Camping & Capers at Masquepony in Cartmel

As you may or may not know, the dates of Lakes Alive’s camping street arts festival “Masquepony” were moved so that we would be camping on my birthday, (Friday 17th of August) and performing my “Edward Lear’s Nonsense” Shadow Puppet Suitcase walkabout on the Saturday.

Well having finally loaded up the van with everything we needed for both the camping and the performance we were treated to torrential rain as we drove down the A65 towards Cartmel.  Were we deterred? No!!!  I didn’t mind it raining on the Friday so long as the weather cleared up for my performances on the Saturday(as the weather forecast had predicted).

Having arrived in an extremely congested Cartmel town centre we fortuitously bumped into Jeremy Shine who pointed us towards the camping area without us even needing to phone him up.

With remarkably little fraying of tempers we succeeded in pitching the tent whilst the weather was temporarily cloudy rather than actually raining.  Due to our haste, the tent had one or two wrinkles in the outer skin which I was rather worried might cause a leak in rainy weather, but there was nothing to be done about it.  I was extremely glad, due to the sodden nature of the ground that I had bought an extra groundsheet and my wellies with me.

With all the time that this took, we missed the street shows in the afternoon.  We did, however have just enough time for tea and scones before the “Festival Circus” performance.  I was very excited as this was only the third proper circus performance I’d seen, (the others being “Quidam” by Cirque du Soleil and the Tower Circus in Blackpool Tower).

It turned out to be a touring Circus School with professionals and trainees performing alongside each other.  Though it wasn’t as artistic and polished as Cirque du Soleil it did have an immediacy and a sense of real peril that was missing from “Quidam” simply because the performers were so much nearer to the audience.  The tiny circus tent meant that a girl who did a trapeze act was literally bumping into the canvas roof when she was at the top of her swing.  The contortionist, clown and juggler (who I think were professionals) were definitely highlights.  The trainees were very entertaining too and it was great to see young people learning the circus trade.

We saw two excellent bands, (“Tongues of Fire” and “The Coal Porters”) in the evening.  I was particularly keen to watch the technique of the trombone players in “Tongues of Fire”.  I have been learning the trombone on and off for some years now but have recently let it lapse.

We managed to successfully keep the dirt and wet only in the porch and not in the inner of the tent when we went to bed.  Despite my fears, the inside had stayed dry regardless of the wrinkles in the outer skin.  We were careful to avoid touching the outer walls as we slept, however.

It was a lot easier to do this than when we borrowed my brother’s pop-up tent for camping in the Netherlands.  This had only one skin and was really only designed for one person.  Our new one is better ventilated and doesn’t have a hole in the groundsheet, (yay!!).

In the morning the rain did not stop immediately but got gradually better, to the extent that we could use my new cook set with meths burner.  We had tea and fried egg butties :).  A large number of dog walkers came past and the dogs wanted to come and investigate us in spite of what their owners told them.  One even came and had a lick of our frying pan, (which had luckily cooled down by then).  My husband Tim discovered that while Cartmel is excellent if you wish to purchase Sticky Toffee Pudding or expensive souvenirs it is less easy to locate washing up liquid when you’ve forgotten to pack it.

We had a good mooch about the shops and looked at all the nice things we couldn’t afford to buy and went to see the circus again.

Then I took myself up to the performance area where yummy food had generously been provided for the artists. It was a great chance to speak to the other performers too; including Frolicked,( with an updated version of Grandma and Grandpa from when I saw them at Blackpool Puppet Festival some time ago) and Gacko or Gary Bridgens who I had been in contact with on Facebook.

The Dressing Room for the performers was the one normally used by the jockies in the grandstand at Cartmel Racecourse so was an interesting environment to be in.

My “Edward Lear’s Nonsense” performances went well and I had the interesting experience of using sun for my light for the early performances and switching to my battery operated fluorescent tube for the later performances as it got darker.

Rather than striving to attract a large crowd all at once I was catering to small static audiences who were eating their picnic “banquets” at the tables and chairs that had been set out.  I even did a performance for people queuing up for food at one point.

I also ended up performing for Tom Lloyd and his family, who I only recognised afterwards as being the man who had created a shadow puppet animated film with the children from Ingleton primary school just up the road from where we live.  This was part of the “My Last CARnival” event that we created the horse automaton show for.

I was very flattered to be asked for my autograph by a girl who had seen my show.

I got a chance to see Fairly Famous Family’s Cheesy Rider act in one of my breaks, which included a memorable and highly impressive juggling striptease routine.

After the shows were over I could relax.  It was a real treat to be able to have a drink at the bar afterwards as I didn’t have to drive home. It was good to chat to all the different people and hear their anecdotes about performing.  I had a lengthy conversation about ways I could encourage myself to practice the trombone more often with Robert, (one of the trombonists from Tongues of Fire).  It’s not happened yet, but I shall practice at some point soon, I hope.

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