Bogtastic!

Now that the Jubilee celebrations are over and done with you’re probably looking through your diaries, wondering what you can get up to next. Well, if you’re keen to continue the excitement of the last couple of days and want to get down and dirty in the countryside then you should definitely head to Simonsbath in Somerset on June 9th for Bogtastic, an adventure day suitable for all ages that will take you sploshing about through the mud between Blackpitts and Brendon Two Gates.

Between 10:00 and 16:00, you can try your hands and feet at welly wanging, dam-making, stream-dipping, bog-trotting, guided walks and conservation challenges, all hosted by the kind-hearted folk at the Heart of Exmoor, the Exmoor National Park Authority and the Exmoor Mires project.

Make sure you bring wellies (both for wanging and for wearing!) and suitable outdoor clothing, as it seems the sunny weather of a few weeks ago has once again forsaken the UK.

“This will be a fantastic day for all ages exploring this wonderful site – come and enjoy the fun. The day also includes an opportunity for youth workers and teachers to get free Environmental Survey Training from an experienced practitioner from the Peak District National Park – where they say that their peat is deeper than ours,” the Heart of Exmoor’s David Rolls remarked.

If you do go and take lots of pictures, please do send them in for our readers’ gallery. We’d love to see what you get up to on the day!

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Our take on the Diamond Jubilee

What a year it’s been so far for the little old UK. We’ve commemorated 100 years since the Titanic sank to the depths (and educated a good many people who thought it was just a Kate Winslet film), had a wonderful time at the Chelsea Flower Show, celebrated Charles Dickens’ wit and whimsy and seen the Olympic Torch Relay get going in preparation for the Games. And this is all without even thinking about one of the most important events of the entire year – the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

The celebrations really have done Our Liz proud and it’s been truly wonderful to see how the great British public have embraced the occasion and really come out in their patriotic droves to wish her majesty well and congratulate her on 60 years well spent. Here at the Two Moors Festival, we’ve always been supportive of the monarchy and so were particularly pleased when we were able to secure two tickets to the Diamond Jubilee concert on Monday (June 4th).

And how lucky we were with the weather as well! While it rained down on the royals for the flotilla the day before, the 20,000-strong crowd of gig-goers were treated to an evening of warm sunshine and relatively cloudless skies. Not that inclement weather would have dampened their spirits, however – everyone was buzzing with excitement so much (even in the humungous queues to get in) that the air was simply electric.

With a line-up including Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Shirley Bassey, Madness and Cliff Richard, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the evening was going to be a special one – and the fact that the Queen even made an appearance (although she did miss Tom Jones) really was the perfect end to a fantastic day. While everyone played their little cotton socks off, there were a few stand-out acts, as is always the way.

Annie Lennox was a sight to behold in a pair of gigantic angel wings as she rocked out to There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart), Tom Jones did the Queen every justice and thoroughly entertained the crowds with Delilah and Grace Jones defied belief by effortlessly hula-hooping while singing Slave to the Rhythm.

There was, however, one surprise success story of the evening and everybody there and watching it on TV seems to agree that Rolf Harris basically stole the show, with his truly heartfelt speeches. “We are here to celebrate a generous and compassionate lady who has given 60 years of service to the people of Great Britain and the Commonwealth. She has been an inspiration to millions. She has touched hearts throughout the world. A living testimony to the power of kindness, dedication, tolerance and loyalty,” he said.

John Adie, co-founder of the Two Moors Festival, echoed the 82-year-old’s sentiments, saying: “It was fantastic to be up in London for such a historic occasion and seeing so many people hell-bent on celebrating the Diamond Jubilee. It brought home how important the Monarchy is and how it brings the country together – you would never get that in a republic.”

Look out for our photos of street parties and the concert later on this week!

Were you lucky enough to make it to the concert? Who was your favourite act?

Sir Ranulph Fiennes: Everest, The Eiger and more

Sir Ranulph Fiennes has braved the wilds of the polar ice caps, tirelessly hiked his way up some of the highest mountains in the world, completed a 52,000-mile Transglobe overland expedition and has been dubbed the world’s greatest living explorer by the Guinness Book of Records. But now he’s facing an entirely new challenge – the audience in the Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple.

On June 8th, the 64-year-old – who was the first person to visit the North and South poles by surface means – will be taking to the stage to be interviewed by acclaimed mountaineer and photographer Ian Parnell, who accompanied Sir Ranulph on his expeditions up Everest and The Eiger.

