Sunday, 29 July 2007

Sunday 29th July 2007 - YORK GREEN FESTIVAL!

The date has been etched in my mind for months, since early spring, when a Credit Union volunteer and I had an idea to do something to create a social life for York Credit Union members. He claimed to have been involved in organising some music events in Hull, and we decided to 'do' a summer festival in York to promote the Credit Union and other aspects of sustainability, and have a jolly time. So York Peace and Sustainability Festival was born, and an organisation called CrUST, Credit Union Support Team.

Then he got cold feet, perhaps realising what a big thing he'd let himself into, or perhaps going off me and my large personality and talkativeness, I don't know. He said he wanted to concentrate on his YCU volunteering, which he continues to do and do well. So I was on my own, justabout. There were some helpers, prepared to take on chunks of the event, or to help with admin, but it was still me at the helm.

The event mutated into York Green Gala, and because of worries about the use of the term 'Credit Union', CrUST died a death...and anyway, no one else from YCU was interested in helping start a social group, the only active participants were involved in the Festival. Apparently, if we'd called the group 'Supporting York Credit Union' that might have been better, as it would be more obvious that it was a seperate group supporting the Credit Union.

So York Green Festival was born, and I applied to the council to use the fantastic venue which is Rowntree Park, and got a date offered, the only one left unused in it's busy calendar. We started having meetings in The Evil Eye Lounge, but I wanted a more accessible venue, incase someone volunteered who couldn't manage stairs. Found the 'Space 109' shop on Walmgate, fairly near me, convenient and on the level, although £7 per hour.

I showed my initial application form to Liz Topi the City of York Festivals Officer, and she was reasonably helpful and left me to get on with it. A month or so later, I phoned round the list of contacts I'd been given... emergency services, environmental health, licencing, police, to inform them about the event. Then I got an email from Liz saying 'what was I doing, contacting the police?' Apparently I should have let her do that, but I hadn't been told that, as I'd been given a list of people to contact. I managed to find a lovely chap who puts on children's events for the council, Tim Waudby, and he offered to co-ordinate the children's activities, which was a relief. My 'ecowarrior' friend Baz Buchanan offered to co-ordinate the music stage, and we spent ages trying to get a good deal for marquees to cover the stage, and PA stuff. Bob the DJ (Green Renegade) offered to sort out a DJ area and it was suggested that we should have a skate/blade/bmx competition or showcase, with Dan 'Spleen' on the case.

So, lots of organising to do, insurance to sort out (used First Act/Hencilla, as they insure me as 'Professor Fiddlesticks' through Equity) and documentation for City of York Council, including a risk assessment. Now I am a qualified Environmental Health Officer and have done risk assessing, and did 'a good one' for a parade of 1000 jugglers through the City, so I put a full range of risks in and tried to sort out how these could be reduced, who they applied to, who was responsible for reducing the risk, etc. The finances were made a lot easier by a very generous and kind donation from United Co-operatives, which meant that we weren't worrying about financing it all ourselves, although to date I am several hundred pounds down and hope to clain back all that I spent on insurance, licences, a fire extinguisher and hire of meeting space.

When I submitted the risk assessment to Liz Topi, I was rather shocked that she said I shouldn't take some risks into account, and was unhappy at her sarcasm about this attempt at a Health and Safety overview of this event. I spent a long time trying to redo the RA to make it acceptable to her, but she continued to be what I felt was obstructive, unhelpful and unprofessional, for instance describing the music we were wanting to put on as 'heavy on the ear'. I happen to find opera and classical music 'heavy on the ear' but I wouldn't dream of saying this to a person trying to put on a community opera and classical music event. So my opinion of her went downhill, compounded by hearing rumours of her history and how she has treated other 'rock music' lovers. She is not well liked by many people in York, and this aura of suspicion and mistrust didn't help my relationship with her. However, I started to bypass her and work directly with her boss, Dave Meigh, who is a very pleasent guy, straightforward and professional, and appearing to welcome the event and be constructive with his comments. I had a good meeting with Environmental Health, who although were concerned about noise pollution, were helpful and upbeat, offering commonsense solutions and backing up my belief that having too much in a risk assessment is far better than removing stuff, as advised by the Festival's Officer.

I passed the documentation over to Baz who was able to put the information into a format which was acceptable to the Council team, and we were told it was 'too late to cancel' ie, it was on. However, the delays caused by my poor ability to understand the Council's needs and my worsening relationship with Liz meant that the helpful Tim W. felt he had to pull out, meaning that the children's activities were reduced to the Woodcraft Folk and the children's entertainer we had booked, Bo Clown.

But in the last few days it all came together and this morning the weather forecast was good, and by 8am I was at the park and helping to erect the 'Scout canvass' provided by the wonderful Jo, who realised I was in a bit of a mess and stepped in to help with logistics AND stewarding. Councillor Andy D'Agorne had been persuaded to be chief steward, ably helped by his highly organised wife Denise. Many others came out of the woodwork and offered stewarding services, signwriting and other essential jobs.

All the stallholders who were organised enough to pressgang volunteers or really wanted to come had a lovely day. Amazingly, York Credit Union, who stood to benefit financially from the event if we made a profit, couldn't muster any volunteers and didn't have a stall.

So the day went like a dream. The sun shone, clouds came and went with just the minimum of raindrops, right at the finish of the day. We had a very enjoyable dance troupe, The Pipits (check them on the Web!) who were funny and entertaining, and obviously enjoyed themselves. Also Debbie the belly dancer was beautiful and entrancing, whirling round with purple veil flowing. My favourite band was The Falling Spikes, they sent shivvers up and down my spine, and I loved the reggae which started off the DJ area. All the stallholders reported having a good day, Azra's curries were so popular, she sold everything just after lunch, and could have sold half as much again. York CRAG got another 10 people sign up, and LETS got 2 re-joiners and some new members too. There was good humour, no accidents beside a skateboarder getting a graze and a small boy knocking off a scab which then bled profusely. So the Red Cross had a peaceful day. GeneratorX the solar cinema put on a range of short thought provoking films, and we were able to pay everybody who needed paying on the day. We'll be able to give a donation to St Nicks who came with the electric vehicle to take recyclables, which reduced the volume of waste considerably. A perfect day. A result. Most people happy, just a few grumbles about 'too much boom boom music' from middle aged, middle class park visitors, and a comment from a drunk Irishman about the event happening on a Sunday, and he'd 'pray for the greens'.. hope he does, hope he thanks the Good Lord for providing heavenly weather!

So at 5pm it stopped, we pulled down the tent and gazebos, and I litter-picked and went through the litter bins to remove recyclables. Someone found a tiny (and presumably expensive) mobile phone, so one of our team rang one of the numbers to find out who it belonged to, and they came back to pick it up, bearing a box of chocolates as a thank you.

I found a book in a bag, labelled 'FREE BOOK' and from a subscriber/user of bookcrossing .com, which I found out about later in the evening and registered with. I don't need to read the book as it's for New Vegetarians and I'm an old one! I'll re-release the book at the Big Green Gathering this week coming!

So a good day. Came home via the York Cheese and Beer Shop, to get some cider and perry.
Flopped until after tea, at 10 pm, when I thought I'd better record it all.

Thank you to all musicians, performers, stallholders, volunteers, providers and of course anyone who came to see what was going on, and gave a donation for a programme. And thank you all for supporting me and my mad idea. I haven't told my wife, but I'll do it again next year, even if Liz is still in post!

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