I am lucky enough to have been punter, performer, promoter, presenter and producer at a range of festivals over the decades. Whilst my football travels have taken me across the world, I have been to fields and squares across Britain for events that range from reading out loud to meditating inwardly and from huge wave-like crowds lost in the noise and joy of music at its finest to the most dismal community events. Love them. I look forward to the day that Didsbury Son shuffles off to find the joy of shared experiences and events that stay imprinted on your mind forever.
There have been many highlights and many friendships forged. However three things occur to me as I reminisce.
1. The best friend I have ever made at an event was at a pre-season friendly at West Bromwich Albion twenty years ago. Amid 100 bored people basking like pink sharks on a summer terrace when a stranger approached me selling a fanzine. Two decades later I am a godfather to his daughter and our friendship has outlasted football terracing.
2. Performing at a large festival is a joy I am glad to have experienced; just inspiring and bowel-clenching in the right ratio.
3. This recent fad for 40 somethings going to festivals with their offspring goes over my head. It’s like going to a sixth form disco (if they still have sixth forms or discos). Festivals are for letting yourself go and embracing the moment. I can’t imagine my teenage self and my own Didsbury Dad sharing any ideas of what made a good weekend in a bunch of fields with portaloos, no showers, constant loud music and over-eager Home Counties types off their heads on patchouli. In addition to this, I also always found the older people hanging out with 18 year olds a bit strange when I was 18. Now I just find it unfathomable.
Now Didsbury Festival is a different matter. It has none of the violence that has marred Beech Road, the rain doesn’t matter – it is still great. It attracts some of the best Asian home cooking in the region and the dog show is fantastic. But more, much more than this; Didsbury Festival is ageless.
This year, for the first time. Didsbury Son wanted time to mooch around aimlessly under his hood with school friends. The sight of these peers caused the shoulder hunch, vowel flattening and T dropping in preparation. They grunted gently like a troop of Orangutans and loped off among the trees for an hour being too young to be threatening, too old to get free cakes. Didsbury Son had already spent hours helping to set up with a stall and next year he will be flipping burgers and enjoying greater freedom.
Didsbury Son has been at every Didsbury Festival since birth; in pram, trolley, tiny boots, parade, costume, school and now as a stall helper. One day he willeither get fed up or win the dog show.
Before he was Didsbury Son I enjoyed the parade as a viewer and with Didsbury Nephews and Godchildren. I remember two glorious summers’ days marching with some group or other with a whooping 4 and 5-year-old Didsbury Son on my shoulders and then dancing with the least convincing and most entertaining Belly Dancers in the city.
This is what a community festival should be – a little something for everybody, a chance to show-off, an opportunity to see friends and waste money on rides and candy floss. This is why it is the centre of my festival calendar now and one I am already looking forward to for 2013 (along with the Christmas Lights Switch on in Albert Square, always a good night out). Didsbury Festival feels like the real Didsbury to me as all the stratas of our society get together. The Waltons would love it here and this year we had the Premier League Trophy on show.
So, it’s done; with another fistful of memories stored and this year I didn’t get over-excited, over-indulge and regret it. Didsbury Arts Festival for September is in the diary and if they could just re-enact the fantastic chase between a game Pomeranian and a chippy Spaniel that greeted us as we got in to the park on Saturday it could be memorable.