Speaking to the North Devon Journal, the explorer and author of 19 books said: “Today is not like it was 30 or 40 years ago when we were pioneering these things, because today practically everybody’s grandmother is up Everest, every weekend. It’s not quite like it was. The ones that are left and not done are incredibly difficult.”

Exmoor seems to hold a special place in Sir Ranulph’s heart. Not only does he live here with his wife and daughter but he also uses its wild expanses of countryside as a training ground, where he selects the people to accompany him on his expeditions. Now, he’ll be discussing the challenges and fears he faced as a climber – a pursuit he first took up as he entered his 60s and after suffering a rather severe heart attack!

This sounds like it’ll be a very inspiring talk. If you go, let us know how it went.

Further information

Time: 19:45

Tickets: £18/£16/£12

Call (01271) 324 242 to book.

God Save The Who?

The British national anthem has been the subject of controversy for quite a number of years now. Whether people are arguing that there should be a specific song for England, bemoaning the fact that our great nation’s sportsmen and women don’t even seem to know the words or getting in a tizzy over the inclusive nature of its lyrics (“and like a torrent rush, rebellious Scots to crush”, anyone?), the anthem always seems to come up in conversation at least once or twice a year.

Now, we here at the Two Moors are joining the debate, since making what we consider to be a rather startling discovery this week – the fact that a seriously dwindling number of schoolchildren actually know this song, a song that has been around since 1745.

While youngsters in the US are brought up on a diet of stars and stripes and pledges of allegiance, patriotism in the UK is firmly off the curriculum, only receiving a brief, cursory mention every couple of years when something worth a party happens, like the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee.

It may be down to the fact that school assemblies in the UK are much less formal than they used to be and children do not have as great a connection with the national anthem as they used to 20 years ago. The Jubilee itself – only the second to take place in British history – also does not seem to be of much interest to youngsters, other than as a good excuse to go to a few street parties and dress up.

While the song is undoubtedly an important part of British history and a tune well used by many composers over the years (Beethoven and Handel to name just two), its relevance and interest these days is now being called into question. Similarly, so too is the monarchy, with a new YouGov poll revealing that while the majority of people believe the royals to be either fairly or very important today, a “notably outspoken group” believe the opposite, with others stating that the royal family is too expensive to maintain and helps perpetuate social inequality.

At exactly what point are we willing to forgo our nation’s cultural and social heritage? The words and tune to the British national anthem form an integral part of both of these, as well as being part of what makes Britain so special. While we may not always agree with French and American cultural values, it is doubtful that there are many children in either country that do not know the words or tune to the Marseillaise or the Star-Spangled Banner (Christina Aguilera excepted…).

That being said, while children may not appreciate the importance of the national anthem, it would seem their elders have a greater sense of historical perspective. According to the Official Charts Company, the anthem has become the first number one in the all-new classical singles chart, followed by other traditional tracks like Nessun Dorma, Jerusalem, Rule Britannia and Katherine Jenkins’ version of I Vow To Thee, My Country. Guess we know what the soundtrack to the UK’s street parties will be this Diamond Jubilee!

What do you think? Should UK children be made to learn the national anthem in school or does it matter if this part of our history disappears?

Musical horror stories!

Lots of people believe that the life of a professional musician is filled with glitz and glamour and yes, it can very well be, but as has been seen in the news this week it can also be fraught with difficulties, as people travel around the world and do their best to keep on top of different countries’ rules and regulations.

Here at the Two Moors Festival, we were very concerned to hear that BBC Radio 3 presenter Petroc Trelawny – who has taken part in previous Two Moors events over the years – had been detained for not having a work permit for his role as compere at the Bulawayo Music Festival earlier this month.

Incoming reports regarding the situation seem a little confused – one minute he’s been released and the next officials are refusing to cancel the arrest warrant. Here’s hoping the matter is resolved as quickly as possible. This case has got us thinking, however – what other incidents have we seen in the last 20 or so years where musicians ran into a spot of bother as they toured around here, there and everywhere?

Festival artistic director Penny Adie used to take the winners of the BBC Young Musician competition out on tour around the Middle East and she really has seen it all – and then some! “Most of the tales have to do with travel,” she says, with a smile. “Losing baggage happened several times. Sarah Williamson, for example, arrived in Bahrain with nothing. The airline gave her £20 for a toothbrush. And Liz Couling had to borrow concert clothes in Doha.”

Travelling with a marimba was also a bit of a nightmare, Penny recalls. Not only did it weigh 96kg in a flight case but several people at customs requested it to be unpacked, assembled, played upon and – once they were satisfied that it was in fact just a musical instrument – allowed it to be packed up again. Other countries also spent a goodly time searching instruments for bar codes, she continues.

