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July 20, 2008

Money-Free Weekend

The concept of the money-free weekend came from the Simple Dollar. In truth, it was not entirely a money-free weekend. But it was pretty close.

First, I must tell you that TOR.COM, a new entry into the focal point fanzine market, went live today. They have a number of people blogging for them, of whom I am one. But have no fear, gentle readers: I decided that they didn't really want lengthy screeds on weekend life in and around Walthamstow and 'what I just watched on the telly', so I will continue to blog here too.

Saturday started with my regular trip to EFDSS for the last of their Saturday morning singing workshops. These aren't quite free but I paid at the beginning of term. They continue next term; singing workshops 10:30 - 12:30, lectures 1-2, instrument classes in the afternoon. So next time I'm continuing with the singing, and also taking up beginner's banjo. Be afraid. Lecturers next term include Jon Boden, Brian Peters, Maddy Prior, and Roy Palmer.

In going there, I missed the wake for the Orford Road Post Office, closing on Tuesday despite the best efforts of Walthamstow village residents. This photo shows an unco-operative Marianne posting perhaps my last ever eBay package in the black-shrouded post box.

From there we went to Chingford, where the Bargain Bookshop, was having its 20th anniversary party, complete with beautiful cake, Pimms, goodie bags and the Chingford Morris, slightly confused by actually dancing in Chingford. We had only a brief stop there because our main event of the day was a party in Cambridge. The party was jolly, with plenty of food, beer and interesting conversation. People had observed, from the closed beta, that I was one of the tor.com bloggers. I said that I was blogging fandom and they all moved away. Clearly I need a tor.com version of the "I'm blogging this" t-shirt. (Yes, petrol does cost money, so that's a bit dodgy; beer also).

This morning we went to beginners' and juniors' morris practice. Morris dancing is an excellent cheap hobby, in that you get dance instruction and healthy exercise and a sense of community and so on, all for free or very very cheap indeed. I did lots of dances, and played for a couple as well; in particular playing for the one that I bogged up completely yesterday afternoon.

From there we went to Halfords to buy accessories for Marianne's new bike. That wasn't quite money-free either, but it was very close as the bike came with a voucher for accessories that nearly but not quite covered the accessories. (Which were a lock, lights and a rack. She already had a helmet).

Quick lunch at home and then off to the Green Fair, where Marianne was one of 500 local children playing in a massive "Fellowship symphony" celebrating William Morris and I was one of several grizzled old folkies who'd been asked to provide some incidental music on the Hornbeam Centre's stall. The latter worked out rather well as the Hornbeam was selling organic real ale on its stall. The combination of cheery folk music, comfy grass to sit on and actual beer attracted a fairly large crowd over time. Our scratch band featured keyboard, piano accordion, melodeon, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, autoharp, guitar, concertina and a bloke dressed as the Green Man playing the bodhran.

The symphony, by comparison, turned out to be a huge and glorious undertaking, with several different bands and orchestras all around the park, playing sequentially and simultaneously. The fair was free, the symphony was free, there was free bungee trampolining for any child prepared to wait in a huge queue to go on it, and people kept pressing energy saving light bulbs and so forth on us.

As we were walking into the fair Marianne made a Spot Hidden Object role and noticed that at the bottom of one of the posters for the fair, in rather small print, were the words "featuring live music from The Men They Couldn't Hang". Now. It does seem faintly unlikely that a band I really like, that I follow, that I have all the main albums by and that I've paid good folding money to see on numerous occasions, could be playing a free concert half a mile from my home without my knowing about it. Turns out I was not alone in this; I mentioned the concert to several other incredulous TMTCH fans over the course of the afternoon. Of course, it was impossible to find out when or where they were due to play; I worked it out by the process of speaking to every sound engineer on every stage in Lloyd Park or Aveling Park, until I found one who said wearily 'well, they were supposed to be on now, but everything's running very very late'.

The result was that they played to a very small but very appreciative audience; this photo is slightly unrepresentative in that those people who were bopping moved back behind the grass so as not to get in the way of those sitting in the pleasant evening sun. Before they started Marianne said "They'd better play Colours, if they don't play Colours I'll ask for my money back...". They did of course, along with The Ghosts of Cable Street, Iron Masters, Wishing Well, Rosettes, Bank Robber, Walkin' Talkin', the Green Fields of France, Shirt of Blue and Smugglers. And maybe some others I'm forgetting. Anyway, it felt fabulous, as if they were playing just for us, and all free. And great for Marianne, as normally TMTCH play festivals where it's hard for kids to see, or venues where kids aren't admitted.

By the time they were done we had to dash home very very fast because BBC Four were televising the Folk Prom, featuring Bella Hardy, Martin Simpson and Bellowhead. If I'd paid £35 for a ticket to that prom I would be pretty offended, as you got just about half an hour of Bellowhead. A very good half hour however, and the BBC sound editing was excellent. Bella Hardy impresses me more every time I hear her; she was great live at Ely with Chris Sherburn (described, quite accurately, by Phil Beer that weekend as "the funniest man alive"). If you can use iPlayer then it's available on Listen Again on Radio 3 for a week.

Posted by Alison Scott at July 20, 2008 09:43 PM


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