Friday, 31 July 2009


big chill nights

The marquees for the Coop Bar and The Big Chill Nights Bar are up. The Big Chill Nights Bar is big. I imagine suggesting to someone late on in the evening that we meet in a bar with that long a name. I would become confused (more so than normally). I would confuse the someone. "Blue," I would try and he would search for me in the blue marquee that shows films of rotting cars.
I may be wrong about the cars. My informant was a young security guard. I am confused frequently by explanations offered by the young. The Resident Teenager tells me to get a hearing aid. I reply that I can hear well enough, that the language is different. In my youth, you traveled abroad to hear different languages. Nowadays you merely attempt conversation with someone of a different generation...


the main stage is going up

I am trying to get my head round the extraordinary amount of work and organisation here. The Commanding General has four staff. Most importantly, she has a mind that works lineally. Most admirable, she appears incapable of losing her sense of fun...


from the radio aerial

A second day of fine weather produces magical progress.


Here is an statistic for Happy Campers to ponder whilst seated on the can: the Big Chill produced one hundred and four thousand gallons of sewage last year. This year the festival has 800 porta-toilets on site, 20 toilets for the disabled, 60 urinals. The sewage will be trucked to the Severn Water processing plant at Netheridge, Gloucestershire...


Dear Readers - or what ever...
You may hate what I write on this BLOG, find it moderately interesting, totally boring, unpleasantly arrogant, presumptuous, bigoted, ill-informed, pretentious. Your comments would enlighten me. No bad thing...


Sunshine and a good breeze...

Thursday, 30 July 2009


four star general with her executive aide

A real General would have a staff of fifty ready to salute - plus a couple of warrant officers and a couple of clerks to do the brain work...So why is Caroline so calm? Confidence in her ability gained through experience? Probably...or is she calm by nature?


from the radio aerial

across the lakes

I take pics each evening from these same two points as proof of progress. This has been a great day. Green toilets stand in rows by the roadside, aluminum mat snakes out across the grass, marquees grow everywhere. Believing in the Big Chill no longer requires faith. Victory is assured. Caroline and her staff are on the march. I got out of bed this morning in a real rage. Why is on my main BLOG. Now I feel great. Katrina Larkin arrives Saturday. Next week is going to be wonderful adventure...


Sun all day and a drying breeze. Workers on the site have changed glum faces for smiles.


proof positive

I have been sitting in our garden, five miles from Eastnor. Joy of joys - sunshine and a drying breeze...

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


from up by the radio aerial

Look where you will and work is in progress. The Big Chill will be ready on time - that's a promise. You can trust me. I'm not a Politician.
Equally important, I have consulted with three of my fellow Herefordshire Oldies. Our various aches and pains are on the ebb, a sure sign that the weather will be great. Or would you rather trust those whippersnappers at the Met Office...


The drizzle has finally stopped. I watch awhile. The Deer Park should be chaos. Trucks and machinery and Landrovers seem to strew a trail of workmen in yellow slickers. Yet there is order to all this. The Festival Manager, Caroline, must be some sort of genius. Were she in the Military, she would be a four star General - in the US Army. The British Military are suspicious of women...


good sign

The downpour threatened by the BBC weather man has been a soft drizzle and the sky is lightning. Hurah!
I had tea yesterday in Colwall with a lady in her 80s. She referred to the Big Chill as, That dreadful thing...Her husband had intended taking the BIG CHILL to Court. Sadly (or fortunately) he died. Wind in the right direction, faint music might be heard from their garden.
Why should the pleasure of some forty thousand festival fans be such anathema?
I was dwelling on this this morning while lazing in the tub.
The Big Chill is the major event for those I think of as young here in the Ledbury area. The Malvern Hills Conservators have banned biking and mountain-boarding on the hills (though horseback riding is OK!). Earlier this summer, my teenage son and friends were swimming in the Wye. Police ordered them out of the river, searched them and ordered them to move on. More recently the same group were playing Frisbee in the Deer Park at Eastnor. Police again...The Deer Park is open to the public. Or is it only open to those under 12 and over 25? No wonder kids get mad...
The truth is that a skateboard is a sure sign of criminality. As is wearing a hoodie or wearing your pants halfway down your butt. And The Big Chill is a drug-fueled mass orgy. It ought to be stopped. What should be stopped? Everything and anything that might be fun for the young.
So writes an Old Blimp in his late 70s determined to have a ball at his first festival...

