Solar-Powered Festival Venue & much, much more!
Still here... September 2022
We've planted trees and a standing stone for Dave. Meanwhile Em has been crewing and doing second hand stalls at Knockengorroch, Northern Green Gathering, Equinox Festival... and helping to organise The Green Gathering. Others who worked in Weirdigans Cafe way back when are now running venues and box offices, booking bands... and working in hospitals, doing art, climbing mountains and other exciting things in and out of the festival circuit. Life goes on, and so does our love for Dave Weirdigan.
Unbelievably Sad... September 2019
In June this year Dave Weirdigan died after an 18 month battle with leukaemia.
In his last days he told us that there were many galaxies to fix. So when you look at the stars, know that Dave in his LEDfantastic van is buzzing around, still bringing light to dark places.
We don't know what shape Weirdigans will take in the future, but one thing we've discovered through these terrible times is how strong the Weirdigan bonds are. Those of us who've worked for years together in fields, in mud, in dust... with winds tugging the tents and munters messing up the carpets, queues out the door and vans breaking down, exhaustion and cameraderie, fallings-out and makings-up... our friendships are strong and deep and lasting.
Lots of us still love festivals, and believe in the power of festivals to build community resilience, change lives and create cultural shifts. Festivals feed our souls.
So we'll still be in the fields. And Dave's many legacies will live on. See you out there.
Here's a tribute to Dave and another wonderful friend who died too soon. There's more info about Dave's illness, strength, life, death, burial and legacies on his facebook page.
Into the Future... October 2017
You may have seen us with the cafe, cakes and cocoa at Knockengorroch's World Ceilidh again this Spring - such a difficult gig to give up, we love it and highly recommend you try it!
We did a lot of other stuff this year too.
Dave and Em co-ordinated a workshop space in the Healing Field at Glastonbury Festival; we booked the traders and entertainment at The Green Gathering, and with a fab new crew built on last year's successful Raconteurs' Delight cabaret stage (thanks Kara, Sam and all). Em ran her 'Burlesque & Bohemian' market stall at the Northern Green Gathering, Dave was Duty Manager at Solfest, we ran LED workshops (thanks Drea) at Positive Vibrations and Dave Weirdigan Music has an autumn of gigs lined up, with artists including guitar god John Fairhurst, poet and author Salena Godden, singer-songwriter Terry Logan, comedian Elvis McGonagall, Johnny Solstice, DJ Templehead, Orkestra Del Sol, Echo Town, River Roots and Mobius Loop.
The gigs are all in our sometimes-hometown of Hebden Bridge, at the legendary Trades Club, so pop in and see us if you're up north on any of those dates. Otherwise, in the fields next year...
Well actually we might just pop up again from time to time ;) April 2016
We tried to tell everyone that the Knockengorroch World Ceilidh 2015 would be our last cafe gig... but everyone didn't agree. So, humbly bowing to greater wisdom, we changed our plans. We WILL be there, with a miniature Weirdigans Cafe and the Wierdspace Acoustic Tent. See you in May!
The Last Cafe Gig approaches! May 2015
After 11 years we're about ready to hang up our teatowels. We're going to do one last World Ceilidh at Knockengorroch and then the dust sheets will be slung over the urns.
But this isn't the end of Weirdigans - oh no - we have plenty more adventures in us yet. We've learnt and experienced so many different things during these 11 years, and now we want to branch out and put more of them into practice.
We're full on with co-ordinating various aspects of The Green Gathering.
We're involved in various campaigns - Reclaim The Power, Occupy, SOS Hebden Bridge - and Dave, would you believe it, is standing for election as a Green Party candidate!
We'll still be going to our favourite festies too - Em hopes to have time to do some tat stalls, we'll be hanging out with the Wierdstrings in the Acoustic Space at Solfest, we find ourselves being asked to provide solar power and LED lighting from time to time, and who knows what other things we might be asked to do once we take off the aprons and lay down the baking tins?
And... well, it's possible we may find ourselves brewing up the odd pot of chai or whipping up a Knocka-Mocha cake again at some point in the future. It seems too final to say 'never no more'.
Watch the space...
The Green Gathering takes over our lives! October 2014
So this year was the year of The Green Gathering.
Weirdigans booked bands, did the pre-event publicity, ran artists' liaison, helped in the box office, raised funds, invented two new stages - 'Raconteurs' and 'Brigadoon' - and attached our cafe to the Speakers' Forum again. It was exhausting, exhilarating, brilliant.
Before that all got underway, in May, we were at Knockengorroch with the Acoustic Wierdspace, which was organic and earthy and friendly as ever. Then it was Glastonbury, mother of festivals.
After The Green Gathering, we sold our big, beautiful yellow-lined Bedouin tent to Veggies, the vegan radical campaigning co-op from Nottingham. It was a wrench to let it go, but Veggies had greater need than us (and more space in their van).
