Adventures in Letter Writing No. 76: Purbeck Valley Folk Festival 2021

For some reason it always takes me ages to write about our time at Purbeck Valley Folk Festival. I think partly it’s because it requires time to process the event as it’s such a biggie in our calendar and the come down takes a while. Also a part of me holds on to the idea of “if you were there then you know”, not in an exclusive way, just that’s all you need to know in terms of real-life experience (and crikey, don’t we need some of that right now). But having said that it is nice to tell you some of the highlights of our time there because it is such a special event and this year more than ever due to you know what. One of the most moving things was to hear bands saying it was their first gig to an audience since “the before times”.

It does take quite a lot getting everything together but I always come away feeling so proud of what we’ve set up and it was incredible to see so many festival goers dropping by to write a postcard or use a quill or bring littlies for stamper sticker fun. And we had the most amazing discussions with all sorts of people about all sorts of deep and meaningful and funny and sometimes controversial topics, as well as letter writing and handwritten letters of course. This little transient community of letter writers coming together at our gazebo at moments over a folk festival is a memory to hold on to forever.

On a practical level, and not wishing to squish lots of people into a gazebo during a pandemic, we gathered up as many tables and chairs as we could so we could spill out in front of our stand and people could spread out. At one point all the chairs and tables and bean bags were taken and people were bringing their own chairs to sit on with one of our clipboards perched on their lap to write a letter. Much like Mr Wow’s ginormous bubbles floating across the festival site, it felt like a big thought bubble over our space as people slowed down and quietly pondered what to write to friends or family or even strangers.

We were lucky with the weather too. The cold misty drizzle of set up day gave way to sunny spells and a light breeze – my perfect Goldilocks weather – not too hot and not too cold. Seeing returning faces from other years and THLAS members was such a joy. One member, Kate Bridge, was even part of the line-up for the festival in the band Owl in the Sun. I think I told a lot of people that over the weekend. They came to perform one of their songs in the beautiful Gypsy Wagon and we sheltered from the bleak Thomas Hardy weather in the hat tent eating a Victoria Sandwich together. I’d forgotten about that little wet interlude but I think it was just the one.

There always feels like some serendipitous moments at Purbeck and the hat tent finding the last space next to the caravans was another one. Whilst chatting to owners John and Jane we were laughing about how we’d meant to find hats as a uniform for doing our onsite deliveries, mainly so we looked less like we were casing people’s tents and campervans, and out from the back of their stand they produced two perfect little red smoking caps. Oh, we did look the part! The curious looks were worth it. Jane has even put them by for next year. The kindness of strangers, hey.

There is something so heart-warming about Purbeck Valley Folk Festival. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe that it’s quite small in terms of music festivals so people really feel like friends, and honestly family in some cases after years of seeing each other. It has a real lovely vibe, kind of like you’re all at someone’s wedding reception, where not everyone knows each other but you feel like you’re connected somehow, and especially those that come and visit our Society stand. Anyway, I’m not afraid to say I may have shed a little happy sad tear at one point during the festival while listening to one of The Breath‘s songs. I think it was the realisation we were there with friends in the sunshine, listening to live music altogether, and that we were out and about with The Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society again. It felt like a very special year and one we’d never forget.


Click HERE to see all the photos in the Gallery.

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