N.B. This lengthy, 3-part account of Festivals of both the distant & recent past plus comments on the vagaries of travelling in Morocco should probably be read in conjunction with Maggie Knutson’s account(s) of the 2009 Essaouira Gnawa Festival which are available on her blog here: http://maggieknutson.blogspot.com
Pt. 1 of 3 – ‘By the time we got to Woodstock…..’
….we had joined the ‘Child of God’ Executive Club and were thus eligible for 15% discount in the ’Earth Mother’ Falafel Restaurant and the Aromatherapy Candle Store…all major credit cards accepted…..
Queuing for the ATM….
It seems that Festivals are now becoming like football matches or any other corporate events, inasmuch as friends of mine are talking about ‘registering’ for Glastonbury 2010 this month like it was something you had to do, like putting your son’s name down for Eton or similar…
Not sure that I could ever get that pre-meditated about any Festival, whether it’s the 30th Anniversary or whatever….my earliest experience of Festivals was basically throwing a plastic cagoul and a few extra packets of fags in a small rucksack and blagging a lift or getting a train to somewhere near the Festival location and hitching the rest of the way, then paying ‘on the door’ (if at all) to get in. I usually came home with something akin to ‘trench foot’ and in severe need of a bath but otherwise unscathed, having seen/heard a few bands, missed quite a few more, met a few interesting people, forged a few temporary alliances (as it were), smoked a few big ones, eaten virtually nothing and got soaked at least once (and usually more often)….the UK isn’t a great Festival climate which makes the proliferation of Festival culture over the last 10 years all the more remarkable.
Always something of a risk in the UK…
Anyhow, these days people go off equipped for a Festival as though they were embarking on some military campaign for a few months. The partner has really taken to it – having spent her formative years dancing round her handbag at the local Palais de Danse, she has in latter years become a bit of a Festival Fiend, taking the Princess to several ‘V’ Festivals and one at Reading and last year going to the annual Fairport bash at Cropredy. We also did the inaugural Wychwood Festival together in 2005 which I recall as being good fun and quite civilised.
It always seemed to me that finding a good Festival in a better climate might be the answer. I’d discussed the Umbria Jazz Festival (based in and around Perugia) and the Vitoria-Gasteiz Jazz Festival in Basque Spain with some friends, but there was some apprehension on the part of some potential members of any travelling party about the prospect of exposing themselves to several days of incomprehensible caterwauling by hair-shirted free-jazzers, so it never amounted to anything more than idle chat.
Then we spoke with some friends of ours who had (on our recommendation) been several times to the Moroccan Atlantic resort of Essaouira and had actually been to the 2008 World Music Festival there. They told us what a great time they’d had at the Festival, how fabulous the atmosphere had been and we were basically sold straight away. John and Kath are both several years older than us and John has a degenerative eye condition that renders him largely blind, so we figured if they could cope, so could we… The whole thing came together remarkably quickly with two other couples roped in to share a four-bedroomed ‘dar’ (town house) just adjacent to the Bab Marrakech gate – it looked fabulous on the website, anyway. We then got some cheap flights with EasyJet from Gatwick to Marrakech and I was able to organise 2 ‘grands taxis’ (big old private hire Mercedes diesel taxis) to pick us up and return us to the airport at the top/tail of the holiday.
So, we were all set…and definitely looking forward to a return to Morocco, having not been there since 2002….
To be continued….