Thursday: and its day two in the GAMA field

All the GAMA crew camp in the same field as our visitors. It is usually used for sheep. Some of us worked in the set-up crew, spending several days building and decorating our facilities before the festival opened. Most of the rest of us work shifts. This morning the mist is clearing and the sun is out after a rainy night. The swifts are diving around our heads chasing insects.

I am on the early shift with Paul and Sue, starting at 8.30am. We tidy the marquee, set up the coffee bar, and sort out what needs to be done. Some people collect their electric wheelchairs which have been charging overnight.

Sue will watch the gate for new visitors arriving and ask them to wait until I can help them to park and find a pitch. She also helps people who need a lift on a rickshaw bike. This afternoon there will be horse-drawn transport but now the horses need to rest and graze.

Paul is running the coffee bar and information table in the marquee.

I go on a walkabout to check the recycling bins, taps, toilets, fire lanes, paths and fences, greet visitors and answer questions. As it rained last night I want to make sure no one has a flooded tent or wet bedding. Penny, GAMA assistant co-ordinator, helps us out and uses a radio to report any problems we cannot sort out ourselves. She asks for a load of woodchip to fill a muddy puddle in the main gateway. Miki, our co-ordinator, will be around this afternoon with the next crew shift. He joins us for a cup of tea in the marquee.

I meet a couple of visitors near the water tap. They arrived late yesterday evening and we helped them to pitch their tent. I ask if their children would like to join in the morning activities in the marquee. Dad will keep an eye on their son, meet other parents and look at the programme while Mum takes their daughter for a shower. She was pleased to find that one of the showers has a ramp and extra space.

A man asks me about first aid as he had a small burn from boiling water. He had used cold water on the burn right away but wanted advice. I told him the Red Cross are on duty night and day in the barn nearby. He is on his own and has a small tent. I asked if he would like to come to our marquee coffee bar for hot drinks so that he can sit at a table.

I look out for people arriving so that I can explain where they can park and remind them that no fires are allowed in the camping area. This is because of the number of vehicles, gas bottles and vulnerable people in the GAMA area. Any fire that got out of control would mean evacuating the whole field. We have a communal campfire on the green near the marquee. People with disabilities who want a fire can camp elsewhere and still use GAMA facilities.

The toilet cleaning crew arrived. We have three blocks of toilets each with at least one wide-access cubicle as well as standard ones so that people do not have far to walk. We also have a changing tent for people who need a clean private space for personal care.

There is a tipi for healers as the BGG healing area is quite a long walk from GAMA.

A horse-drawn wagon staffed by “milkmaids” in costume brings round milk, cheese, jam and chutney from local farms. The Food and Farming area which has a café and a bar as well as exhibitions and stalls is in the next field.

Most of our visitors are well-organised and accompanied by friends and relatives, but sometimes people have been let down by carers at the last minute, or do not realise that camping can be more tiring than managing at home. Carers who have done most of the packing and driving can be exhausted at the end of the first day.

Fortunately BGG is a five-day event so people can pace themselves and still do everything they want to.

Back in the marquee Jayne and her helpers are running a costume-making workshop using recycled materials from a Bristol scrap scheme. Paul is handing out maps and leaflets and selling programmes. The coffee bar must be staffed at all times to make sure children do not play near or under the urn and wheelchair-charging area.

At the end of the shift we hand over to the next crew and go for lunch in the crew canteen. This afternoon I am planning to look round the craft field and have a go at wood-turning. Tonight I am going to see a band playing in the Croissant Neuf tent, the largest venue at BGG. One of our crew will be working there with the entertainments stewards to check that people with disabilities are able to choose whether they want to be in the middle of the crown, at the front or on a viewing platform. Miki has arranged for a couple of Brighton bands to play in the GAMA marquee and I will probably stay up late with GAMA crew and visitors chatting around the campfire. I am on a late shift tomorrow so can have a lie-in in the morning.

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