We're now a smaller, nippier version of Weirdigans, operating mainly from our green and white canvas medieval pavilion tent. Though we may buy or make another tent... and a new van awning, as ours was ripped off and trashed in a freak gust of wind at Knock.
We'll be doing even more at The Green Gathering in 2015, as Em has taken on co-ordinating the cafes and traders. After 11 years with Weirdigans, it feels like time to put experience to good use and give ourselves some extra challenges. Who knows where this journey could lead!
See you in the fields...
'Reinvented for our 10th year!', November 2013
After a decade of Weirdigans, we decided to make some changes, to try out different things, to avoid getting stale and bored by reinventing ourselves. It worked pretty well (well, we thought so).
We did things like... turning our big tent around 90 degrees and bringing the kitchen inside the main tent so that the cooks and washer-uppers could interact more, at Knockengorroch; adding giant haybale sound-proofing to the acoustic tent, at Solfest; and linking up with the Speakers' Forum and Ben's Green Energy Exploration Dome, at the Green Gathering. We bought a catering blowtorch to grill the cheese on top of our nachos; experimented with gluten-free recipes; and let our red van go, because it's not eco or financially viable to be running two big vans around the festival circuit.
Perhaps it doesn't sound like much, but these little tweaks made our lives considerably more interesting! And created the clarity and space to allow us to take the plunge and get involved with organising the Green Gathering. That's going to keep us busy all winter now. See you there!
'Grounding but not ground down', Sept 2012
We had a lovely season, lots of fun despite the rain, and enjoyed a new lease of life inspired by new crew (some of whom we met at protest camps over the winter, great recruiting grounds...!).
Nuts in May was cold, and we were sited on hardstanding so struggled to get the tent pegs in, but it was sunny and friendly and we liked it there. Knockengorroch was sunny but terribly, terribly midgy. Loved the sauna by the river. Beatherder was wet, as was the Green Gathering, but at both Dave DJ'd and filled a tent with happy dancing people. In between the Weirdigan gigs we went to Festival of Resistance (activist networking), Croissant Neuf Summer Party (where we ran LEDfantastic workshops) and the Radical Routes Summer Gathering (more activist networking but on a co-operatives theme). Then it was Solfest, which was wet. As always we felt very much appreciated there, although y'all didn't buy as much cake as you should've done.
We didn't have to get towed off (or on) to any of the sites - if nothing else, we've learnt how to drive in mud over these last nine years.
But... Weirdigans is not immune to the dire economic climate. We've always been non-profit but it's getting silly when we have to pay to work! So for year ten, to round off the decade and celebrate our big anniversary, we're having to rethink how we do things. Sustainability isn't just about solar power, it's about doing something that can last. We'll be looking to reduce our expenses while providing an even more interesting festival space to entice people in and to enhance the festivals we're a part of. There'll probably be more in the way of workshops, debates and creativity. Possibly less in the way of cakes. The chai will remain the same - you'd beat us up, otherwise :)
If you'd like to be part of Weirdigans, to join our collective, or do some casual festival work, or give us some feedback, or donate some spare cash to help us keep going; please get in touch.
'Going awol', April 2012
I went to London for a couple of days and returned four and a half months later. So I don't have much to say, other than.... OCCUPY!!! What a rollercoaster and it's not over yet.
Weirdigans has a new storage room, new mugs and new teatowels. It has some new crew members too - apparently - they write me emails but I haven't met them yet. Our vans, incredibly, passed their MOTs with relatively little fuss and bother.
We have a new festival - Nuts in May - and I really need to get offline and get on with organising everything.
See you on the road, in the fields, or even in a tent in the City!
'Soul Searching', Sept 2011
We've been searching for soul in more ways than one.
A rekindled love of Northern Soul saw Dave Weirdigan ransacking our mate Stu's collection of rare and not-so-rare 7-inches and scouring record shops and ebay for danceable tunes. Dave completed the build of our solar-powered sound system and at the brilliant Beat-Herder we launched LEDisco. Lots of fun. On the back of that Dave was invited to DJ at Solfest, in the Love Shack... and a whole new career was born :)
Meanwhile we've been sifting through the huge array of festivals now available, trying to work out what it is that makes a festival right, or wrong, for us. I think it's all about whether an event has 'soul' and whether it feeds the souls of the participants. Does it leave us exhausted or invigorated? Despairing for humanity or with restored faith? Pure hedonism doesn't do it. Anything designed as a money-making machine doesn't do it. In my experience the best festivals are those that have grown organically, almost accidentally, from humble beginnings. They're run by people with long-standing festival experience but without degrees in Event Management; people who like to dance in fields and sit around campfires, who rejoice in making something out of nothing and inviting like-minded folk - of a mixed age range - to join them. I'm happiest when it feels like everyone - organisers, traders, crew and punters - are on the same side... When ethics and the environment are given high priority... When grand vision, co-operation and anarchy are in harmonious balance.
