Shambala festival 2015 was my third festival of the year after Wychwood and Womad and was another trip with the African Sambistas. Prior to 2015 I’d only ever been to one festival: Waveforms 2008 in Wiltshire and that was a drugfest and pounding music. I did discover Orchid Star though, so it wasn’t all bad. I love their track Barefoot (in the sunshine).
The Shambala website sounded promising but every festival bigs themselves up on their website. I’ll leave it to Whingefest to explain. After the mud and toilet situation at Womad I wasn’t feeling too keen about this jaunt. I didn’t have any choice though, my festival partner was expecting me and we set off on Wednesday evening, arriving in the dark.
Actually getting to the designated camp site area was straight out of a Kafka novel. It was dark, we didn’t know which area we were allocated to and our pass didn’t allow us bring the car and trailer of kit in. After wandering about for a bit we heard someone say “artists area” which sounded nice and we had artist passes. Then we found a map and finally knew where we were supposed to be going. We walked backwards and forwards with the trailer in the drizzle. Our neighbours had managed to drive in with the same type of pass as us, as more of our group on subsequent days. In the dark we put wrong poles in various holes so it took a good while before we had shelter.
A walk round the site the next day showed that this was a much smaller festival than Womad. The layout felt a lot less regimented and there were interesting things to see including the enchanted wood, the lake and healing fields. Fair ground wise there was a Ferris wheel and chair-o-plane but no waltzers. Not good for addicts like us.
In a similar vein to Womad, I didn’t actually get to see much of the live bands. As well as the two main stages the festival had a lot of small venues offering music and djs all day. We spent a lot of time in the circus big top watching odd cabaret acts and the disco themed boogie nights. The crowd energy was tangible, with Mexican waves starting before anything had happened. I tried the Red Bastard show but found it too aggressive for a good natured festival when I was tired. I’m always going on about edgy comedy and lightweights who can’t take it. Turns out that I was one this time! The comedy in the smaller venue was pretty good too, there’s a clip in the video.
There were a lot of adult workshops, which was great. We did a singing workshop and a really good shamanic drum session where we spent 25 minutes drumming a very simple heartbeat before a gong was hit and we were free to go for it. With no plan or director then everyone set off to do their own thing. After several minutes there was a moment when suddenly everything came into time and we were drumming as one. I worked up a very satisfying sweat. After 10 minutes the gong was sounded and the madness stopped. As well as the singing, drumming and yoga there were also some unusual offerings, such as nipple tassle making and cock drawing.
Shambala is a great festival. It’s a place where anything goes. It has an air of liberating madness. It’s a place where you lose inhibitions and give things a try. I was feeling pretty cool about cross dressing Friday and I enjoyed it far too much. It corrupted my mind permanently. In a good way. I came home with an interest in nail paint, a very lovely tutu, several pairs of tights and a fascinator hat. The tutu comes from Fairy Love.
The Sunday fancy dress parade was our opportunity to perform and we had a great time. There were a lot of inspired costumes. My favourite was an alien craft where three people walked together with their heads inside the pod looking out of the windows.
It rained at some point on the last evening. Getting out on Monday was a major challenge, with various stewards telling us different things and a struggle to get the car in to collect the trailer. We did finally make it and I’ve forgotten about any of that hassle now and just remember the good times we had.