Mud, Beer and Sleep

My local beer festival isn’t really the 20 firkins in a village hall, a tea urn and the school choir variety.. more the 500 different ales and 200 ciders/perries in 2 marquees with hog roast, a noodle bar, trade session, pub games and pro bands style.

I’d like to think that even though not everything was finished and despite the rain keeping some people away it was a success. As an annual event it is an occasion where people who don’t see each other get a chance to catch up. People sing and dance and try new things. I know that the Pub Games section had another record breaking year and I know that the judging of the National Cider and Perry awards was well received but what I really hope is that plenty of people went away with good memories.

Like other CAMRA affiliated festivals it is organised and staffed by volunteers of varying skills, abilities and dedication. This year it would be fair to say that a number of my friends and acquaintances who are involved in this rather monumental task were tested to the limit. Mainly by the rain, but also by the non-appearance of a large proportion of the volunteers.
As the rain came down and the pools of water built up on the flood plain we use to accommodate punters, those too fool-hardy and dedicated to hide indoors dug trenches, lifted and carried scaffolding, sorted lighting, bars, and  tables, bashed stuff with mallets and generally worked their socks off. Then once we opened the same people (for the most part) dashed around fixing problems (there were lots – do not ask about the sewage drainage) and put on their smiling public-facing personas, and finally a handful still standing took everything down, picked up the litter and cleared the field to return it, albeit rather more muddy from the 15000 people who turned up to drink, to the council.
Some of those volunteers didn’t stop in between 15 and 18 hour days for 2weeks and of course some volunteers turned up and sold beer for 4 hours and left again. I fall rather comfortably between the two extremes; a couple of days of set-up with rather less physical lifting than usual hampered as I have been with my crutch and both working at the festival and at the pub. W did a little less and B somewhat more – from each according to their means so to speak.

Despite the rain and the slog and the fact we were chronically under-staffed I do like working at the festival. I enjoy the satisfaction of seeing it as more than a drinking game, I like the sense of achievement that goes from taking an empty field into a venue of public entertainment. And lets be honest I like the fact that I work hard enough to never pay to get in and never pay to drink and even have enough tokens to bring bottles home with me. I just need to remember I am not as young as I once was and need more rest these days.

So do you volunteer for anything? Particularly anything that feels completely ridiculous and leaves you exhausted but plays to your strengths?

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