonos and camp to keep costs down. But everything that can possibly go wrong on a holiday did that year. Delayed flights, delayed luggage, lost luggage, tent in lost luggage = no accommodation, so we had to sleep in the hire car. The hire car was an open top Jeep—roof not included—and we had one of the worst storms that Mykonos had seen all year that night. By the time we got to our first event in Athens we honestly thought it was going to be the worst thing ever. But now, ten years later, we still talk about the adventure that trip was, and how much we both truly enjoyed it, partly because of all the disasters that happened.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah. Camping at a festival.

So camping at festivals is notoriously…erm…how shall we put it…messy. Yeah, that’s a good word. Messy. Especially as the sites chosen are usually not set up as campsites in any way, shape, or form. This one, for example, was on a race course. The going to begin with was soft…it only got softer as the weekend went on. Chemical toilets, limited and expensive food vendors, portacabin showers…I’m really selling this to you, aren’t I? Lol.

So, tell me, festival goers…all those of you who have experienced festivals in all their pungent portacabined glory…how much was I missing out on?

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