My favourite festival this year was The Green Gathering, closely followed by Alchemy. Beat-Herder was right up there too. Knockengorroch, Solfest and Glastonbury are long-term favourites. Croissant Neuf was perfect for families (a bit dull for grown-ups without kids); Secret Garden Party was hedonism without principles hand-in-hand with heavy Security - a great shame. I ventured to BoomTown for a recce and was intrigued - it was glitzy and gritty in equal measure; a bit messy but with an interesting inside-out figure-of-eight layout, some great venues (Gramophone Disco and Devil Kicks Dance-Hall were my faves), plus a much-needed crafts-and-chill-out area.
Weirdigans, itself sprouting from the humble beginnings of the Coffee Bean, has continued to send out quirky offshoots: LEDfantastic; Mama Weirdigans Hostel; LEDisco; recycled clothing stall Burlesque and Bohemian; and The Ideal Dome Exhibition. We'll continue to evolve and will be venturing out with various combinations of these creations to old-favourite and new-exciting festivals in 2012.
This year on the crew we had stalwarts Imogen and Kristen; repeat protagonists Kate and Ed, Mo and Stu; old-timer Lucie; and lovely newbies Shirl, Helen, Maggie and Ellie. Thanks to them and all our festival friends we had a wonderful summer and are inspired to carry on creating... :)
There will be space on the crew for more Weirdigans next year, as lots of the current Weirdigans have become involved in other projects and studies and so won't be able to spend the whole summer in the fields. Read this if you're interested.
'Nourishing New Shoots', March 2011
Well that was Winter. Plenty of groups coming to use Mama Weirdigan's Hostel - tree planters, permaculturists and peace defenders, amongst others - with enough time inbetween for fixing, maintenance, tinkering with the low-energy sound system, going for walks and installing LEDs here, there and wherever people want them.
Now planting seeds which will hopefully grow to nourish us in the Summer; literally, sowing herb and veg seeds in the garden, and metaphorically sowing seeds by hunting for new Weirdigans, engaging with festival organisations and getting stuck into planning, promotion and logistics for all the offshoots and branches that Weirdigans has been producing these last couple of years. There's a lot of logistics now we've got the hostel and LEDfantastic (not to mention LEDisco) to run, in addition to the cafe. We're hoping that by diversifying we'll have a better chance of surviving financially; plus Dave Weirdigan seems to think that keeping busy is the elixir of life :)
excited about -
of LEDisco at
Festival on the
first weekend in July
in Lancs... (ssshhh...
tantalising and tempting treats for the first 20 to venture
Also looking forward to the 2011 Green Gathering, to be held on the last weekend in July in Berkshire and slated to be a relaxed and intimate, sweeter, simpler, less Big Green Festival.
Many veteran Weirdigans will be back this season, fitting festivals into lives busy with sociological, palaeontological and peace-movement studies (yes, really!), activism, travel, transition networking and music-making. New crew members have been drafted in to complement the old-timers: if you'd like to join us, get in touch, but bear in mind we have an almost-full crew already.
See you in the fields.
'Evolving Organically', November 2010
include: festivals; sustainability; diverse music; 'real' food; hosting
quirky, cosy safe havens; being outdoors; dancing; exploring and
travelling; treading lightly and living ethically.
Over the last few years we've been organically evolving. Providing a space and sustenance has taken a lot of our time and energy but recently we've begun to incorporate more of the things we love into the Weirdigan Wonderland.
Dave has spent a lot of time researching and experimenting with LEDs. The technology's moving fast and these ultra low-energy lights really are the future. We've been using solar-powered LEDs in Weirdigans since 2005 and every year more and more people want to learn about them. Responding to this demand - and always keen to share sustainability tips - we've been running workshops at festivals, schools, eco-communities, rural barns and (soon) a Scottish bothy. As the technology and Dave's skills evolve, Weirdigans becomes an increasingly stunning LED showcase.
five years now we've been collaborating with The Wierdstring Band and
their fantastically talented musician friends to
spaces for fireside acoustic sessions and spontaneous,
be a Wierdstring
baby (aaahh!) but 'the boys' are not for stopping.
have ideas up our sleeves for more workshops, performances, skillshares
and campaigns. Dance classes, sewing circles, anarchist meetings...
anything's possible. More Weirdigans
will be needed to help keep the show on the road. If you'd like to
run away with
the circus, let us know. It'll be very hard
work and not terribly glamorous but if you're passionate about the same
things we are, Weirdigans might just be what you're
for. Get in touch!
Just after Easter the secret plan came to fruition and we moved into 'Mama Weirdigan's Hostel'!!! We've rented a big old building behind a listed Baptist Chapel from Pennine Heritage Trust and have been gardening and baking and barbecuing while hosting at home... providing a Weirdigan-flavoured welcome to Greenies and artists and musicians and cyclists and long-distance walkers and backpackers and stray waifs who've stumbled upon Hebden Bridge and our hideaway hillside hostelry... www.hebdenbridgehostel.co.uk
We're still doing the festies too: ceilidhing at Knockengorroch; watching the Solstice sunrise from the stone circle at Glastonbury; providing a chill-out space with brews and a view at BeatHerder... Soon we'll be on the road again, going East and West, South and North with the cafe and the LED workshops while our lovely new crew members Drea and Ayliffe and Al and Kam look after the home base.
