Vintage - the Good(wood) & the Bad

Well, this post has now been in draft for a week, while my life has been a big whirlwind of work, from Vintage Patisserie parties to my new part-time job as a film extra! But finally, here it is, my Vintage at Goodwood story. Before you start reading, let me just clarify that this is a review of my weekend working at Vintage. Not visiting as a paying punter, nor as a press person, not even really as a blogger. I always meant to write about it, but I did not go there to review the event in its entirety. What you have here is an account of the weekend as seen through my eyes, and all the limits that come with being a single person with two eyes and a body clock that means I get tired after getting up early and being on my feet all day. I am not a die-hard music fan, nor am I especially bothered about burlesque (my own performer friends excluded), and there was no one on the bill who persuaded me that it would be worth either staying for or going back to see later. This is essentially a review of what I did. And how I found the experience. So with all that in mind, please read on!

This is a tale of ups and downs, highs and lows, sunshine and heavy showers... and it is a long story, so if you're not interested, you may wish to scroll, scroll and scroll past!

Let me begin at the very beginning.

Almost exactly a year ago, I spent three days at the Goodwood Revival, working at the Vintage at Goodwood taster event. You can read my review of the weekend on my blog entry at the time. Now, the review I gave was a pretty positive one, because although the weekend was exhausting, it was fun; and I had high hopes at that point for a role at the inaugural Vintage at Goodwood festival. What I didn't mention was the rudeness of one particular 'curator', the complete lack of communication before and during the event, and the seemingly complete absence of appreciation of our hard work and precious time. Most of the people involved made it a pleasurable and rewarding weekend, though, one particularly super curator and our amazing friends.

Fast forward a year, and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge, taking with it all the enthusiasm for the forthcoming Vintage festival. After all our graft at the taster event, and my many offers of help to Wayne Hemingway et al, communication had broken down even further. After Naomi and I were treated to a business lunch with our lovely curator, to discuss our involvement; the goalposts were firmly repositioned each time we spoke. I must stress that this was nothing to do with the curator, she was following orders from above; but essentially, the offers went from us having a presence there, something to really get stuck into, embracing vintage, promoting ourselves and Vintage together, something we could really get behind; to us doing something vague for which our expenses would be covered; to us being there if we wanted to, under our own steam and our own expense. A lot of other people experienced similar reneging on initial exciting offers, one person experienced a degeneration from an invitation for proper involvement to an invitation to apply to pay the organisers money to sell things. And then our dear friend pulled out, very late, and we knew that she would never have dreamed of doing so if there weren't some significant creative differences. And the festival as a whole seemed to be turning into something that was not really my cup of tea - hugely money driven with big corporate sponsorship, sky high stall fees, rip-off ticket prices and incredibly expensive camping costs. Plus loads of bands I couldn't care less about (personal opinion, of course!).

All in all, my experiences during the last year left a very sour taste in my mouth, and Naomi and I had decided not to be involved in any way. This changed when The Chap was asked to take part, staging a 3 day Olympiad as part of the 1940s area, which was itself curated by a lovely couple of my acquaintance, Harry and Edna of the Home Front Friends. I thought that if I could have a free three-day ticket to see the success or failure for myself, to turn up at lunch time and be finished by tea, well, how could I refuse? Of course it turned out to be significantly harder work than that, with a Chap fashion show scheduled for Friday morning, and my assistance given to Naomi for another on Saturday!

My feelings about my treatment meant that I declined to give the festival any free advertising on my blog, but I was happy enough with my arrangements and responsibilities for the weekend. And then, just when I'd geared myself up to go, this article appeared on Amelia's Magazine, summing up all my misgivings and bringing it all back. Do go and read it, plus all the comments, to get a clearer picture of the divide in opinion about it all.

But when I have committed to something, I follow it through, and so on Thursday night, I packed up and headed to my parents' house, conveniently situated a 30 minute drive from Goodwood, and prepared myself...


Sad to say, Friday confirmed all my fears in one fell swoop. Arriving at 10.30, laden with clothes, I collected my wristbands and struggled my way to the 40s area. Harry and Edna had done a great job pulling lots of interesting things together, from Dig for Victory gardens to magazines (The Chap, Glimpse and Vintage Life) plus book stalls and food. I couldn't help but feel, however, that the whole set up was extremely badly designed. Hidden behind the vast marquee of the Tanqueray Torch, and tucked right down the end, it meant that people could not just walk by, stumble across us or even see us. I loaded myself up again, and headed to the Fashion Pavilion, pausing to be thoroughly disgusted by the existence of a Primark shop in the 'High Street'. We were promptly told we could not leave our outfits there, but if we wanted to leave them outside on the steps we could! Well, thanks very much, but I'll decline to leave my precious vintage outside in a busy area. I lugged it back.

