Festival one: Weinfest: an annual event in the village in the Black Forest. celebrating the wine they make. A long weekend of fun and entertainment. It feels like everyone from the village goes, and there seems to be an agreed format for all the weinfests we’ve been to in different villages and wine producers we’ve been to (a lot, over the years). Weekends in the summer means a fest somewhere around – just follow the sound of music, and the smell of sausages cooking).
There are the standard-issue trestle tables and benches (we’ve seen the same ones in Denmark too, quite different from those we have here in England).
There are the kiosks selling local wine (and soft drinks – but definitely not beer, unless of course you’re at a bierfest). There is the food – lots of meat (mainly pork), around here plenty of flammenkuchen, always cake.
There’s the music – this time it was a band playing covers, a local brass and wind band (excellent), and various others scheduled when we weren’t around. There was dancing too. Last year we heard several choirs singing, plus other local bands. All intended to appeal to all ages and fairly conservative tastes.
But most important of all is the conviviality. Lots and lots of people, of all ages. In this village the wine is important to everyone, regardless of whether they actually work in anything connected to it – it underpins the whole local economy: the tourism, the viability of the local shops, cafes, and other businesses, employment in the vineyards and wine-makers. So celebrating the wine is a celebration all can contribute to. People sitting and eating and drinking together. People meeting and greeting friends and family. People dancing. Enjoying the entertainment.
There is an informal formality to it all – most people make an effort to dress up a bit for the occasion, it follows a clear and familiar pattern, everyone knows just what to expect and how to behave. It reinforces what everyone knows about the village and their neighbours. And beyond it all, there are the vineyards all around.
Festival two: another annual event, this time in St Werbugh’s in Bristol. The City Farm Fair. An afternoon and evening of anarchic fun. A lovely fundraiser for this local under-funded wonderful place, in an eclectic green (and Green) oasis not far from the city centre.
Several stages, some large, some small, each with different local bands and music. A roving Samba band and dancers. Food stalls, a pop-up calzone restaurant, DIY pizza baking in a wood-fired oven. Home made cakes, plenty of beer, cider, and soft drinks. People of all ages and types. Visible diversity of every kind.
Another celebration of place and culture, and so very different from the weinfest. Here part of the joy of the event is not knowing what to expect (beyond having fun), of being surprised and delighted. Of unexpectedly meeting friends and acquaintances.
We went as a big family group (both of us, both sons and their partners, Bristolian nephew and his wife visiting from Australia, brother-in-law and sister-in-law). After a bit we split and did our own things, bumping into each other at different points along the way.
We older generation had lunch together in a pop-up cafe on the veranda of a house I’ve admired for decades (a converted water mill), only to find that the young man running it was in the same class as oldest son at the local nursery school (about 25 years ago…). I reminisced that the whole class had come along to his home to see their hens and ducks in the back garden, and I was a parent helper.
Tucked away so close to the city centre, there’s a lovely City Farm here (which was a big part of our lives while sons were growing up), where oldest son had played with nephew and niece when they were all little, where we still go regularly, and where youngest son and his wife now ‘hang out’ and meet up with their friends. It helps that there’s a lovely cafe, and a great pub next door. There are hillsides covered with allotments, with paths running through up the hills. There is a small enclave of beautiful and original self-build houses. The other side of the railway tunnel there’s even a (separate) small-holding where they have some livestock and a very productive polytunnel.
A completely different feel to the day, but equally enjoyable, and just as convivial. How wonderful to have two such contrasting community events on two consecutive weekends.