It's a whirlwind but a warm one and I'm enjoying the ride, just hoping I land gently in a hayfield somewhere when the time is right :)
New Year's Eve some of us Weirdigans were at a mini festival in North Cumbria, dancing on white fields in a whirling snowstorm illuminated by the full moon. A roaring bonfire and wood-burning stoves in tents and caravans kept us warm and we helped to run a bar in a barn. Others of us were parked up on the Isle of Skye... We've been enjoying the weather - it's logistically difficult but nevertheless fun the way best-laid-plans get thwarted and we're all at the mercy of nature. Sparkling frost, waterfalls-turned-to-icicles, tramping through knee-deep snow to visit snowed-in friends... on the downside we've had to dig ourselves out of a couple of laybys and the solar panels on the roof of our van aren't getting much sun.
Pre-snow we had a fantastic week in a cottage at the foot of Ingleborough to celebrate my birthday; climbing hills, fording streams, cooking up feasts, playing games and dancing.
Dave has been running very popular LED workshops in Cumbria
Yorkshire (with help from Imogen and Kristen) and has fitted out Wal's
barn with LED lighting and solar panels.
We've already had a few enquiries from would-be Weirdigans about working with us during the 2010 season... if you're interested, get in touch soon.
where we'll be helping our friends at Quinta
up their outdoor dining area and cordwood roundhouse with
latest-generation LEDs... and hopefully we'll get a bit of sun on the
This Summer the mission was to identify what works for us (finanically and fun-wise) while trying to transform the rest by recycling it into something more rewarding. To these ends we gave up on some festivals and tried out a few new ones; we started to share what we've learnt about the energy-saving magic of LEDs; we made some exciting new alliances with like-minded folk; and began to construct a whole raft of ideas and plans for future incarnations of Weirdigans.
Beatherder provided authentic diy festivalling but financially was pants, while Moor Music was amusing and had a heatwave but wasn't really our style. Running LED workshops at Glastonbury in the Green Crafts Field was a very good idea. Returning to our old favourites Knockengorroch, Solfest and Secret Garden Party - and hosting acoustic music sessions there - was, in each case, joyous. The Workhouse Festival, however, lost us money for the third year running. A shame, because it's got great potential and is based around a brilliant project. We probably won't be doing the cafe there again, but perhaps we could be involved in another way. Eden festival looks interesting and it may well have a Weirdigans corner next year...
It was great having the 'core crew' back. It's hard to imagine doing this without Imogen, Kristen and Chrissy now. We've all learnt and grown and laughed and groaned so much over the last few years. Imogen has finished her studies but we're hoping that rather than head off with hanky-on-stick to seek her fortune she'll stick around with us for another season... Kris reckons he'll be back but we'll be losing Chrissy who's off to South America to work on ecological projects. Fingers crossed that some of this year's new crew will return to become stalwarts.
The cruel cancellation of BGG tore a big hole in the middle of our summer. So much had been arranged around and geared up to this. Transport, finances, logistics, hopes and expectations were screwed up for all the Weirdigan crew, and for ethical traders and campaigners UK-wide as well as would-be festie-goers. BGG was the biggest thing on our calendar and although we determinedly rallied after the shock, it felt like we'd missed our footing, en masse. One minute we were charging uphill, full of adrenalin and anticipation, the next we were sitting trembling by the road-side, enveloped in anti-climactic disorientation, emotionally and financially frustrated and drained. It seems unlikely the BGG organisation can survive this, when they were already struggling financially, although they are looking into taking Mendip Council to court for 'malfeasance in public office' ie pulling the plug on the festival for political or corrupt reasons. No more BGG would be a huge loss - it was a brilliant alternative networking event as well as a top independent festival. I fear the creeping homogenisation and commercialisation of festivals (Big Chill has just been bought by Festival Republic-yikes!). Please join us in supporting the authentic, earthy, creative, quirky, non-sponsored ones.
The sliver of a silver lining was that with BGG gone we had the time and energy to go to Croissant Neuf Summer Party disguised as our shiny alter-ego LEDfantastic. Smiley D's workshops were crammed with folks soldering LEDs into practical and creative arrays: tents, head-dresses, lanterns, paper flowers, vans, hats, traders' stalls... all glowed and twinkled on hardly any power at all. Fantastic indeed.
Solfest was particularly lovely this year and felt like it had come-of-age, although an incident with Barney's horse left our best tent with two long gashes in it. Don't ask. There'll be more than the usual amount of fixing to do this winter. We're gutted that the Doonhame Hairth was probably the last Autumn festival at Knockengorroch but are looking forwards to the May World Ceilidh there, determined to make it even more special if we'll only be getting the Knock-fix once a year. Wierdstring James has crafted a wood-burner for the Acoustic Tent - so we'll be cosy whatever the weather - and Tom is working on improving the Longhouse. Knockengorroch Acoustic Village will be THE place to be in the Springtime... see you there!
