I know this is primarily an astronomy and space exploration blog, but it’s not exclusively so, and sometimes I like to write about other… stuff, ok? :-)
Huge excitement here in Kendal because we’re now just five days away from the start of MINTFEST, the annual street arts and entertainment festival put on by the brilliant “Lakes Alive” team!
What is MINTFEST? Well, imagine your own town, wherever you live, with its see-them-every-day shops and pavements suddenly taken over by performers. Imagine its ‘normal’ streets, parks and open spaces suddenly turned into open air stages for groups of dancers, theatre groups and singers, from all across Europe, or even further afield. Imagine your usual background soundtrack of car alarms, people arguing and worse replaced for two days by the sounds of music, laughter, cheering and applause. Imagine the greys, beiges and browns of everyday life swept away by a tsunami of brilliant rainbow coloured costumes, props and banners. Imagine your streets full to bursting with crowds of people, hundreds of them, gathered around performers doing magic, or putting on a puppet show, or dancing.
It’s an annual event here in Kendal, and it’s fantastic. Stella and I consider it our “second Christmas”, because its so full of light and colour and laughter. And it’s happening again next weekend!
From Friday evening through to teatime on Sunday, Kendal will be invaded by dozens of different acts. Some will base themselves in the town’s parks, or in the courtyards of some of The Auld Grey Town’s historic buildings…
Others will turn a street corner, or some steps outside a building, or the bandstand, into a temporary stage and perform there…
Other acts will literally wander the street, performing as they go, delighting passers by and often involving them in the show too. There will be things for kids to laugh and scream at, and for their parents to nod approvingly at, thinking “That’s very clever…!” too.
Some of the acts are small and simple, and attract modest crowds…
Others are more ambitious, and are watched by hundreds, who sit, spellbound, for an hour or so, watching something amazing…
And others – well, others are just wonderfully laugh-til-you’re-almost-sick hilarious…!
So, if you’re a) free next weekend, and b) within reach of Kendal, get yourself here and join in the fun. There are programme booklets available all over the place which are essential – you can just wander around catching acts on your way, but you’ll see much more if you plan in advance a little, and check in advance where acts are, and how to get to see them. We always take a booklet out with us and tick off acts as we see them, following a route we’ve worked out in advance. I know that sounds a bit OTT, but seriously, if you just wander around aimlessly you’ll miss something fantastic and then kick yourself when you hear a passer by raving about it!
As you walk around Kendal, watching acts, be sure to check with the Lakes Alive volunteers for the latest news and programme changes. These volunteers all work really hard, both on the day and behind the scenes, and deserve a lot of the credit for the success of the event. If you’ve got any questions, they’ll be only too happy to help!
A few more tips:
* Take food with you, if you can, because once the acts stert performing getting in and out of shops is a *nightmare*; with the pavements clogged full of people watching the shows, sometimes five or six deep, you can’t count on just ebing able to pop into a shop to buy a sandwich and a can of Coke.
* If there’s something you *particularly* want to see, make sure you’re there early so you get a good view; once performance time approaches, people will pile in from everywhere, and if you hang back you’ll lose your place and your view.
* JOIN IN THE SPIRIT OF THINGS! MINTFEST is, above everything else, fun, so be prepared to join in with the clapping and cheering, and with the loud “Boooo!”ing of villains and baddies! If you think of MINTFEST as a cross between a circus, a pantomime and a seaside variety show, you get the idea.
So, there you go. Next weekend is going to be fantastic, I can’t wait! Of course, if this kind of thing isn’t for you, it’s a weekend of Hell on Earth! But if you enjoy street performers, and fun, and wandering around trying to cram as much into two days as possible, then it’s one of the highlights of your year.
If you come along, and see me – laden down with cameras, guide booklets, and supplies – stop me and say hello!
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