Keeping an eye on price tags might also be a good idea, as violinist Magnus Johnston soon found out on the Middle East tour. According to Penny, he once had to fork out £7 for a KitKat from his hotel minibar!

Money and musical instruments aside, people were often struck down with serious illnesses while away, Penny says. “Pianist Harvey Davies once got terrible food poisoning before a school workshop, as did flautist Adam Walker. Adrian Spillett stubbed his toe badly on a boat on the al Bustan beach and had to walk onto the concert platform in socks in front of HRH Princess Alexandra and Omani royalty.”

So, as you can see, a life on the road may not be entirely all it’s cracked up to be – although it’s certain never to be boring!

Do you have any musical horror stories you’d like to share?

2MF residency reviewed

Last Friday (May 25th), we welcomed eager audiences to the gallery at Barkham in the very heart of the peaceful Devonshire countryside to hear a group of professional musicians – none of whom knew each other at the start of the week – perform an evening of Beethoven and Strauss as part of the Two Moors Festival’s first residency of 2012.

After a few days of practice, with the sun beating down all week, professional instrumentalists Ben Birtle (cello), Francesca Moore-Bridger (horn), Sophie Roper (double bass), Sinead Frost (bassoon), Arnaud Ghillebaert (viola), Max Welford (clarinet) and Chihiro Ono (violin) gave an inspiring performance of Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel Lustige Streiche and Beethoven’s Septet in E flat major Op.20.

The standard of the evening was particularly high, although the Strauss performance was better than the Beethoven, which is fiendishly difficult and a truly awesome work to tackle. Regardless, the audience loved every second of it, reflected in the thunderous applause that nearly lifted the gallery roof off afterwards and the incessant chatter over the dinner table, nigh-on bending under the weight of copious amounts of food provided by artistic director Penny Adie. (Think cold roast turkey and ham, cream cheese quiche, pasta salad, garlic bread, cheese, chocolate cake, meringue…the list goes on and on!)

“This residency instantly proved the need for this project and why we have set it up. It has given young professional players the chance to come together to work on repertoire seldom performed, to rehearse at leisure, to get to the depths of the piece and, above all, reinforce the need to listen to each other while playing. The fact that the weather was glorious added to the package, prompting animated games of croquet and plenty of Pimms,” Penny said.

If you had fun on Friday night and can’t wait for the next instalment, or were unlucky enough not to make it this time round, the next Two Moors Festival residency concert is on August 17th in the gallery. It will be an entirely new group of musicians, with just cellist Ben Birtle returning to Barkham. The musical programme consists of Dvorak’s Nocturne in B major Op.40 and the Double Bass Quintet in G major Op.77, and Mozart’s String Quartet in B flat K.458 The Hunt, so it promises to be an brilliant evening indeed.

Although we don’t charge for these concerts, we do ask for donations, with a suggested minimum of £15 a ticket.

To book, please call (01643 831370) or email adie.exmoor@btinternet.com

What did you think of Friday night’s entertainment?

In lights: Dunkery Beacon

“Dunkery Beacon,” whispered John, so close into my ear, that I felt his lips and teeth ashake; “dursn’t fire it now except to show the Doones’ way home again, since the naight as they went up and throwed the watchmen atop of it.”

This may well have been the case in Lorna Doone, RD Blackmore’s tale of tyranny, true love and 17th-century politics in the heart of the Devon and Somerset countryside, but these days Dunkery Beacon – the highest point on Exmoor at 1,705ft – is set alight for very different reasons.

If you find yourself down south and in this part of the world on June 4th, make your way to this peak, part of the Anchor Chain of Beacons, which are all due to be lit at 22:00. According to Edwin Beckett, appointed beacon registrar for Dunkery Beacon, more than 4,000 beacons will be set alight on the 4th as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

“We request that visitors to the area bring a torch and take all their belongings and any rubbish home.  We are delighted with the help being provided by the National Trust, our parish council and volunteers from the area, Exmoor Farmers for the use of their car park and Mr and Mrs Harold Stevens for also allowing cars to be parked at their own risk in their field by Dunkery Gate,” he said.

You’ll have a truly spectacular view of the countryside if you do head to Dunkery Beacon in June, with lots of other beacons across the south-west and even Wales – used to alert people around England throughout the ages – visible from this particular point.

We’d love to see some of your photos if you do go to Dunkery on the 4th. Send them in for our readers’ gallery!

Find out about the latest news from the Two Moors Festival here!