In 2010 we'll be looking to do more LED workshops at festivals between cafe gigs. We're also hatching a new, secret and very exciting project for the future. Watch this space...
'Seeing the (low-energy) Light', April 2009
Winter has passed, trees are in blossom and festivals are on the horizon. We've been keeping ourselves busy with homely projects - sewing, reading, writing, van maintenance, dancing to keep warm, cycling and coming back splattered head-to-toe in mud; that kind of thing. While visiting friends in Portugal we helped to repair a traditional earth-built bread oven and put solar-powered LED lighting into the outdoor kitchen at Quinta Cabeca do Mato in time for the Portuguese Green Gathering. Dave also ran LED workshops at a community arts space and brightened up various friends' lives by installing LEDS in their vans and yurts. Responding to the demand for low-energy lighting he is now planning further workshops, demonstrations and installations, beginning at the Alternative Technology Centre in Hebden Bridge on 30th May and then on to the Green Crafts Field at Glastonbury Festival in June.
Weirdigans has a couple of new (to us) festivals booked this year: BeatHerder and Moor Music are both small, non-commercial Northern events that we're hoping will suit our quirky-but-cosy style just perfectly. We're over-the-moon to have been invited back to the Secret Garden Party and are totally chuffed that the Big Green Gathering is returning after having a year off. We'll be in the main arena at Workhouse this year, hosting an acoustic space in addition to the cafe. We're giving Glade a miss because the pitch fees are so high and there are so many other cafes that we lost money on it last year - sorry to those Glade-goers who appreciated us; we appreciated you too. Northern Green Gathering is taking a year off (boo) but at Solfest and both Knockengorroch festivals we'll be there amidst the acoustic musical mayhem as usual.
Imogen has been fighting climate chaos; Kristen has been doing up his van and polishing his wit; Chrissy has been studying in far-flung corners of the world. They'll all be back in the cafe this summer along with a few new faces and as many old-timers as we can drag out of retirement. We're pretty much full for crew this year but we have a reserve list and we'll no doubt be needing more Weirdigans in the future, so if you fancy working with us, let us know by email.
See us and we'll see you on Weirdigans magic carpets soon... :-)
'Strength in Adversity', October 2008
A season of challenges. An alternative lifestyle doesn't make us immune to the problems of the wider world.
In Spring rapidly rising food and diesel prices put huge pressure on our fragile finances. Bio-diesel and vegetable oil (unless recycled) were finally outed as part of the problem rather than an eco solution. The cost of wholesale organic lentils almost doubled overnight. We didn't put our prices up quickly enough (we thought about it but didn't want to upset our lovely customers) and ended up losing money at three festivals in a row. Smiley Dave stopped smiling and the unthinkable - winding up Weirdigans as unsustainable - almost became the inevitable.
The weather didn't help. Climate change? On a micro-level two horrendously wet summers have seen festivals flooded and cancelled and spirits dampened. Running a cafe in a field becomes so much harder in a deluge. Repelling mud, plugging leaks, fighting mould... We could've given up, but we're just too stubborn. So we kept on and were fantastically rewarded with a hot, dry, sunny, sexy mid-season Secret Garden Party which thoroughly revitalised us and powered us through the rest of the Summer.
We've ended the season no better off financially than we were at the beginning, but we're not quite bankrupt. So we won't be selling off the canvas and the kettles this year. The campfire cameraderie of the gorgeous Weirdigan crew, alongside the diverse family of festival freaks we've spent the last 5 years getting to know, is worth far more than a pile of pounds in a wobbly bank. We're still excited by the wonderful festival world we work and play in, so we're not stopping yet. Long Live Weirdigans and see you all next year :)
Big Thanks to our customers, crew and friends - especially Imogen, Kristen, Chrissy, Claire, Stu, Woody, Lucie, The Wierdstring Band & Family, Mad Monk Pete, Care Bear and Grandfather Mike. You lovely people have helped see us through the sticky patches - Cheers!
New Vistas', April 2008
We Weirdigans scattered throughout the UK and Europe for the winter. Studying, making music, working with homeless folk, travelling, cooking up a storm, selling sparkly things at fleamarkets, catching up on sleep and friends, reading escapist novels; and preparing for another festival season...
Smiley D and I had a great adventure driving through France and Spain to Portugal, with Kipper-the-Travelling-Cat. Loved the hilly North, the sleepy rural backwaters of the Alentejo, the misty mountains of Monchique, the bubbly little green hills that could be home to Hobbits, and the bustling South with its beaches and markets. Kipper adjusted to a nomadic European lifestyle with feline grace and ease. Our mate Ali (the Metal Man) made her a catflap in the van door. We were self-contained and independent in our van, lived cheaply, found opportunities to do tea and tat stalls, helped Ali build his roof, even managed to fit in a Portuguese Green Gathering and quite wanted to stay forever.
