I dearly miss doing the bookshop and book signings for the Buxton Festeringval. Here is my report of the 2011 event:
FEAR AND LOATHING AT THE BUXTON FESTIVAL
A SAVAGE JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF THE DERBYSHIRE CULTURAL PSYCHE
ACT THE FIRST
There are three types of festival people.
The first type comes from Richmond or Hampstead and they wear stripey blazers, stripey shirts and dickie bow ties. Their wives all have designer frocks, enormous handbags and flat shoes. They say, 'Eoh! How Luuuuuvly to seeeeeeyiou, Dwarling,' and kissy kissy three times on the cheeks. (Facial, not the others) They live on canapes and champers and know Everything about Art, Music and Literature. They read the Daily Mail.
The second type lives in posh caravans on Caravan Club Sites, (members only, of course) or charming des-res retirement villages where they sit on DFS sofas in their lounges, wear beige, and eat Marks and Spencer cardigans. They say, 'Do you know where the toilets are?' and they know Everything about Art, Music and Books and read the Daily Mail.
The third type lives in architect-designed, eco-friendly fully recycled family homes with their children Tarquin and Guinivere, wear ethnic print kaftans and loud, clunky jewelery, (and that's the blokes) and eat Waitrose Be Healthy To Your Tum beanburgers and Goji Berry snax. They say, 'We're only here for the fringe events, of course,'. They know Everything about Everything and carry a Guardian round with them but actually read the Daily Mail. They are the worst.
(There is a fourth kind, shuffling about in ill-fitting Oxfam clothes and saying, 'Der', and sometimes, 'Der, but they've escaped from the nearby home for people with learning and behavioural problems. Bless. Unloved and scorned, they don't read the paper but require many copies of the Daily Mail to carry around in battered Tesco bags. I don't know why, but they do. It's not PC to mention them so I won't)
I know these things. I have BEEN THERE. For three weeks I spent 9.00am till 9.00pm in the company of these people.
1. BOOK SIGNINGS
These take place in various venues throughout the town, like the back room of some grotty hotel where you can't even get a decent cup of coffee whilst you're being bored stiff by some wannabe writer droning on about some dreadful novel he or she's written which was once listed for the Barbie Literary Prize but didn't even win that. These hotels include The ***** (name deleted on legal advice), an hotel with several stars, where we are consigned to a dusty hallway between the back of the Dining Room and the kitchen, and next to the staff gents.
Alternatively, in a small privately-run guest house, we are quite happy to nod off to some faded, geriatric Altzheimer's patient who was once an MP and has had an autobiography ghost-written to pay off his fine imposed for cheating on his expenses. Meanwhile, we are brought fine coffee in a silver pot, on a silver tray with sugar lumps and tongs …..and scones with jam and cream. Free, Gratis and for Nothing.
Having suddenly been wakened by the thunderous applause from the audience all clapping frantically, (not in appreciation of the literary genius on display but to warm up after sitting in an unheated draught-box in Buxton in July) we leap to our feet and stand to attention behind our table presenting a display of the so-called-author's works and try to con the pond-life exiting the auditorium into spending an arm and a leg to buy a copy or two and then stand in a queue and wait for the senile old fart to write some unintelligible banality and sign his monica inside the front cover. That's assuming the MC has remembered to announce our presence to the crowd BEFORE they leave so they realise who we are and don't just walk past us.... as though middle-aged women dressed in M & S Per Una and Jimmy Choo shoes always hang about by the staff gents with a table of books and expectant expressions.
2. The Festival Shop.
Nestling cosily between The Opera House and The Club House is The Buxton Festival Shop, independently run by my favourite bookstore. Zip-er-dee-doo-dah.
In an ancient, hired (not by us) portacabin, tastefully decorated in beige, with artistic damp effects on the ceiling and fashionable lino in the floor, we while away our days selling a selection of books and CDs to the Festering Festival goers. And do they want our books and CDs? Are they interested in the stuff which our bosses have spent hours sourcing, ordering, quibbling discount for and negotiating sale-or-return deals for? Do they fuck! They want to know where the toilets are.....If we sell fridge-magnets....(honestly!).....Where the Opera House is....(Like NEXT DOOR Dumbo)..... and if we stock the Daily Mail.
