Farewell to the Summer Squall 2014

We had a great time at this year’s Summer Squall! It was a festival packed with action, not only in the entertainment and activities as part of the programme, but in some ‘real-life’ dramas as well, with the weather playing its part.

Altogether some 15,500 people packed the harbour and events in other spaces around town over 23-25 August. We had a total of 147 professional artists taking part, 35 artisan makers, 27 volunteers and 53 events and activities.

The weekend began at 6.45am on Saturday 23rd with a fire in flats above the Belgian Cafe, which is in the centre of our harbour/outdoor performance area. Three fire engines quickly (unintentionally) blocked in the stage on its tractor, so we couldn’t set that up until an hour before the first act was due to start – top marks to our team from RKDO who rigged sound quickly to get us going, then added lighting throughout the day! All the tents had to be clustered where we could find any spare space, for workshops, information, storytelling and artists. Spirits were high though and our very new team of volunteers took it all in their stride as we worked out how to make the best of the situation. It pulled everyone together. Highlights of the first day – we’d have to mention THE SMALLEST THEATRE IN THE WORLD with the Grand Order of Lemmings (wonderful, brilliant, funny) and CELLOMAN (haunting, superb, enervating, fantastic) to start with. ROBERT POULTER was once again brilliant in his skill and joy in his New Model Theatre performances.

Sunday was the day that went really much as planned, with a good early start, over 30 artisan stalls and producers arriving for the market and Unexpected Opera arriving (as expected) for an afternoon rehearsal before performing OPERA NAKED at 7.30pm. We set up a bar (on tap Pimm’s, great, and Gadd’s, of course we support our local brewery) and then loved the BROCKLEY UKULELE GROUP who did a Jukebox event in the King’s and then a live show on stage as lead in to the opera – they had the crowd laughing and thoroughly enjoying their inventive and musically wonderful renditions of all genres of music on the ukulele and percussion. The opera gathered a great crowd and took us through the life ‘behind the scenes’ of opera and it’s singers, to the fascination of the audience. There was also a beautiful performance of BIRD by Forward Theatre in King George VI Park for children/families and a series of workshops on THEATRE-MAKING (Annie Sutton), WRITING (Maggie Harris) and SINGING (Jodi from Sing Your Socks Off). A new spoken word open mic event in the Chocolate Lounge may lead to more in the future.

Monday was a sad day. Rain started and didn’t stop. Ten brave stallholders stayed until 1pm then we called it a day for them. Our activities were all outdoors dance and circus themed which was impossible to do in the rain so only on workshop went ahead. We ran two sessions of the Ivor Gurney film in the tunnels which brought in 40 people for the first session (amazing since it was pouring down) and the KLETZMER SHIR band performed as planned at the Italianate Greenhouse, to a wall-to-wall crowd sitting and standing to hear the great music they played. There would have been nearly 200 people had it been a good day, but the 70-odd who braved the elements were a superb audience.

We made the decision to cancel the planned boat parade and burning on the beach. There was no-one around, the work put into the boat by the Broadstairs Town Shed team would have been witnessed by a handful rather than thousands and who would really enjoy standing there in the rain for the sake of it? So, we postponed and started to work on how and when to use our 27ft long Viking boat.

All in all we had a great time at the Squall and we left some little footprints behind which we hope people are still enjoying. ROYSTON ROBERTSON, cartoonist with the Spectator and others, did Love Them or Loathe Them, 12 live drawn cartoons on the Great Wall. Theresa Smith created CROWNING GLORY, a crown to dress our royal harbour, still proudly sitting atop of the toilet block and illuminated at night. It’s due to come down on 20 October and we’re planning now the feasibility of a permanent work of art for the harbour.

News of the boat burning is just being published – for Winternights on Sunday 2 November. If you’d like to join us for any creative fun with events and activities, we love to hear from artists, makers and interested people who just want to do ‘stuff’ to make our town an even greater place to live or visit. Get in touch – info@ramsgatearts.org – and let’s see what’s next!