Suddenly, though, it's Spring and time to start all over again - getting vehicles and tents ready, confirming gigs, booking crew, sourcing supplies. We're hoping to do a few new events this year – check out the Calendar page for details. Imogen and Kristen will be back, hopefully Stevie too for a couple of gigs, plus we'll have some lovely new crew members.
We're all hoping for less mud this year. More sunshine, more cake, more fantastic festivals. Touch wood and see you in green fields in Summertime :-)
'Riding High', October 2007
Tying up the loose ends of a fantastic season and already looking forwards to the next. This year there's been more of everything than ever before - learning, trying, testing, growing, consolidating, sleep deprivation, joy, success and mishaps. More cakes, more campfires, more happy customers.
3 new crew members – Imogen, Kristen and Stevie – found us via this website and travelled with us for the whole summer. They were absolute angels throughout all the exhaustion and exhilaration of the season, and rose to the challenge of surviving the muddiest festivals imaginable. We worked double-overtime when one of the core Weirdigans had to drop out due to illness. We had two tyre blow-outs on motorways, a burnt out clutch and a broken ankle to hobble us, but we kept on making tea and cake and having a ball.
We tried out some new festivals and wove ourselves deeper into the fabric of our old favourites. We're still interested in exploring new events, incarnations and collaborations. This year we linked up with Dougal to run a solar cinema in our lovely new Bedouin tent at the Northern Green, lit the replica iron-age longhouse at Knockengorroch with our solar-powered LEDs, and hosted late night music sessions and impromptu performances at several gigs. Plus we were on telly when 'Fern and Holly go dating' descended on us at the BGG (not sure that's a great claim to fame actually...).
Dave and I spent the last few weeks sorting out our van, making it into a proper living vehicle with stove, sink, shelves and twinkly lights. After a summer of sleeping on top of tents, ropes and all the rest of the cafe tat, it's really exciting to have our own space, even if it's only wee. We managed to kit it out on a tiny budget after rummaging through various tips, skips, cellars, garages, barns, unlit bonfires, roadsides and rubbish heaps. With some welding help from our mate Pete at Mad Monks music shop, and the hospitality of Wierdstring James who let us stay in his caravan and use his tools, we got the job done beautifully.
Winter is going to be grand.
'Growing Up A Bit', April 2007
Until recently Weirdigans had managed to live on a shoestring. We're very good at reclaiming, reusing, salvaging, scrounging, borrowing, blagging and doing without... but Health & Safety and vehicle licensing regulations are being heavily ramped up and this winter we've had to spend a lot of energy and cash on making sure we comply. Plus there were a few things we really wanted to do to make things run more smoothly and sweetly for crew and customers.
So we've been gathering, building and buying new and exciting stuff. We've bought two vans – one to live in and one to carry all the kitchen equipment. We've built a new kitchen – a Medieval-style green and white striped octagonal tent - from reclaimed canvas (a marquee hire firm was going out of business). This tent can also be used alone as a take-away cafe for one-day events or can be set up as an organic cafe-bar at private parties. And we've bought a second-hand Bedouin-style tent too, which will eventually replace our antique army tent when that has to be retired. In the meantime the new tent can be used as a luxurious annexe to the cafe, providing more space for musicians for example, or we can hire it out in it's own right for weddings, parties etc (see 'special tents for special events' or contact us for more info).
Having spent every scrap of savings on the cafe, we're moving out of our housing co-op to become nomads. The commitment's made – we can't afford the rent anymore so the Weirdigan circus is hitting the road full-time! Some of the regular Weirdies have moved on to fresh adventures so we've been recruiting new crew members. An ad on this website brought a totally unexpected deluge of applications and we've been meeting lots of lovely wannabe Weirdigans and trying to work out who will fit in where and when. Sorry to those we haven't a place for at the moment. Keep in touch.
Scary stuff: we've just registered as a Workers Co-operative and Company 'limited by guarantee'. I'd been dragging my heels over doing this, but Weirdigans has become too complicated to run as a self-employed one-woman-band, so the plunge has been taken. We now officially exist and will soon have a Weirdigans chequebook from the Co-op Bank!
We're still not making the cafe itself any bigger, we're sticking to our simple menu of drinks, home-made cakes, salads, sandwiches and toast, and you'll still be reclining on Weirdigans lounge floor on a patchwork of rugs. We may add a few fluffy cushions and some new hot chocolate flavours, but we're not fundamentally changing. We love the cosy intimacy and hotch-potch homeliness of Weirdigans and there's no way we want to lose that... even though it means we'll probably never turn over any profit :-)
So, we've grown up a bit, but we're still full of enthusiasm and you'll easily recognise us in the festie fields this summer.
Thanks to our mums for contributions of towels and tea-towels, to Roly for helping us make the new kitchen tent, to the new folks for joining the circus, to you who performed, made tea, dressed up and danced at the Mad Hatters party, and to everyone who's helped us and been lovely this winter...