I then realised I had not received my promised meal voucher - something that was not a problem at the Revival last year and was never for one moment in doubt in my mind. But no, I was told that despite being on site from 10.30 until at least 5 or 6 every day, we weren't entitled to any meals. I went back and gave them what for, and managed to prise some vouchers off them. For an evening meal, valid 6.30 - 8.30pm. How useful. I forked out £4 for a bacon roll.

By this time rather peeved, we headed off for the fashion show, which was rushed and hectic, but enjoyable and, apparently, among the best in the whole weekend (according to Mr Hemingway himself). Here are some photos!

Some show shots! I pinched these off the lovely Amy Georgina (who was lovely and not remotely stalkery BTW!)

Please visit Amy's Flickr to see the rest!

I wore a vintage Swirl, hat and jacket, and an Able Grable gown. I stayed in my trouser outfit for the rest of Friday: a Revamp Vintage ensemble. Afterwards, we started to set up for the Chap Olympiad. Not far into the first game, which was poorly attended due to the position, the heavens opened and everything was abandoned. We took refuge in the Torch, wet, cold and miserable, refusing to pay £7 for a gin and tonic with no lime. At about 6pm, fed up, I decided to head for the car, sloshing through thick mud, ruining my sandals, soaking my trousers to the knee, thoroughly hungry, chilled and angry. Upon leaving, I noticed that the entire front ticketing/programme/door area was being run by children of 14. This inexplicably annoyed me even more. And that was the end of Friday. I didn't enter a single shop (with the exception of What Katie Did, where I bought a Harlow suspender belt and did my hair), see a single band, or do any dancing or anything fun whatsoever. Oh well.


As you might imagine, I was not looking forward to Saturday, especially since my sartorial choices were limited slightly...

Dressed in our vintage finery (but with me looking very early 90s in my 40s Swirl and clumpy black leather boots bought a number of years ago to wear in the snow), Naomi and I had to be there for 8.30am, and we were - complete with vintage swimsuits and props for the Bathing Beauties fashion show. The mud was slightly tempered with the application of woodchips, meaning I could change into nicer shoes, once I got inside, thank goodness.

The fashion show went off without a hitch, leaving me to head over to the Chap site. Imagine my relief to arrive and see that everything had been moved further towards the main drag, meaning people were browsing around everything and generally getting involved. Even greater relief came when Harry told me he'd secured everyone on the Chap team a lunch voucher! Finally, we were being treated properly. Sadly, this day's Olympiad fared only a little better, with a downpour interrupting play, and the substantial crowd dispersing to seek shelter. Everyone floated back afterwards though, and the games were a lot of fun. The chap who won the gold cravat did so in style, and had a splendid 'tache to boot (not as good as the Whistling Tailor's of course)! ;)

And that was Saturday. I still did no dancing, shopping or band-seeing.


Feeling fairly chipper after an OK Saturday, I was at least not dreading the final day. As it happened, I had a marvellous time! I arrived at lunchtime, took part in more games than I ever have before in the Olympiad... and won the Silver Cravat for my efforts! These included a discus 'throw' which consisted of me walking with the plate on my head before 'fainting' and being revived by a medicinal pipe; and using my womanly wiles and flashing a stocking to unseat my opponent during Umbrella Jousting. I can find no pictoral evidence of the latter, sadly, and the best photos of the former are not permissible to be linked (despite me asking the photographer nicely). So see here, here and here for more! Instead, here is an outfit photo...

And a photo of the final day's winners!

Gold Cravat winner was the one and only Mr Edward Marlowe (owner of this photo), and Bronze was won by a chap called Ben.

We soon decamped to the Torch for celebratory champagne at having survived and I then headed home with my dear mum.

The end.

