Friday, 3 September 2010

Vintage at Goodwood, the review

So, weeks after the actual event, I've finally got around to blogging about Vintage at Goodwood. This is what happens when I have too much fun - I end up sleeping for weeks to recover!

I've read a lot of reviews of the event, some damning, some glowing, and there seems to be a split between day trippers (positive) and weekend campers (not so positive), of which I was one. Overall, I enjoyed myself and liked many aspects of the festival. I met some great people, did some fun shopping and saw some amazing acts. However, there were a lot of problems which upset me and put a damper on the event. Many of these were due to poor organisation and are the sort of thing I think will be easily improved upon for the next one (capacity for venues, staff briefings, layout etc) but some were intentional and do make me wonder whether I'd go again.

On the balance, I'm pleased I went and would consider going again...

Being keen and in need of a holiday, Tom and I decided to head down on the Thursday to get set up and take in the horse races before the event kicked off properly on the Friday. Sadly, we were running a couple of hours behind, having stopped on the way to visit family and so were too late for the racing!
Upon arrival, we realised that our tent, despite reassurances several weeks ago, was too big for the space allocated. The 'fire lanes' were close enough together for the tent to fill the pitch, meaning we couldn't peg it out properly. Not a problem unless it rains, but with the black clouds gathering it left me paranoid about leaks all over my 70 year old dresses. With out tent pitched as best as we could, we battled with a number of staff who didn't seem to know much about what was happening. Eventually we stumbled upon a desk in the corner of the car park where we exchanged out tickets for a camping wrist band (not that they were policing entry to the camping area) and headed to the main entrance to get the bus to the races
By the time we got to there races it was clear that it was all over, and people were leaving in droves. We were told by the bus driver that we only had an hour before the last bus back, so we trooped off to get food and drink while we could! The whole evening was a bit of a washout to be honest, though that was mainly due to us being late. What with the time and the start of the rain, we gratefully headed back to the bus (only to be told that he'd made a mistake and they were running till 11pm) and back to the damp camp site.

Up early and ready for fun, we sampled the toilets for the first time (very good) and the breakfast options (nothing veggie and staff grumpy). I was pleased when, having stepped out of our tent fully dressed and made up, our neighbours told us they'd never have guessed we had been camping! We headed off to join the queue for entry wristbands. After a long wait and some not inconsiderable confusion from the staff about what manner of passes and wristbands we would need to get entry to the festival, we streamed through the gates and into the site. We were greeted with a collection of very lovely vintage cars and a lot of press. I made a beeline to get into the 'high street' area, but was held back by Tom who wanted to look at the cars. While I loitered behind him, making non-committal noises about the chrome bits, we were stopped by a guy from the Times who interviewed us (and it was published!) and a couple of people who took our pictures. We headed then for the Torch club and settled down with coffee (to kill the 20 minutes before we could start out midday drinking).
We spent a couple of hours there, got chatting to 2 very nice couples (question - why do we only ever get on with middle aged couples?) saw the very talented P.E. Casper performing as George Formby (loved it!), Mike Sanchez and his band, had a very nice lunch and drank about £30 worth of gin (I think that Tangueray got the best portion of the £500 we spent over the weekend). We then went for a bit of a potter around and popped our heads into most of the main areas, the fairground and the shops, before heading back the torch club. We managed to spend a short time watching the Chap Olympiad, and talking to some of the stall holders in the 1940s area. The dig for victory garden was excellent, though I managed to pick a time when there didn't seem to be anybody supervising, so I'm still not sure what it was about. It looked like it might have been educational in nature. The chickens and ducks in a pen made of twiggy branches was genius.
We chatted to some very nice people on the other stands, although chickened out of speaking to Fleur de Guerre who was looking lovely in a 1940s floral number on the Chap stand, mainly because I couldn't think of much other than 'I like your dress' to say to her. Silly me. The Olympiad was fun, but poorly attended due to the rain, and we left after the umbrella jousting, again due to the rain. I spent a little while in the cinema watching some Ministry of Information films  which were really wonderful, if perhaps just a little obviously war time propaganda. They do seem to have beautifully captured a sense of Britain and Britons during WW2. They're highly recommended!
The queue
We returned to the Torch club and at this point came up against the first big issue of the weekend. The torch club was 'closed' (despite a tea dance being in full swing inside) and entry would begin again at 6, on a first come, first served basis. We decided to use the time to go back to the tent and get changed for the evening and so returned at about 5.45 to get in the queue. Big mistake. After 45 minutes, and fed up with the people just waltzing past the queue and getting different messages from each of the door staff, I went to the front myself and overheard one woman letting in people who 'just wanted a drink'. I shouted back to Tom and we pushed our way in after the people who'd been admitted. So finally we got a seat and a drink but still have no idea what had been happening at the door, or what became of the other people waiting. Anyway, we managed to table hop for the rest of the evening, ending up with some comfy seats on a table right on the edge of the dance floor, with a great view of the stage.
Kitten Von Mew was performing and what I could see over peoples’ heads was fabulous. She performed her RAF routine which I loved – I’d definitely see her again. She was followed by James Langton and the Solid Senders who were just as good. There were a lot of people who packed into the club just to see him and I could understand why.
They were some really excellent acts and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our night. Though I did end up having to pop out for a cheese baguette (£4.50! Apparently the food prices had been fixed by the VaG organisers) because the queue for food at the Torch club remained well into the night!

