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British grit ensures soggy jazz festival goes on
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THE rains had been non-stop, it had been touch-and-go whether the main field event could be saved… but in the end, it was true British grit and determination that ensured the show would go on.
For days, organisers of the 27th Upton-upon-Severn Jazz Festival had watched nervously as the wettest June for years slowly turned Fish Meadow into the consistency of a full sponge.
But thanks to a bit of thinking outside the box – two major marquee venues were switched to other sites in the town – and the dedicated work of volunteers, it all went ahead on schedule.
Crowds of jazz fans turned up in their hundreds to lap up what sunshine there was and take in the sounds of more than 60 acts over three days of non-stop music.
Site manager Brian Monson said: “This was as bad as it gets and we probably had the worst set-up time ever. It was a huge challenge but we overcame the problems and got there in the end.”
Festival organiser Alan Buckley added: “We made the decision to go ahead last Sunday – that was decision day.
“It’s rained at previous festivals but never like this.
“We fixed up a free bus service to transport people to the new venues at Hanley Castle school and Upton Church when it became obvious that some marquees would have to come off the field.
“There was also alternative parking to arrange and the situation soon presented a massive logistical challenge. The ground on the meadow rapidly became unbelievably soft. At one stage, I didn’t need a mallet to hammer in tent stakes – I just pushed them in with my hand.
“However, our attitude was that the show had to go on. And it certainly did, especially during the Saturday morning parade.”
A major highlight on a rather soggy Fish Meadow was the Best of Young Jazz tent, masterminded by project manager Steve Boffy.
He said: “I really think conditions like this bring out the best in people. It’s the true British resilience that always prevails, a bit like the wartime spirit.
“Everyone’s exhausted but the youngsters have done brilliantly. They’ve just carried on regardless and overcame it all.
“Each year, we have a new batch of youngsters. One day, I’d like to see some of this talent travel abroad and show what a wonderful musical export we have.”
Stallholders reported lower takings than usual but the event was probably typically summed up by the woman overheard telling a steward that she was “just there for the music and didn’t care about the weather”.