'Learning Curves', Oct 2006
It’s been a rollercoaster. The craziest season yet, all bundled into a summer snowball of intensely hard work, fabulous feedback, blazing sun, torrential rain, gorgeous festivals, van breakdowns, relationship ups and downs, great customers…and finally, a little bit of cash to reward us for the hundreds of unpaid hours we’ve worked over the last few years. That’s not to say anyone’s getting rich, just that we can have a bit of time off now rather than having to scramble straight into fulltime work to pay off debts built up over the summer. Ah, relax…bliss!
Being solar-powered felt great. Dave’s shiny LED teapot was much-loved ("We used it to guide us home every night, thanks so much!" said a Glade customer). We’d like to add a wind turbine too for the dull days and are hoping to raise money for that at the 2nd Mad Hatters Party in March. We’re also hoping to have our own van next year, rather than having to beg, borrow, scrounge and hire vans as we have until now. And we need to buy a new tent to replace the ancient 70’s house tent we’ve been using as a kitchen - this year it had to be covered with a patchwork of flapping tarps because it had gaping holes as big as baby elephants in the back. Mending, making, fixing, working things out, experimenting and inventing…we’re already making lists of things we need to do over the winter.
We don’t really want to make Weirdigans bigger so we’re going to concentrate on making it more eco, more cosy and beautiful, more fun for the much-appreciated workers (including ourselves!) and better service for our lovely customers. A couple of long-standing Weirdies are off to seek greener grass, so we're going to need a few more crew. Please get in touch if you'd like to work with us at festivals in 2007!
Enormous Love and Abundant Thanks to all who helped us out this year and to our ‘regulars’ for being part of the Weirdie spirit. Loud Cheers to the Wierdstring Band for being so entertaining.
See you all in Spring if not before…X
'Gearing Up', May 2006
Winter has passed in a blur. We repaired the cafe tent, experimented with recipes, painted menu boards, improved the website, searched for organic suppliers around the country, put together applications for festivals...kept the wolf from the door with odd jobs...and now, already, Summer is sneaking up on us. We've had our fundraising Season Launch Party - 'Mad Hatters & April Fools' - and we've done our first gig - Beltane in North Yorkshire (see 'Reviews'). We have the money to buy solar panels to power our ever-more-beautiful 12-volt LED lights & our slowly-growing eclectic CD collection. We're very happy about going solar. We wanted to do it from the start and now it's really going to happen.
We've also splashed out on a brand new shiny oven and a portable fridge. How we've managed for 2 years without such basic kitchen items is a mystery and testament to our make-do ingenuity. This year we're going to need them because we have a couple of gigs where we'll be the sole caterers for a few hundred people. Yikes. Huge Thanks to Liz who gave us £100 for no reason at all and enabled us to buy the fridge.
Roles and responsibilities amongst the Weirdigans have begun to settle down now (in an organic and flexible fashion, naturally). Excitingly we're beginning to be 'head-hunted' by smaller gatherings and festivals who want a cosy, eco cafe serving food cooked with love and organic ingredients. Our reputation is building and we've had great feedback from customers and festival organisers (see 'Comments'). We've got more gigs this year than ever before, we're going to be solidly on the road for weeks on end, everyone we know has been drafted in to work a festie or two... If we can just make enough money from it to support ourselves we'll be over the moon.
Before we dive in to our most full-on, challenging season yet: cross fingers and humbly request from the Universe that our vehicles remain robust; that we all stay healthy; that the weather is good (particularly for setting up and even more so for packing down); that customers flow through our tent; that all our equipment works well; that the cakes rise and don't burn; and that 2006 is a thoroughly thoroughly enjoyable year.
See you in the
Weirdigans tent at a festival near you very soon!
Wow, what a season! Halfway through the summer we belatedly realised that we'd got ourselves a full time job here. All plans & ideas not involving Weirdigans had to be jettisoned along with anything resembling a normal sleep pattern. The gig offers rolled in, our horizons expanded, the Weirdigans' dream began to seriously shape up. Luck, hard graft, creative thinking & helpful mates kept us trundling from gig to gig despite hiccups involving transport (our van died), lack of storage space (thanks to Zion for putting up with our tat & to Mike for finding us a garage) & other minor crises. A host of fantastic festivals, a couple of weddings, the odd private party; Weirdigans rose to each occasion & we all had an utterly amazing, exhausting, exhilarating time.
We can hardly wait for 2006. We're working on lots of new ideas: an expanded festival menu; solar-power for our 12-volt LED lights & mini sound system; further collaboration with a talented bunch of acoustic musicians & more... But we're also aware of the need to consolidate. We don't want to get too big for our boots, we're not gonna try to run until we've got walking licked. We know, from the wonderfully positive feedback we receive (see 'Comments' page) that our customers like the fact that we're a small, intimate, friendly, quirky, hotch-potch outfit. Don't worry, we're not gonna go changing that!
