Saturday 15th June marked one of the most spectacular and surreal experiences I have ever had; dressed in red, I set out in Taunton town centre to co-ordinate the volunteers taking part in the Somerfest parade. I had hoped that I may also be able to take-part in the parade myself instead of adopting my usual position of viewing and documenting from the side-lines. A vantage point, I'm all too happy to take, not being a performer. Still, I figured I could cope with maybe a little cycling on one of the several cycle powered vehicles taking part in the Somerfest parade. Yeah....how wrong was I!
Those of you not familiar with Somerfest or wondering what I'm talking about, then read the info and view the images below.
For the rest of you, as it turns out, I wasn't going to be watching this one from the side-lines. In fact, I wasn't even riding one of the bikes. This time and maybe the only time, I was going to ride the tower! (see fourth image down) "Inconspicuous," thought my sarcastic mind. But also, "Amazing!" And "I don't exactly have a good head for heights!" Initial apprehensions aside, how wonderful it was to be let loose on a massive battery powered tower riding around the streets of Taunton! Finally, I could actually SEE the parade in progress, and not only see it, but BE in it as well!
The atmosphere was fab, the music was loud, the performers were entertaining and even the rain could not dampen our spirits. The commitment and enthusiasm from all the artists and volunteers was inspiring to be a part of and got me thinking; one, that we really need to do this every year and two, how similar the 'performing arts', music etc. is really the same as the visual arts or Fine Art. Why do we bother with all the labels, when at the core of what we are all doing is often the same or very similar, albeit to communicate an idea, express oneself, celebrate, challenge or question. A massive thank you needs to go out to all the volunteers, musicians, performers and makers that took part in making this event happen; Tim Hill, Dave Young, Tarn Aitken, Mike Pattison, Fuse, The Big Noise Band, Fork Beard Fantasy, the audience that came to watch and more!
And surely this is the point of parades and festivals, to involve the local community on mass; all ages and backgrounds. Perhaps what's more involving those, like me, who don't normally do things like this, its slightly out of their comfort zone, but it also gives a sense of empowerment in that kind-of nerdy/fairy-tale-like way, that for one day of the year, even I-a mere bookseller can ride-on-high in a parade through my home town. I may never walk down the town centre and feel the same way ever again. Hopefully our audience will remember when a horse-like dragon came and tried to steal their hat, when a majestic boat and horn came sailing down from the Castle hotel, when the sounding of trombones reverberated off the walls of shops, when giants came and danced amongst jugglers and for me, well maybe when I was the highest I'll ever be in Taunton. And that is the power and perhaps a little magic of the parade!
"Somerfest is a celebration of Taunton, Somerset and green technology that includes an afternoon parade with splendid array of cycle powered vehicles , beasts and machines, banners, street bands and street performers.
The parade included a machine based on the winning design of a design competition together with vehicles seen in last year’s Para-Olympic games and Taunton’s Olympic Torch celebrations. There were also performances from Fuse Performance Company, the Space and Street Linx, The Big Noise Street Band and the Trinity Primary School samba band."
Somerfest and the events supporting it have been made possible by support from Taunton Deane Borough Council, Arts Council England and Somerset County Councils Creative Industries Fund.
The event has been organised by Tim Hill, Tim helped put together the Olympic Torch celebrations and runs street band events, shows and celebrations around the country
Preceding the parade on June 13th will be a conference on parades and processions, featuring presentations from leading makers of parades from England and Ireland including Bridgwater Carnival.
Tarn Aitken and the beast during rehearsals at Taunton's Firepool.
The astronomer's tower that I rode during the parade. Built by Mike Pattison, crashed into The Castle Bow by Natalie Parsley.
Two willing volunteers test out another one of Mike Pattison's creations on The Castle Green.
Like what you see? There's more. Check out the link below:
And a history of some of the vehicles present in Somerfest at: