I used to enjoy festivals for the mud, music and madness – but as I have aged so my energies have declined (refined) and I find my preference shift. While I look back very fondly to hazy Glastonbury or the delights of travelling to Womad by boat from Oxford with a crowd of friends (when it was in Reading), neither is as easy with a small family. Now we go to Wood (soon, wonderful – and featuring not just me on hedgehogs, but also our film – Nonviolence for a Change – recently updated for the Quakers) and Buddhafield (quite simply the best – alcohol and drug free – the perfect play space for interested children).
The last couple of years we have supplemented this by me being invited to talk at Camp Bestival – but that is not a festival I would ever pay to attend. The kids adored it, and riding high on the big wheel, their faces were filled with glee (as ours were with terror) … but it is big, commercial, expensive and crowded.
Also for the last couple of years Zoe has been asked to work with Greenpeace at Glastonbury – and I have been only moderately jealous … okay, that is not entirely true … the idea of spending a week at Glastonbury without the children … that does sound like fun.
But this year it is a little different. Wood and Buddhafield are booked in, but I have been asked to join the exalted company of the Idler’s Academy as they spread deep thoughts through the open minds of gently inebriated participants.
I wrote an essay for The Idler a while back – a marvellous thing that Tom Hodgkinson and Gavin Pretor-Pinney have done for the world, creating this space for ideas to marinate and percolate. I argued, most persuasively I like to think, that the importance of the hedgehog is often under-rated, as is the importance of love. And when you put the two of them together, you have a perfect storm of passion that can help change the world.
And now I have to distil this further for the academy – I have been thinking about basing my lecture on ‘My Quest for Normality’ – weaving my love affair with hedgehogs and my desire to get to China in and out of a pursuit of hedgehog-extremists … as I try and prove that I am, comparatively, normal. Hope it works … if you want to see whether it does, I will be at:
Port Eliot Festival, 21-24th July in Cornwall
Wilderness Festival, 12-14th August in Oxfordshire
West Dean Festival, 26-29th August in West Sussex