Ding-a-Ling – Panic Visits The Fling!

Billing itself as a playful celebration of imagination, curiosity, fun and frolics, The Fling promised to offer something new to Chelmsford – a town often accused of lacking in creative entertainment.

Whilst Chelmsford has been a ‘festival town’ for some time now, it has often been felt that the V Festival arrives in a whirlwind, parks for a weekend then disappears – and is not necessarily intended for local people. The Fling aimed to right this wrong, offering a diverse festival of intrigue in Central Park.

Entering the main area on a beautiful Saturday afternoon was certainly an experience in itself – surrounded by tents, marquees and teepees, team Panic’s first decision was where on earth to start. This problem was soon solved by a trip to the bar, and then before any more thought had to be put into the matter we were accosted by a pair of freaks (it’s ok, they used the term themselves…) who directed us to the cabaret tent. Inside we were treated to the bizarre spectacle of a puppet Victorian freak show, complete with dancing fleas and the world’s smallest lady. After a brief and peculiar performance by the compere and his heroin addicted sock puppet the true diversity of The Fling was illustrated by the stunning Lucy Jones serenading us with some soulful classics. This contrast was to be illustrated all over the festival, and meant you were never quite sure what was around the corner.

Several tons of sand were used to recreate a tropical beach near the salsa tent – complete with palm trees and buckets and spades – which provided plenty of fun and frolics. From the beach it was easy to see the variety of people visiting the festival – everyone from the 21 minimum age to the ‘young at heart’. Far too long was spent creating a sandcastle town and beach speedboat before it was decided the Fling had more to offer than just this, and the next stop was the mysterious wand making tent.

Arranged by the Fairyland Trust this activity was a feature of The 3foot People Festival that had recently been on the same site – and nothing was changed for the adults. Team Panic joined a group of fortiesomethings inside, and after being treated to a fairy story we were told about the magic of trees (you don’t choose the wood, the wood chooses you…) and then instructed in the creation of our very own wand, complete with feathers and fairy dust. There was a very satisfying feeling about creating something by hand, and the child within all of us was proud with what we had achieved – although some of the men in the group weren’t too pleased with being declared fairy queens…

Music was also a big feature of the festival, provided by the likes of Matt Herbert and The Heavy Hitters and The White Gospel, who provided the perfect atmosphere to the event. This occurred opposite the charity casino which, with the exception of food and drink, was the only activity which you had to pay for. In the current climate of expense and the commerciality of many festivals it was a welcome surprise to find that your wallet could stay firmly in your pocket throughout most of the day. Even the drinks on offer were very little over an average pub price, which was reflected by the way many of them had disappeared by the end of the day.

In order to fully take advantage of the free fun, face painting was the next stop. In fact I was tempted to get a green dinosaur permanently tattooed on my cheek such was it’s quality, until I realised that would just be silly. There was plenty of mask-making to be done too which was a good idea considering how much cider was starting to be drunk – anonymity is the drunkards friend, after all.

Another feature of the 3foot People Festival that was left intact was the storytelling tent. Hosted by the Imagination Station, it offered intrepid space cadets the chance to rescue Princess Tallulla from the dreaded aliens (played admirably on one occasion by Pete from Astral Circus who also performed in the music tent in human form), complete with kazoos and alien space probes. Whilst sticking completely to the original script intended for 4 year olds, everyone threw themselves into the task and I am pleased to report the Princess made it safely back to Earth unharmed.

As dusk fell upon The Fling there was only one place to end the day – the silent disco. If there is one thing more enjoyable than watching a bunch of people prance about in complete silence it is joining in yourself, and as the final notes of Smack My Bitch Up rung out… in our wireless headphones… the festival was unanimously declared a complete success. The Fling provided proof that plenty of people want to go out and have some good clean fun, and that there is a strange inquisitive person inside of all of us ready to embrace the bizarre and bypass reality, even if it is only for one day.

Matt Pawsey