Posts Tagged ‘Sussex’

The oldest Norman church in Sussex

Posted 09 Mar 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Daft, Observations

Me, Ant and Dan went up to the South Downs at the weekend for a bit of film-making, a pub lunch and a scoot around Devil’s Dyke on Ant’s new moped. We mooched up there mid morning, with Brighton still in its winter doldrums – chilly and grey. By the time we got to Bramber castle, we were in the midst of what felt increasingly like Sussex’s first legitimate spring day; a kind of mellow haze resting over the landscape, breached and gradually dominated by a dazzling blue sky and, between gusts of chill wind, stabs of warmth. We sat on the ruined walls of the castle then strolled around St Nicholas’ chapel, a neat, Norman church dating back to 1073, and hovered by the porch chatting.

Then, up on the dyke, we struggled with Ant’s new moped, and I fell heroically from it into a patch of cold mud on my first and only spin. It was oddly invigorating, but perhaps only because no harm was done. I wiped my hands down on a grassy verge and studied my palms on the drive home, the caked mud exposing the complexity of principal lines, ridges and wrinkles. The view from Devil’s Dyke, lest you forget, is utterly dazzling, from the Clayton windmills to the cricket pitch at Poynings, from the fringes of Ashdown Forest to the hill fort at Chanctonbury Ring. But I like the view back home just as much, in different ways – Brighton glowing orange, nestling between the A27 and the sea.

Incidentally – I attended Pecha Kucha in Brighton on Saturday night, and heard for the first time of Pegasaurus books, which is a new publishing start up specialising in books by and for Sussex residents. They’ve only published a couple of books thus far, but they’ve published an Eco Guide to Sussex and an anthology of local poetry. I’ve not seen the actual books yet, but they might be worth a look. More info here.

Here are a couple of photos from the Dyke – blue sky and white.

Vintage at Goodwood Festival Diary, day one

Posted 16 Aug 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

Preamble: I hadn’t expected to attend Vintage for this, its first year, but I won a pair of free weekend tickets late in the week, meaning that Victoria and myself were able to make it along for two of the three days.

The festival, in case you’re not familiar with the concept, is a ‘celebration of Britishness’ organised by Wayne Hemingway, and aims to bring together music, art and fashion from the 1940s through to the 80s. Hosted at the splendid Goodwood estate near Chichester, it’s much more than a straight music festival – apart from the main stage and a number of smaller tents, the site includes a fairground, a food market, a patchwork of allotments and a prefabricated ‘high street’ – a run of stores operated by the likes of John Lewis, The Body Shop and Oxfam, along with a smattering of cafes, pubs, cinemas and cocktail bars.

It sounds grossly commercial, but the emphasis is on vintage gear and the crafts, with fashion shows, cookery demonstrations, dressmaking lessons and talks throughout the days. There are a bunch of second hand stalls too, with a huge number of interesting clothes, generally priced at around the same kind of price you pay in Brighton. In short, despite the emphasis on shopping, it generally avoided gaudy sponsorship and genuinely felt homespun and local, rather than like a big money-making enterprise.

1.30: The first thing to notice is the extraordinary level of effort, both on the part of the organisers (whose ‘high street’ looks genuinely brilliant) and the attendees, who appear to have gone to extraordinary lengths to look good. All day we encounter brilliantly dressed people, from teenagers in Topshop tea-dresses to super-serious Mods, from middle-aged men in expensive tailored suits to young women in exquisite 50s dresses. Via the high street, we head straight for Peter Blake’s art bus, which contains some really amazing Clash memorabilia, then explore the vintage stalls, looking at antique homeware and bric-a-brac. The weather is cool and dry, but we spy some ominous looking clouds on the horizon.

2.00: Rather than heading deeper onto the site, we drift left and locate some deck chairs overlooking the forest, and enjoy a picnic consisting of cheese (cheddar, Comte and Parlick Fell), bread, saucisson, cornichons, olives, pork pies and artichoke hearts. It starts raining and, ominously, we decide to ignore it (prefiguring later things to come). The food demolished, we embark on a circuit of the site, taking in a short glimpse of Aswad, who are sounding pretty crap over on the main stage.

2.30: The vintage shops have some great stuff. We spend a good half hour dipping our head in and out of a sequence of colourful, crowded stalls until I eventually stumble upon a pair of lovely, round-toed brogues, which after a moment’s hesitation I snap up. I’m already wishing, in fact, that I had made more effort, for I’m dressed functionally where everyone else looks amazing.

3.00: Vic, who used to become an absolute terror if deprived of a cup of tea for more than an hour, is strictly a roobois girl these days, so there are no caffeine withdrawals to guard against. Nevertheless, there are a bunch of nice places to have a sit down and a drink, and we grab a cup of tea and have a sit down. I initiate a discussion about shoe laces.

