Dragongate festival was officially very much fun indeed. After hearing nightmare stories from the crew on site about main stages blowing down, roads in resembling a war zone and a catalogue of other worries, I was, well, worried. Turned up on site around 16:30 and was hit by a wall of positivity. Wasn’t expecting that and I think that’s the thing that turned it into a superb festival. It’s almost like it was a test from the festival gods to see how much the crew could take, testing them to see if they would throw any towels in or if they would come through stronger and wiser (which they did).
Friday night, musically was a bit sketchy – as the main stage collapsed in the tail end of hurricane winds the main stage acts got moved to the 2nd stage, rendering the second stage acts homeless (which I was one off – it was predominantly going to be a FIRE tent). None the less a superb time was had by all of us lot on Friday night.
Saturday the weather calmed down and the festival got it’s act together big time. The kids tent had a stack of activities going on, the Green Dragon (acoustic) also had a top line up as well as the main stage, Xilr8 and the Oblivion Pavilion tents. The Instruments of Jah were a nice bunch with their van full of analogue noise making dub apparatus. Very cool. As the site was near Harrogate, it seemed that most people decided to just get a day pass and Oxfam sold out completely for the day – the place got busy, the music got varied and excellent and sun got his hat on. The bar was the centre of the universe leading up to a crescendo of top acts – Scapegoat Kelly, Bird Man Rallies and Paul Middleton as headliner. I was over by our site in crew camping for most of this as it was Eirene’s turn to go for a wander but every report that came back had thumbs aloft. After 11 the music had to pipe down (licence conditions meets best behaviour) so we had a silent disco. We (FIRE) set up on the main stage. 200 wireless headsets were made available and (the idea I’d initially poo-poo’d) was surreal but fun! As a performer, when I’m playing a gig, a glance around the crown quite often to see who wants to ‘av it, who’s in a groove, who’s listening to the intricate bits, who’s listening to the primal beat of it all. I could still do that but there was such a non connection with people sans headphones. When I took my headphones off it felt very odd indeed. I’d been playing to a quiet tent. After my set (killed even quiet non amplified conga drumming after a while) I went for a wander to discover pockets of people here and there, dotted around the site, listening to our set! How odd is that – checking out a live gig from the comfort of your own camp.
Sunday was a bit of a fuzzy head day. I was massively thankful of Dave who ran the crew mess tent, making cups of tea, soup, foot, sustenance, normality! Pottered around, played a gig with Ricky Hebblethwaite and did some Jam stuff – organized (!) an impromptu kids jam where I had a bunch of kids on stage and let them have a drum and a sing to a backing track. They loved that.
Called it a day late afternoon as the kids were back at school the next day.
As I looked back at the site from the car park I thought “yep, success – look at that, a proper festival, in Harrogate. Who’d have thought it”. Hats off to Matt from Oxfam + his lot, Austin from Pro-Tech and his lot, Hats off to Allan from Smyth and us lot, Hats off to all the muso’s DJ’s and their lot, Hats off to Jules and her lot for the kids tent, but the biggest hats off from me are the people who weren’t connected in any way who turned up and had a wicked time, Spread the word, spread the love! See you next year.