Entirely wrecked and zapped (as my mother says) after the adventures of the weekend. It’s all the fault of a festival of course, this time the Festival of World Cultures (FWC) in Dun Laoghaire. A friend and I had applied to be volunteers, the idea being that we could spice up our CVs and enjoy ourselves simultaneously. The latter part of the plan certainly came together nicely- being a volunteer is DEADLY. Our first shift was at half ten on Saturday and before we could begin we were kitted out with everything one needs to help out the festival goers: swish orange FWC tshirt (so you are easily identified from a great distance) ; poncho (nobody wants to be assisted by a dripping wet person); lanyard with a wee map of the area; and a Nutri Grain (can’t answer questions if you have no energy!). Then it was off to our appointed spot- the Global Village on Carlisle Pier- to meet our supervisor and some of our fellow volunteers. On arrival we had a good chat with the rest of our team and got nicely acquainted. As you’d expect at an event like this everybody was positively lovely. Once everyone was accounted for we were given our instructions and the work part began in earnest. Fortunately, for us at least, the work part was fairly relaxed- our job was simply to wander around with programs and copies of the Festival Times newspaper and hand them out to people. And to appear cheerful and welcoming of course.
We were delighted with our lot- the Global Village, a market selling food and crafts from all over the place- was on our must see list anyway. Now and again when we felt there wasn’t much for us to help out with there we were free to take a wander towards Queen’s Road, where the majority of the outdoor festivities were taking place and spread our programs and welcomes there. On such jaunts we got to see plenty of what the festival has to offer: street theatre on the sea front; parades in the People’s park; and world music on the main stage.
The festival was of a different nature to others I’ve been to. For a start it was a family event, at least during the day. On Sunday my job was to man various games on the sea front, I got to blow giant bubbles, spin for families playing Twister and admire children’s artwork before sticking it up on the railings (funny, adults didn’t seem to want to paint themselves, I’d love the excuse!), it really made a nice change of pace from sitting in a campsite drinking cans (not that that’s not a lovely way to spend an afternoon). It’s a long time since I’d hung out with anyone in the under ten bracket, I’d almost forgotten how mental kids are. Or rather I’d forgotten that kids are just as mental as people my age but they get to act all that out in play or paint. As the day wore on we ran out of paper so the little folks started painting the footpath, really gorgeous stuff so it was. All of this already had me feeling pretty sentimental so my heart almost broke when I saw a Dad admonishing his son for getting some paint on his knees. I mean i can understand that keeping the clothes of a child clean can be an immense chore. I remember my mum constantly giving out to me for the mud and grass and marker and paint and tar that decorated my clothes when they greeted her in the wash basket. But the thing is now my clothes are hardly ever stained (and if they are it’s with something dull, like toothpaste): you grow out of building huts and jumping over streams, finding shortcuts, spilling poster paints and picking blackberries as quickly as you grow out of those stained clothes. Getting your clothes dirty isn’t like pulling someone’s hair or telling your brother there are snakes in the garden: it’s not something you did with malice that needs to be punished. Stains are evidence of the fun you had that day. So while I wouldn’t recommend a total laissez faire approach (things like Sunday best should be respected) I reckon that kids shouldn’t be sent off to play with the idea that they have to limit their actions to ones which will keep them clean. There are only a certain number of years when immersing yourself in mud is an acceptable (or an appealing) activity. Eventually the days when kids come home looking like they’ve been dragged backwards through a ditch made of ice cream will pass and you know I reckon those are days that most parents come to miss. So if you’re reading this Dun Laoghaire man, ease up on your son. He won’t be painting footpaths forever.
Of course children tire eventually and as it got darker the games were cleared away and we made our way to Purty Loft to check out a group called Jah Wobble and the Nippon Dub Ensemble. As is typical of the musical events you encounter at FWC we had no idea what to expect of Mr. Wobble and friends. In the event we were provided with an interesting and very mellow set consisting of fairly fantastic dubstep bass laid over with traditional Asian vocals. In general most of the music I saw over the few days had something of the surreal to recommend itself, and while I may not have been mad about every single act, at least you were going along to something entirely different, a band whose album you hadn’t had on repeat since February so they still had the power to really surprise.
Unfortunately for Mr. Wobble, while we were certainly impressed with his musical abilities it wasn’t the perfect soundtrack for 5 young volunteers who were fresh from a 6 hour shift on their feet. We needed tunage that would compel us to dance, shaking off our fatigue in the process. The heat in the Purty Loft wasn’t helping our eyes to stay open either so as soon as the gig was finished we made straight for the Kingston Hotel where there was a bit of a party for the volunteers. It turned out to be an excellent auld evening, great chats with everyone AND we got free beers!
Looking back the volunteer experience really was jammed full of little perks and pluses: free entry to gigs; free food at the lovely volunteer canteen (or voluntainer as some clever folks called it); exceptionally lovely people; and the chance to skip the odd queue and get asked for help and feel useful, I’ll certainly want to be getting involved again….