3.30: Reasoning we’ve done enough exploring, we pitch up outside the pub at the apex of the high street. Titled ‘The Festival of Britain’, it’s a gorgeously designed building – a temporary illusion of permanence. We grab a pint of Goodwood ale and sit happily admiring people’s clothes and marveling at the variety of stuff to do. Then the rain drives us inside.

4pm; We arrive at the main stage to find the Buzzcocks rattling through their back catalogue with fizzy aplomb. The contrast, as ever, between Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle is hilarious – the former round, content, undemonstrative; the latter still fighting the punk wars, hoisting his guitar high, windmilling, pointing to the crowd. When Diggle blows a speaker he’s forced to sit a song or two out, and is clearly dejected.

But such is the winning simplicity of the Buzzcocks’ back catalogue that the band sound exactly the same as a three-piece as they do when all four are playing. They bring out the hits – What Do I Get, Orgasm Addict and the timeless Ever Fallen In Love With Someone (You Shouldn’t've Fallen In Love With)? – but by now it’s hard to notice much except the driving rain, which has absolutely drenched the thinning crowd. Stoically, we resist seeking shelter – and the consequence is that we have to walk around shivering for the rest of the day.

5pm; We’re really soaked. Worse, we’re really fucking cold. So we resolve the problem by ducking into the Kenwood store, where we sit through a faintly painful Fanny Craddock parody, enlivened by the lovely set, which includes a revolving kitchen, allowing demonstrations to take place in the 1950s or 60s, depending on the need. That done, we’re still not much drier, so we go shopping. Vic picks up a frankly alarming pink cardigan, which provides an essential layer of dryness (our coats and jumpers are so sopping wet they’re relegated to our bags) and I pick up a ‘Blues and Soul’ T-shirt of which, it later transpires, Vic is so jealous that she buys one too. Still not entirely dry, we decide that momentum is what we need to warm up, so head for the fair, where we are spun up into the clearing sky, our stomachs lagging ten feet below us.

6.15pm; We go and see The Beat, who, we discover, we really don’t remember all that well after all. They dedicate a song to Joe Strummer, and everyone exchanges broad smiles. We go back to the pub.

7pm; It turns out that Sandie Shaw is still terrifically cool – she looks amazing and her voice stands up too. As we arrive at the main stage, she is tackling ‘Jeane’ by The Smiths, and it’s the perfect fit – a clever, knowing, moving track delivered with poise. Unfortunately, however, Sandie is operating as a kind of compere tonight, and the guests she introduces are not of such a high standard, and nor are the songs they sing. So while Corrine Drewery (of Swing Out Sister) has a great voice, she’s landed with a Wham song, which just sounds terrible. Similarly, Mica Paris oozes charisma, but there’s only so much you can do if you’re singing something by Tom Jones. Sandi Thom takes to the stage, too, and she’s just awful – warbling in her mannered way through a couple of songs. It feels like it will never end.

We do, however, get the splendid presence of the amazing Kathryn Williams, whose voice is just startling. She sings up a storm, her strong, passionate vocal effortlessly dominating the field. She’s charming too – after a display of effortless brilliance, she grins and admits “it’s fucking scary up here”. Her voice is so good that she even makes John Lennon’s awful, tuneless ‘Jealous Guy’ sound good. I think I could even handle watching Kathryn sing ‘Imagine’, she’s that talented. By the time, however, that Natasha Marsh and Linda Lewis take their turns, the song-selection is so grim that we’re fast exchanging pained expressions. Lewis announces that she’s going to play a Bob Marley song.

“If it’s No Woman No Cry”, I declare, “we’re leaving”. It is. We do.

8.30; Far, far, far, far better fun is the ‘Wall of Death’, a classic carnival act carried out at deafening volume. It’s massively exciting. Essentially taking place inside a large wooden barrel, the audience is placed at the top, looking down, while motorcyclists whizz around the drum, gathering speed until they’re eventually looping horizontally to the floor, inches away from the audience. It’s ludicrously dangerous and brilliant fun. We whoop and cheer, hearts in mouths, then fling coins down to the floor in appreciation. Great.

9pm; Hearts still racing, we head to the Torch, an impeccably constructed 40s style night club with a real dance floor, a big stage and a restaurant. It’s incredibly convincing – moments after the roar of engines and the smell of oil, we’re all of a sudden lounging on sofas listening to live jazz and watching some super-sophisticated dancing unfold ahead of us. It’s such a jolt, and a perfect example of what Vintage does best – of all the small festivals I’ve been to it has the most to offer in terms of variety and surprise; there literally is always something different around the corner. In conventional terms it’s not a music festival at all – it’s a day out, a kind of fair. It’s a vivid piece of escapism. And as such, I loved it. I’m also conscious that, on day one, we covered perhaps 40% of the attractions. Much more still to do, then.

Sunday’s diary will follow shortly…