Got up, intending to make the most of the shining facilities, only to be greeted by a huge queue for the toilets, which by now were somewhat lacking in charm. Then I headed for the queue for the shower (queuing was, as you may be able to tell, a major part of the weekend) only to find that it was a freezing cold dribble with a muddy puddle where the changing area should be. Still, I washed my hair and dampened my pits in an approximation of cleaning and headed for the queue for the changing rooms, where I was at least able to plug in my hair dryer!
Much the same as our Friday, when I was ready we made a bee line for the Torch club, and got in a few gins before stepping out to see the sights.
We returned to the Chap Olympics, hoping to see a bit more and were cheered by the sunshine, so settled in deck chairs to enjoy the fun. Once again, shortly after starting the rain clouds rolled in and umbrellas went up. In true Blitz spirit, we all stayed on to sit out the shower, but sadly the rain got heavier and heavier until it was bucketing down and the last few brave (stupid?) souls ran for it. We ended up in the mess tent of the army reenactors and stayed there until the rain slowed enough for us to escape. I used that time to do some shopping and spent a happy couple of hours looking at clothes. I ended up coming back to the first stall, to buy the first item I'd seen - a green tweed jacket which helped to keep me warm and dry in the unexpected cold and wet turn the weather had taken.
I also bought 2 hats and a bracelet made from forks (nicer than it sounds, and worth looking at IMHO) and 3 pairs of stockings from What Katie Did.
I met Tom and together we headed back to the Torch club to get our seat for the evening. The dancers in the Torch club were superb, with a number of couples standing out above a generally high level. They were the sort of dancers who just make it look effortless, I must say I was extremely jealous but came away inspired to learn - even Tom was convinced we needed lessons!
That evening we saw Kitten Von Mew again with a yellow feather act and following her, the John Miller Orchestra, who were just as good as I’d imagined and played every one of my Glen Miller favourites, and more.

Stormclouds gather as Fleur
takes to the stage
Confident in the weather holding, we headed off extra early to beat the rush and managed to be first in the queue to get in. Never ones to break a habit, we went for a coffee at the Torch club and watched the tap lessons. Tom then went for a stroll and I stayed on, tucking into some of the cocktails I hadn't tried yet (some variety is good, afterall).
Tom watched the whole of the Sunday Chap Olympics, which was bigger than either of the previous days due to the sunshine and excellent from start to finish.
During the evening we had a very nice dinner (I had Lord Woolton pie – yummy!) and saw several more excellent acts – Gwendoline Lamour, The Swing Commanders and Ray Gelato.
While Tom was Off watching Joy Division, I was approached twice by ladies to ask where I got my dress. Needless to say my head swelled to massive proportions as I was able to say “I made it myself”. Awesome! It made all the hassle with the gathers more than worth while!

So, the music was excellent from start to finish, though I did feel there could have been more on during the daytime. The food was very good if massively expensive, and the cinema had some really excellent and unusual options.
The shops were good, on the whole, although not much more than what you'd find at a good vintage fair. Stalls either seemed to be 80s dresses priced cheaply or 1920s originals priced in the £100s. Despite that, there were a few excellent stalls and I did find a few bits to suit my taste and budget, but it was lacking the 1940s focus that I'm after.
I also felt a bit sorry for the shopkeepers, who I know paid a huge amount for their pitches and then seemed to be overrun by 'day trippers' in jeans and kagouls who were only looking. Not that that's really an issue, but it did make looking through racks of clothes tricky and made walking around in full 40s get up feel a bit odd. Although being stopped and having my photo taken by various people was quite nice!
The 1940s area was good, in that what was there was well chosen. It was a bit small though, and was tucked out of the way behind the Torch club tent. It felt like it could have been better exploited but I'm not really sure how. Anyway, it kept me entertained for a while and introduced me to some new groups, namely the 1940s society and Vintage magazine.
The organisation was the thing that let the weekend down the most. The entry arrangements were appallingly managed and the staff didn't seem to have been briefed at all. The camping was in one big field, not 'glens' as advertised and we slept on quite an extreme slope which didn't help my mood any (since I kept sliding into the tent pole during the night and having to remake my bed). The Torch club was seriously undersized. As the only seated food venue undercover, it was inevitable it'd be popular and the fact that they decided not to allow booking of tables, as advertised, made the whole thing worse.
The timetable provided in the very pricey but swish hard back book were out of sync with what actually happened too, meaning that we missed the Chap fashion show as it was on an hour before it was advertised. Plus I only found out at the end of the weekend that there had been talks by people like Mike Brown and Carol Harris which I missed because they weren't advertised anywhere. Added to that, there were a few members of staff in the Torch club who were really very rude. It was a shame, since many of the staff there were excellent and made our weekend very enjoyable (again, for a £500 drinks tab, I'd hope so!).
Viv the Spiv deserves an honourable mention for smoothing over things in the club, and particularly for getting us in when we were queuing at one point on Saturday - he's obviously something of a professional 'host' and was very good at making people smile as they came into the club. Top bloke with some very nice silk knickers in his briefcase!
Tom and I have decided that we're going to do more events like 1940s dances, reenactment shows and vintage fairs of various sorts and see if we can get the best aspects (namely the music, dancing, clothes and people) that way. If we can, I don't think we'll be going to VaG in 2011, but if nothing else it's opened a window into a vintage scene I've not had much contact with until now and encouraged me to get out and about more.
So, mixed feelings and I’d have to think carefully before going again, but I do hope it’s a festival that can grow and get better because it has huge potential.

1 comment: