It all kicked off this morning with the arrival of our first junior Morris teams (45 minutes early) on the regally elegant esplanade at Weymouth. They were here to take part in 'Dinosaurs Not Allowed', a celebration of young people’s participation in traditional folk dance.
As the dancers began to assemble in their colourful costumes, accompanied by fiddles, whistles, flutes and squeeze boxes, you could feel the curiosity beginning to get the better of the late summer promenaders.
After all, this is Britannia-by-the-seaside and it’s never been just the promise of sea, sand and average temperatures that have drawn the crowds here year after year. So, with the promise of ‘tiddley-om-pom-pom’ in the air, some followed and some just naturally gravitated to Hope Square, some 20 minutes’ walk from the esplanade, to watch the first performances of these talented young guardians of a great British tradition.
The tight timetable for the day meant I could only stay for these first performances. But the energy and enthusiasm on show, the thrill of performing evident on the faces of the young dancers and their teachers alike, and, above all, the instant appeal the event had for onlookers, was enough to tell me that ‘Dinosaurs Not Allowed’ was going to prove a huge success!
Later intelligence confirmed that this was, indeed, the case with more than 300 people watching and invited to participate in a grand finale on Weymouth Esplanade. Answering the question, ‘Would you sign up to do something similar for COUNT ME IN next year?’, one of the adult supervisors replied: ‘Not half! This was a brilliant do and we felt proud to be asked to be a part of it. If this is what the Olympics is going to do for us, bring it on!’
Next stop Bristol and a small, family-run club, Mr Wolf’s, which was the venue for the launch of the Teenage Rampage tour. Eight hugely talented young bands (I have the CD in my car and they are really good) playing in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative audience of their peers before two of them, The Naturals (from Bristol) and The Orkid (from Plymouth), take a mini tour of the region complete with professional management, apprentice tour managers and the BBC Blast film crew – what an experience.
I arrived in time for The Orkid’s set. This all-female band belie their age. They can really play. It’s tight, it’s together, it’s toned and Abi, the lead singer, has the voice of a raunchy angel and her joy at performing shows and infects her audience. What a treat.
Shame I can’t stay for more. But the clock is ticking and it’s time to move on to The Bristol Do…
The second year for this quirky, subversive take on the village fete transposed to the centre of a bustling city proved as intriguing and as energising as it did first time round. At a glance it may be a little more polished, it may even be a little bigger (in terms of its programme) than last year, but it maintained the scale and intimacy that made it such a delight first time round.
Too much to mention in detail and, anyway, you have to be there to really appreciate it (and I would heartily recommend that you are there next year). But for the record and for some idea of the scale and diversity, on my whistlestop tour I took in the fabulous Ambling Band, the grotesque Little Box of Horrors, the wonderful and witty Café Sway and the simply weird The Galvonium – a musical whimsy…and how!
Day one done and it’s time to go home. On my way to the car park I encounter the BBC Blast film crew shooting a scene with The Naturals for the Teenage Rampage tour movie. It involves a lot of walking through water and kicking up spray. And it exemplifies what this weekend is all about – talented young people being given an opportunity to do and achieve exceptional things.