Went up to the annual Bardic Picnic, in my old stomping ground of Northampton. The 3rd ‘official’ Bardic Picnic (actually the fifth) was held in the beautiful grounds of Delapre Abbey – the green heart of the town. This is a very special place for me – I grew up just over the road and would walk my dog here everyday. It was the ‘nursery of my imagination’ as I say in my poetic tribute to this personal soul place, ‘The Green Abbey’.
I rode up on Saturday evening, catching the last rays of the sun as I blatted up the Fosseway, over the Cotswolds. This is one of my favourite runs. I arrived in the dark, just in time to share a few beers with my old buddies, Justin and Jimtom, the co-organisers, along with the crew – who had been working hard all day, putting up the marquees. The boozing and buffoonery carried on into the night, but I needed to crash. I wanted to be fresh for my performances the next day – but since I was camped right next to the fire, it wasn’t easy to go to bed!
Nevertheless, I awoke the next morning feeling refreshed – it was a beautiful sunny morning. One of the highlights of this event is being able to stay over in Delapre Abbey. What a place to wake up! The place is looked after by the Friends of Delapre Abbey and is an important community asset. Its great to see stuff happening here – long may it be run by the people, for the people!
After breakfast I went to rehearse amongst the ‘oaks of my Arcadia’. I was on early – scheduled for 12.30pm – but I ended up being the first act on after Justin introduced things. I performed a set of nine poems from memory on the main stage – it was nice having my sister’s family in the crowds who had gathered on the lawn, picnicking in the sunshine. There was time for a quick sandwich and a drink, then I was back on – to do my storytelling set in the ‘secret grove’, a new and welcome addition to the stages (storytelling always works better acoustically). This seem to be well-received, and I encouraged others to have a go afterwards. Bill, from the Flying Donkeys, a storytelling group in Derbyshire, rose to the challenge admirably.
My bardic duties complete I could finally ‘let my hair down’ – (not so much these days!) and enjoyed a pint while listening to some of the excellent acts on the main stage included Donna Noble (former Bard of Northampton); Ian Freemantle, the Bard of Stony Stratford; Jimtom Say!; & Enki. It was also a chance to catch up with old friends and hang out with my sister and her brood – my great-niece adopted me and clung on ferociously.
The atmosphere was very chilled and family friendly. The weather could not have been better – it was an idyllic summer’s afternoon. The gods smiled down yet again on the Bardic Picnic, and it really feels like the town has got something special going on – there’s a creative buzz and strong community spirit. Everyone pitched in – notably the Umbrella Fayre – and made it happen.
The Bardic Finals took place throughout the day – culminating in the ‘Bardic Statements’ and the Judges’ Decision. The winner was a popular choice – and feels the Bardic Chair has been accepted by the community – and is truly representative of the town and its diversity, as it should be. As the poster says: Spoken Word, Northampton style!
As the sun set we danced to the ever popular Celtic Rasta – a storming end to the best Bardic Picnic yet. Well done, guys!