3. First Nights.
Three full-length operas this Festival. All obscure, all in foreign with subtitles (!) and all tewibly, tewibly cultural dwarling, kissykissy. First night we have ALL the lovey dwarlings, minus their Daily Mails, gathering as one outside the Opera House like F1 cars on the starting grid. Having partaken of pre-show dwinkies and canapes they are all pissed and staggering around weighed down by their dickie bows and enormous handbags. Shawls are de rigeur this season and these ancient crones look like annimated table-cloths as they flutter and faff. Entering our 'shop' they peer over their designer half-glasses muttering 'Eiou', and 'How fabulous, dwarling', and poke and prod the books as if some alien life-force is going to emerge and drain their life juices. Actually, most of them are too senile to read anything beyond the Daily Mail which, incidentally, we don't sell.
At the bell, they move as one, fighting tooth and nail to get to their seats and drop off until the interval when dwinkies and canapes are served on the Opera House forecourt and they can spend a minute or two catching up on the news if they can find a shop which sells the Daily Mail.
4. Fringe Events.
Every now and then a bunch of real weirdos appears and starts performing some strange tribal mating ritual outside the Pavillion Arts Centre or on the Bandstand in the park, in the guise of a Fringe Event. This usually attracts a huge crowd composed primarily of the fourth kind of festival goers, (whom I dare not mention) and possibly the only people to have some clue as to what the fuck they're going on about. Occasionally a small child takes an interest only to be whisked away by a concerned parent who genuinely believes little Tarquin or Guinivere would much rather enjoy going to a performance of Tibetan Llama Yodelling than watch a bunch of loonies watching a strange tribal mating ritual performed by a group of naked, ethnically mixed drama school students accompanied by a 12 year old on a recorder and a set of kettle drums. And they all seem to be wearing orange t-shirts. And carrying orange balloons.
Here is the news.
Ahem. A BBC correspondent has been investigating allegations of ageism at the ongoing Buxton Festival. Reports of visitors under the age of 90 have not yet been officially confirmed but our reporter was approached by an anonymous source claiming that a gentleman of not more than 75 was seen going into the Opera House last night, and there have been several sightings of persons without crutches, sticks, zimmer-frames or wheelchairs attending a Fringe performance yesterday. A festival official stated that there were no age restrictions on Fringe performances and no plans to limit them to the terminally senile in the near future. He reassured the BBC, however, that strict security would be in place tonight to ensure that the minimum age of the audience would be kept at a reasonable 83, or 80 on presentation of a severe disability or a copy of the Daily Mail. The poor turnout was due to the torrential rain which prevented the majority of the aged and senile old farts from staggering out of their comfy guest houses where they are being looked after just like home, (Heinz cream of Tomato Soup- the first item on the menu of international cuisine, Cash in the Attic after lunch and free Daily Mails for each guest) and toddling down to the Festshop to ask stupid questions and buy shitloads of books they'll never read cos they'll probably die of heart-attacks and terminal dandruff before they get back home to their sheltered accomodation in Grimsby.
And now, The Weather.
There will be weather all over the country today, with more weather in some places than others. A depression centred over the Atlantic will bring weather to Northern Ireland, Wales, Western Scotland and the North-West of England throughout the day, and again tonight. The South, South West, South East, Eastern England and the Midlands, should see weather for most of the day, and more weather tonight.
The outlook for the next few days is for even more weather spreading across the UK.
Tonight, on Newsnight, Jeremy Paxman will be discussing the Buxton Festival ageism scandal with several very Old MPs and later, on BBC4, we will be bringing you highlights of this year's Buxton Festival Fringe with performances from musicians, comedians and artistes which will feature bus-passes, incontinence and what-they-did-in-the-war. Some of this material might be considered unsuitable for younger viewers as it contains no swearing, sex, violence or drug-taking.....just a nice cup of tea and a hobnob.
Have a nice day.
ACT THE SECOND
Aaaah! Act the Second. Starts nect Friday. I cannot wait!
Watch this space for a Live Festering Report 2012