Tuesday, 28 July 2009


My wife, Bernadette, goes to the Malvern spa most evenings while I cook dinner (roast chicken tonight). All four of my sons will be here for the Big Chill. A steady drizzle began half an hour ago - not good - and heavy rain is forecast for tomorrow. Fortunately I've finished mowing the lawn and have time to up-date my web site,


I dropped by the portacabin office this afternoon for a ground plan of the festival. Were I mounting the festival, I would be in full panic mode. The festival manager, Caroline, appears totally calm.


The weather has been kind, overcast but no rain with a good breeze drying the land. Mostly it is a day of preparation. Trucks unload aluminum matting and tubing. Poles strung with electric lights spread along the deer park roads, clumps of portacabins, a lone marquee out towards the main arena...


radio big chill

The radio aerial is up...a monument (temporary) to compete with the Eastnor Obelisk the other side of the valley.

Monday, 27 July 2009


as yet only a new fence

WEIRD - most Guardian readers and festival-goers consider themselves members of the Green lobby. Eastnor Castle Deer Park is as green as it gets. I am watching a train of heavily-laden trailer trucks ease along the upper Deer Park track. Ancient oaks tremble. Aluminum roadways invade grass paddocks. Green is disappearing faster then Haagen-Dazs double chocolate chip on a warm summer's day...


mud already

0900: Dark and overcast but promises of the rain clearing later in the morning.We have had rain on and off each day for the past week. The first trucks have arrived and are parked in the wood yard opposite the main gates to the castle.


eastnor castle deer park

The BIG CHILL will occupy over 200 acres of oak shaded parkland this year: car parks, camping, marquees, food outlets, ablution blocks and God knows what. The estate forester must check every tree in the park. A falling bough could be lethal.

Sunday, 26 July 2009


new bridge in the deer park

Few people would pick James Hervey-Bathurst as a festival fan. He rowed at Cambridge (Trinity College), wore tweed jackets, didn't smoke dope and listened to classical music. However - and it is a big however - he is a fan of the Big Chill - fortunate, given that forty-thousand fellow fans will be camping in his deer park. A brook divides the deer park and feeds the lakes. The brook is a logistical hurdle. This year two new bridges capable of carrying loaded trucks span the brook. Bridges don't come cheap.


james hervey-bathurst in the deer park, eastnor castle

Tea time in the kitchen at Eastnor Castle. Central is a well-scrubbed square pine kitchen table that could sit sixteen. It is a homely table in a homely room. I imagine kids yakking at each other, bowls overflowing with fresh pasta, round loaves of crusty country bread. Instead we are two. We are both trilingual, James in French and German, I in French and Spanish. We have both traveled extensively in the Near East. We are comfortable with each other. A reasonable question: How does it feel to have 40,000 revelers on your land?

Friday, 24 July 2009


eastnor castle

There are proper castles and fun castles. Proper castles were built to keep people out. Long range canon put paid to them. Defenses went underground. Now bombers drop Bunker Busters from 30,000 feet. Such is progress...
Fun castles weren't designed to keep people out. They were designed to be pretty and to impress the neighbours. Eastnor was built in 1810. It is the castle of children's fantasy. Crenelated towers rise above a nest of deciduous trees and giant conifers. Splashed with late evening sunlight, magic...
However not defensive.
The massive gate house is perfectly aligned to the great entrance doors. A canon shell could pass through the gate house and across the courtyard and through the doors into the vast entrance hall. Pugin designed the hall. It has everything that a castle should, suits of armour, lances, blunderbusses, African shields, assegais. Fun but not comfortable, and impossible to heat.
The owner, James Hervey-Bathurst lives in what was the servants wing.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009


Big Chill has grown central to Katrina Larkin's life since she mounted the first event with Pete Lawrence at the Union Chapel, Islington, in 1994. Two hundred people attended; this year BIG CHILL expects 40,000 - and has progressed, via the Black Mountains, Dorset and Wiltshire, to its present home in the Deer Park at Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire where the festival employs 2000 people.
Setting up the infrastructure is kin to a military operation. Water, sewage and access head the list.


Katrina Larkin is the founder of the BIG CHILL. We first met a couple of months back. The Guardian Travel editor asked me to show Katrina my Herefordshire rather than the Herefordshire of the festival. Katrina stayed with us in our cottage in Colwall. She and I visited great gardens and pubs, vineyards and artisan perry makers, paddled a canoe down the Wye. We enjoyed each other's company, had a great time. The resulting article is on the Guardian's web site.


Why has the Guardian's Travel Editer chosen me to cover the BIG CHILL? Surely festivals are for hip youth. I am an Old Blimp (though with leftist tendencies).


I am to cover the BIG CHILL Festival for the Guardian newspaper. I have never been to a Festival. I don't enjoy crowds. My imaginings of a festival come from watching Glastonbury on TV - Hell in Mud.