You may notice I didn't do a single bit of shopping (though I walked up and down the stalls to look and the majority of the vintage was the usual not-particularly-old 70s/80s stuff you find in most UK vintage shops), nor dancing, nor did I see any acts so I can't comment on any of those. I heard some of the acts were quite good, and some laughable. I also heard the camping facilities, which I didn't use, were pretty awful. But on the whole I was very disappointed in the organisation and the treatment of the volunteers by the main organisers (and the weather, but that's by the by). The Primark store, and the abundance of ridiculous costumes disappointed me as well. For something that set out to celebrate British cool and vintage as a movement that is both eco-friendly and individual, the presence of Primark and super high-end watch brands was pretty shocking. But despite the incredibly high (for the first year of an event) ticket prices and astronomical stall fees, I would imagine they spent so very much money organising it that corporate sponsorship was the only way. I just think this vintage festival with potential turned into a way to cash in on the current trend and the end result was lacking in soul.

Those of us who love vintage, who gave our time for free, I think are the most let-down over it all. With so much support ready for organisers who treat us fairly and who have a real passion, it could have been really wonderful. Not just a big bandwagon-jumping, commercial, money-driven affair. Because I genuinely believe something a bit more sincere would have the potential to make more money. I just hope that sellers who took the risk found it worthwhile. There were certainly more people there than I expected, and many seemed to be enjoying it, and thus were probably in a shopping mood.

All in all, if you're interested in lovely vintage clothing, fabulous stalls, swing dancing and classic cars, go to the well-established and value-for-money Goodwood Revival, that's my advice. I only wish I was going this year. If the idea of a vintage festival that seemed as though it was 'organised by the Tory Party' (quote source not known but told to me by Naomi - please let me know if you said this!) then do visit next year's Vintage at Goodwood. I, for one would not buy a ticket and won't be going next year unless I am paid to be there. A lot of fellow volunteers I've spoken to feel the same way.

Do look out for my review in the next issue of the Chap, which will focus on the positives and gloss over the negatives... sartorial abominations notwithstanding! ;)

Fleur xx

PS. Just as a final little anecdote, I was further shocked to hear from my dance teacher, Nick Kirby of Jive Connection, that he was called up by the organisers and asked if he would take a group of dancers to some southern shopping malls to promote the festival. The exchange he relayed summed up the organisers' ethos perfectly, I felt.

"OK," he said. "How much are you paying us? Oh, nothing? OK, how much will we get for expenses? Nothing. Right, well, how many free tickets will we get? None?? Goodbye!"

Edit: Firstly, in the interest of fairness and honesty, I must mention that I was taken into a stall called Bellapacella (I hope that is the right link) by my dear mum, who had found a 20s-inspired headband she loved. She bought herself one, and then after leaving, she asked me if I would buy her another one. I did so, and thus this could be counted as shopping. Let me clarify, that I didn't go off and browse through the stalls at any point, looking for vintage goodies to buy. That is what I mean when I say 'shopping' - I literally walked up and down looking at the wares on display, none of which caught my eye. So that is what I mean when I say 'I did no shopping'. I did no shopping 'for me'. Apologies.

Secondly, I am being informed that I was seen dining in the Torch, and watching an act. This is news to me. The first time I was in the Torch, I was drenched and cold, trying to get signal on my phone so I could find where Naomi was. There were some people dancing, I think to a DJ. This does not count as an 'act' which I was using to mean a band or a performer. On the Sunday, as mentioned, I was in there for approximately half an hour having a glass of champagne, after which I left to go with my mum to the aforementioned headband stall. As far as I was aware during this second sojourn, there was another DJ on - some of my colleagues went up and did a foxtrot at one point. I honestly have no recollection of a band coming on stage, and I'm sure I would have noticed? Bear in mind I was worn out and dying to go home and see my cat by this point (how rock and roll). The above blog is my own account of my own experience at Vintage at Goodwood, where I WORKED and was not there as a punter. And, as mentioned, the weekend did improve for me to the point of being bloody good fun on Sunday. I do not appreciate being accused of lying (why on earth would I), nor do I appreciate the insinuation that I am in some way bitter about not being involved with the organisation. Like my curator friend, I would probably have dropped out when I saw the direction it was taking. I still have only praise for Harry and Edna for their loveliness and hard work in the 40s area. Also, again, whether an act was on in the Torch or not, that is completely beside the point, as I didn't see any acts on the main stage (except Aswad while I was queuing for the loo), nor did I visit any of the other tents - Northern Soul, Blues, Rave, what have you. I did not make a note of the acts on offer and go and see them. This is what I mean when I say I didn't see any acts, whether one might have been playing while I was nearby... which I genuinely do not remember.

Thanks for listening, and if anyone else who enjoyed the festival would like to accuse me of lying and unsubscribe, please go ahead. ;)


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