Friday, 26 November 2010
Rioting in Camber.
Now I haven’t been away on a weekend thingy for a long time and when I did it almost definitely involved The Cure, tents, trying to look gothic in the rain and too much cider. Now my dotage approaches I regard the idea of tents with horror. And the festivals of today with a few exceptions are full of childish badly dressed people and corporate to the nth. For the past few years I’ve been tempted by the ‘weekender’. This has several advantages over its skanky festival cousin. It generally involves chalets, toilets and facilities (never underestimate the importance of ‘facilities’). More pointedly whether car, sixties, Northern Soul or discofied they are focused and tend to attract a more committed kind of attendee.
Sadly there is, as yet, no weekender for the thirties or forties fan inspired by music and style (rather than re-enactment). I like the ‘Home Front’ stuff, it just isn’t my idea of a weekend of fun. Perhaps it is the military hardware, and the ghosts. The next best thing for me is the fifties, and fortunately that period is well served by weekenders with Hemsby and the Rockabilly Rave amongst others. Additionally the music is likely to be good, the cars are actually interestingly decorative and my collection of tatty fortiesish clothing might just about past muster. So last weekend I found myself revisiting the scene of many a childhood away- day: Camber Sands. Or rather, Rhythm Riot at Pontins in Camber Sands. I’d been wanting to go to this for years, partially because I knew some nice people who go, the best sign you can have of quality and partially because Lady Luck have a night and people like Top Shelve Jazz were playing so I knew there was crossover with the scene I am perhaps more used to. I was sharing with two friends I’d known for a while and a couple I hadn’t met before (who turned out to be complete stars).
Once there it was clear that this had something of a reunion about it, people clearly came every year and were in the know (torches for the bootsale as the room is so dark). There were also contingents who had travelled from other parts of the globe. The Dutch contingent were very unimpressed with their accommodation but in our case the doom laden tales of cat pee scented chalets and dirt proved unfounded: the chalet was warm, clean and comfortable enough. Perhaps because we’d opted for the ‘luxury’ option.
The journey down was fun, how nice to be surrounded by victory rolls, quiffs and red lippy and be in the majority for once. Pontins was already full when we arrived of wonderful old cars ready to cruise through Rye on the Sunday. I was very struck by the atmosphere, it was strongly redolent of a school trip, perhaps that is because I remember South East London’s school kids descending on Butlins out of season. Except the trippers were older, carrying cans of beer around and festooning their chalets with lines of washing and the decoration du jour: bunting. I was particularly impressed by the tower of popaddoms in one of our neighbours chalets, and it is clear that some were serving as impromptu mini party venues. This amiable atmosphere continued through a weekend of incessant music, d.j.ing ,vintage bargain hunting and dancing en masse. Due to illness I hadn’t been able to brush off my dancing shoes and learn enough to join in but watching was good enough. It was a chance to catch up with a few friends and put faces and characters or to names heard or friends previously only encountered on line. The weekend included a walk on the beach, dinosaur shooting, air hockey, trying to re-learn the stroll, rooting through tables of bric a brac (sorry ‘vintage collectables’) eating dirty fried chicken and listening to a wide range of R&B (the real thing), bluesy, rocking, country, swing sounds. I also learned what figging is, although I could have done without that….
As a newbie I hadn’t known what to expect but the Rhythm Riot exceeded my expectations on the sheer laugh factor. It is easy for things attended by devotees to have an element of cliquishness or exclusivity but the Rioters where clearly there for the music and the cars and the company. If I had been able to dance and had not been such a semi-invalid it would have been even better. How expensive it is depends on you really, I wish I had had more money to spend in the vintage and repro market or to get Miss Betty to style my hair (you know you are onto a winner when your hairdresser is also there) but generally it was as inexpensive or expensive as you chose. Pontin’s is sadly going into administration although the rumour is that the Riot is fine for next year, and hopefully many years after that. This blog is illustrated with assorted photos from the weekend.