Pipefest – a music festival like no other

Starting with Pipefest fringe on Friday evening, a wide variety of talent in a fantastically supportive environment! From the incredibly nervous getting up for the first or second time to much more seasoned performers relaxed and enjoying sharing their amazing gifts! A memorable highlight was Den Miller – with some humorous thoughts about 1st world problems, It’s The Little Things!

We were very glad to be recommended The Plough for very generous portions and we found a great little camping spot, Fell View with a separate field for tents (with flat and well-kept soft grass – Steve was very pleased there were no stones so the pegs went in very easily!) and more than adequate facilities.

We arrived a little late on the Saturday morning but caught some enticing introductions from Duke Special (the reason this particular Pipefest stood out to me) and Amy Wadge, famous for co-writing Thinking Out Loud with Ed Sheeran but has written with a long list of “stars” and continues to write her own music. Of course we knew Martyn Joseph would be on form and he did not disappoint! The acoustics of Lancaster University chaplaincy centre were just right, it was a lovely intimate space, perfect for the music and discussions. With this Pipefest was seriously under way!

Lunch was a generous buffet and some friendly chat. For the afternoon session, we had the choice. Steve heard about the Let Yourself Trust and their most recent venture supporting Advantage Africa and their work improving the lives of people with albinism. 98% people with albinism do not see their 40th birthday. It was shocking to hear how relatively cheap a cryogun is. If they had more available, they could make a significant difference to the prognosis of individuals with albinism. We’re saving deposit for a house, a relative luxury when you think we could donate just 1 months savings and buy a machine outright. There are so many good causes out there – how do we decide where to spend our money? Let Yourself Trust has also supported projects in Guatemala, Palestine and Swansea.

I attended a session on song writing led by Amy Wadge and Duke Special. It became clear as I heard them explain their processes and ideas, the audience wanted hints and tips for a process they find quite difficult but Pete and Amy are so naturally gifted, they make it sound easy! It was interesting to hear that Amy had to come to terms with not being a singer-song-writer in order to discover and develop an incredibly successful career as a co-writer. It helped me reflect on times when I’ve had to re-frame my ideas of “success”. (Being a doctor wasn’t right for me, I felt a failure, but it’s led me into a more fulfilling path of getting to know and support people with serious mental health conditions and I find it more rewarding.) It was fascinating to hear how Pete took on a project writing songs based on a series of photos. He lived with the photos for a year, researched the photos in depth including the subjects, the times in which they lived, even the equipment used. I managed to come up with few lines I might develop into a song (when I have time and space!).

It was noted that politics is not a usual topic for song writers but Martyn (who never shies away from a challenge) has recently started a project writing songs influenced by the democratic history of our country. Cole Moreton then led an interesting and lively discussion, kicked off with the question “Are we happy with the democratic process of our country?” If not, which the majority were not, we were asked to propose a change which was then discussed and put to vote for acceptance or rejection! We travelled through ideas such as moving parliament to Derby and whether to pay MPs more, to a proposition to select MPs as we do for jury service – this was rejected in favour of a proportional representation type idea!

We then heard about Martyn’s most recent album “Sanctuary”. He describes this album as more balanced – the mood of the songs (and 1 instrumental) is varied as he’s feeling at a more positive place in his life and the music reflects this expressively, even including a couple you could “dance” to! Martyn explained the process of working with some incredibly talented musicians, they manged to record 9 songs in 2 days. Martyn also reflected on how quick the process is (using digital technology in someone’s living room) compared to 20 years ago (when tapes had to be physically transported from studio to studio). We heard excerpts and I succumbed to pre-ordering it.

Dinner, selected prior to the weekend, was again, delicious and generous. Chocolate fudge cake was a must for me! Our political musings continued with a couple of guys from Northern Ireland – where else would you get to have such a respectful discussion – our general conclusion was that there are no simple answers!

The day concluded with intimate performances from the 3 special guests. Pipefest is not somewhere you will find celebrities. Each performer was humble about their gift, just sharing what they love to do. Highlights for me included Amy’s song influenced by her grandparents, a beautifully moving love story. Although I’ve heard it before, I love Duke Special’s song, essentially a list about what it means to be human, he captures the “Condition” eloquently! Cole Moreton also shared an excerpt from his first novel to be published soon.

The raffle supported Festival Spirit – a charity that enables people with life limiting conditions to get to music festivals. We were won over by Steve Clarke’s testimony of a young man who, a low point, used their charity to attend a festival which enabled him to realise he could achieve great things and was next seen at the Paralympics lighting the Olympic flame and is set to take part in Rio 2016!

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The evening would not have been complete without a great set from Martyn Joseph, he never fails to fill me with awe and admiration. The family theme was continued with a song influenced by his Mum which I found incredibly emotional. Martyn’s humble approach to his talent and music makes him even more appealing. The audience of course, asked for the traditional encore but once Martyn left the stage, the audience wouldn’t stop singing the chorus, it great to be left satisfied but also wanting more! Martyn had to get a good night’s sleep as he ran the Lancaster 10k on the Sunday morning (in aid of Let Yourself Trust) – despite his reservations and fears he’d have to be carried, he ran it in a very respectable 1 hour 12 minutes.

I found myself on the last morning reflecting that, even when we’re “roughing it”, I still get to stand under a hot shower, letting in just cascade over me for as long as I like. I thought I’d been a long time, returned to the tent, only to find Steve was still enjoying his shower, I had to agree, they were better than ours at home!

A massive thank you has to go to Nikki and the Pipefest team who made an excellent weekend filled with eclectic company, abundant food, amazing talent and great music with inspiring messages.

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