Huge Thanks to those we drove like slaves this summer: Alex (washer-upper extraordinaire); Lucy (for adding a dash of glamour); Tim (cheers for all the presents!); Hippy Andy (who worked even in the midst of writing his M.Phil dissertation); Mike (self-styled 'Grandfather of Weirdigans'); Gillie (threw herself into it even though she hardly knew us); Tall Blond Dave (for being tall & blond); Dave (who used to be Boaty but is now Bikey); Brian (Jesus in a Jumper); The Bear (for driving & being very strong)...
Thanks too to
all those who helped out during financial, staffing or other crises:
Rob G, blond Dave, Tim & Lo (for trusting us with your money -
& look, we paid it all back!); Gordon (drove us to Glade even
though he couldn't go home 1st due to a bomb scare); Hilary, Mabe,
Josh, Fern, Stuart, Christina, Rob B & Hebden Andy (part-time
slackers! - we love you); our Mums (for donations of cooking equipment,
trestle tables, tea-towels etc...); all at Zion Housing Co-op (thanks
for letting us hog the oven & for eating the cakes that didn't
quite rise); everyone I've forgotten - sorry! we love you too.
Em A: spent the winter finding a lovely new life: new man, new home in a small North Yorkshire village, new job on an organic farm. All this is taking up a large chunk of the time that she used to plough into Weirdigans, so Em won't be going to as many festivals this year. The other Weirdies will miss her and will just have to make sure that she works and plays twice as hard when she does get her festie boots on...
::: Cheers Em, for all the hard graft and silly sensational fun of last year - we'd never have got this far without you!
Duncan: spent most of the winter living in a shed on a building site near London, helping a friend redesign his (the friend's) house. This involved pretty much knocking it down & starting from scratch. The project continues, but Dunc has moved North & is now busy baking cakes...
Em F: spent part of the winter working & playing in Thailand, visiting her family there and walking around Koh Phangan on little-used jungle trails & coastal paths., where Dave B found her.
the newest member of the Weirdigans' crew, Dave helped to found the
Zion Housing Co-op and instigated Hebden's quirky Crickstock festival.
Then he fell in love with Elf...
In the Beginning there was The Bean. The Bean was small and round. It was a geodesic dome made of hazel poles and second-hand tarps; inside there was a full fresh pot of coffee, day and night. pics
The Coffee Bean made its first appearance at a Treesponsibility party in 2002. As wind and rain lashed down, the dome filled to bursting point with Yorkshire tree-planters drinking steaming mugs of coffee and tea. The customers had to sit on top of each other but we took that as a sign of success.
Later that summer, the expanded Coffee Bean - comprising a 70's orange house tent ingeniously tacked onto the original dome - became the VIP chill-out lounge at a two-day outdoor party in Lancashire.
2003 saw The Bean at Crickstock, a cricket/music fusion festival (?!) in Hebden Bridge, the 'Glastonbury of the North'. More quirky Northern events followed.
By the end of that year, the house-tent/dome combo could no longer hold the masses flocking to our coffee-pot and the menu had grown. It was time to shed the chrysalis and emerge as - what? "Let's get a crew together and a big tent, give ourselves a new name, get loads more tat and find a van to carry the tat in...".
The tent, van and tat were swiftly bought, begged, borrowed and blagged. The crew emerged from a bunch of mates at a party and the name was coined by our old friend Rachel - "You lot are weirdigans, you are". And so Weirdigans Travelling Café was born.
Infrastructure and name in place, Weirdigans' purpose and ethos was easily pinned down. We wanted to have a cosy, comfortable, beautiful space for people to relax in at festivals. We wanted to provide healthy, home-made food and a good range of quality drinks at reasonable prices. We wanted to be environmentally sound, so decided to serve organic, fair-trade produce; create no unnecessary waste; and to buy solar panels when we could afford them.
Weirdigans had its 2004 debut at a folk festival in Cumbria in the Spring. Em A, Em F (aka Elf) and Dunc - the core crew at the time - cooked up big pans of hearty campfire fodder. Stews, veggie chilli and curries with home-made cakes to follow and twenty-four-hour teas, chai, coffee and cocoa. As we packed up on the Monday morning we were booked for 2005.
From there the gigs got bigger, better and more varied. After Crickstock '04, where we fed the crew as well as the punters, we ventured South.
The Glade, in July, near Reading, was the highlight of our year. A new festie; we weren't quite sure what to expect. Any expectations we did have were exceeded. The location was idyllic, the site was spacious yet cosy, the atmosphere was fantastic, and the feedback we received assured us that we were doing everything right.
In September, as the festie season drew to a close, Weirdigans branched out into an oak grove where we catered for Giles and Natalie's Handfasting Ceremony. Our biggest challenge yet, we pulled off feeding over 180 people in one sitting as well as baking and decorating the wedding cake and, as always, serving drinks all night. The happy couple were very happy.
Roll on 2005...