It might be the middle of July but with a damp wind blowing in from the sea at a strength to make the whole structure noticeably sway it feels more like November. I zip my coat up and pull my woolly hat down over my head as far as I can to offer some protection for my ears and neck.
I’m 30 feet off the ground chatting to Trevor Leat who, along with his construction partner, Alex Rigg, is in the final stages of several weeks of work building a giant figure in willow. The entire thing will be burned at midnight on Saturday 24th July as the culmination of The Wickerman Festival, held every year in this corner of South West Scotland.
Not on the scale of Glastonbury or Scotland’s T in the Park, The Wickerman doesn’t attract quite the same headline bands. While I have at least heard of The Charlatans, many of the acts I haven’t, and I don’t think it’s just because of my age. I can’t imagine U2, Coldplay or Eminem playing here. However, I'm told by some who regularly go this makes it more intimate and accessible than many of the bigger festivals.
By contrast, earlier in the week the tickets for next year’s T in the Park went on sale. As they have a habit of selling out within hours, I was under strict instructions from my stepdaughter to be sitting at my computer at 9am with my credit card ready to buy 2 tickets. One for her and one for my son, Rogan, who will be 16 by then. At £200 each, I’m hoping it’s not too long before they can pay me back. Mind you, if they don’t, then I’ll be able to sell them for more than twice the price nearer the date of the event.
Oddly enough I’ve never been to a Festival before. For some reason these cultural experiences seem to have passed me by even though everyone I’ve ever met has been to at least one. However, I will be attending this one.
Storyteller and children’s entertainer, Tony Bonning, has asked me to accompany him on my bouzouki & mandolin in the Children’s tent. In return Rogan and I get weekend “artists” passes to what will be the first Festival we’ve both been to.
I find I’m more excited at the photographic opportunities than I am about the music and other events.
And with the chance to photograph the Wickerman as it goes up in flames, I thought it would be good to get some “before” shots while it was still under construction.
Fortunately I’ve known Trevor for a few years as he plays the fiddle at some of the folk sessions I go along to, and last year I photographed him and Alex building and setting fire to the Willow Tam O’Shanter in Dumfries as part of the Burns Light Festival (see http://kimayres.blogspot.com/2009/01/burns-light-festival-in-dumfries.html).
There’s no doubt it’s seriously impressive up close, just as it is at a distance, and I feel privileged to see and touch this amazing creation right up at shoulder and head height.
Fortunately I remember not to ask him how he feels about several weeks’ worth of work going up in flames as he’d be likely to throw me off the top of the scaffolding. It’s one of Trevor's most hated questions because it’s the one everyone asks, and few seem to understand that the whole point of building these giant willow sculptures is their fleeting life and dramatic exit.
As usual, click on any of the images for larger versions