Midwinter Fair

Before we get started, I will warn you, this is another festival post so it is, as always, going to be rather disorganised. It was a two day festival and I only saw two bands twice (Rapalje and Pyrolysis) img_0043so I’m just going to go through in vaguely chronological order. I’m also going to smush the talk of those duplicates into the Saturday discussion as clever me hurt herself on the Sunday and hence I wasn’t as participatory during the second sets from Rapalje and Pyrolysis although they were equally awesome.

Anywho, start at the beginning, right?


So, I knew it was going to be a bit troublesome to get to/from the Midwinter Fair this year because my local station was closed this weekend which meant an earlier start than normal and a fair few changes on public transport. It should have been fine but for some reason my first bus was quite delayed (on a Saturday morning with empty streets!) and then I missed every connection. Luckily, with a lot of running and so on, I actually managed to make my back up connections and should have been in Leiden on time… except the train doors malfunctioned at Leiden and I (and another lady and gentleman) couldn’t get off. Easily remedied in the end as we caught the train to the next stop and came back. Really grateful to the lady who made it to our return train (which left 2 minutes literally after we got into the station and from another platform) and held it for me as I wouldn’t have been quite quick enough!

After the slight stress of the morning, and one further train and a bit of a walk later, Heleen and I got to the Midwinter Fair which, quite frankly, has maintained its place as my favourite festival. I felt that the market wasn’t as good this year as previously but that’s not the end of the world. The atmosphere at this one is just so special and yeah, I love it. Helps that it wasn’t as cold as last year!

Anyway, after the morning’s events there was one thing on my mind… tea. Who says I’m stereotypical? It meant that instead of looking around straight upon arrival we sat down to have a drink and ended up listening to Imbue‘s set (I believe they only have a facebook – at least that’s all I could find). Heleen and I both agree this was our happy accident of the weekend as we both thoroughly enjoyed the set. Seriously beautiful music with stunning vocals and a real choral feel at times. I was also rather excited to hear what is one of my favourite Christmas songs “In the Bleak Midwinter” and I realise that I have not heard that one – at least not live – in quite some years now. So yes, it all got off to a thoroughly good start.

We then stayed to listen to Helisir (website | facebook | spotify) and that was a set full of peaceful music and sweet singing. Also, I got asked to dance during her set and, in a moment of madness, actually said yes which is quite unlike me. It was also very fun but for someone who is so clumsy and self-conscious the fact I agreed is quite surprising. Totally pleased that I did though. Oh, and back to Helisir, I saw when grabbing her facebook address that she’s currently crowdfunding her next album so if you like her music go and check that out.

After a bit of a wander around, it was time for the next music event, Pyrolysis. Before the set, someone (from the back of the image, she’s Christel Schols) painted Heleen and my caricature and, quite frankly, I think her set up was awesome. I should really img_0051have taken a photograph now I have some kind of photo taking device (proper camera is still poorly although I’m hoping to take it to Castlefest next weekend). Anyway, she had some kind of harness which attached a little table with brushes etc. to her body in such a way as she could walk around and take her work space with her. And I clearly do close my eyes when I smile!!

And then it was onto Pyrolysis (website | facebook | bandcamp ) themselves. I’ve said it before, they are such a high energy food fun band and I’m starting to believe that it’s impossible to come away from one of their shows without feeling rather happy – something Heleen also expressed. The seemingly symbiotic energy between the band and audience is quite amazing too. You really felt it at this show – and quite literally – as the floor was wooden and the level of dancing and bounding around was making the floor bounce quite a bit. It was slightly unnerving but hey, it was also impossible to keep your feet still so!

Heleen then wandered off to go to do some of the storytelling sessions and I decided to entertain myself as heavens knows I do not trust my Dutch enough. I wandered around a bit and enjoyed the atmosphere. By this time it was dark so everything was lit by the lights from the historical reconstruction houses, strings of fairylights or braziers. It’s quite magical. There’s something going on everywhere. You just walk around a corner and there’s something unpredictable going on. Even when there’s nothing in the immediate vicinity, there’s the sound of music hanging in the air, mingling with the smell of smoke. Yep, I love this festival.

I eventually settled in one of the stage areas and, after catching part of PerKelt‘s set (websitefacebook | soundcloud), I was adopted by Sandra, Vivianne and Anna, some friends of Heleen’s who we’d encountered earlier in the day and went off exploring with them for a bit before the much anticipated close of the evening… Rapalje.

Rapalje (website | facebook | youtube) were, quite simply, Rapalje. I’ve been listening to them for years and my love for them hasn’t waned. This set was wonderful. It was a real Christmas type party complete with balloons, confetti and conga line, naturally. I also have to compliment the band on their personal Christmas decoration, the bauble in William’s beard being my personal favourite touch! Can we make this into a new trend? Band aside, I was also lucky to get to spend this portion of the evening with Heleen, Sandra, Vivianne and Anna who were all such fun to be around and made the set extra enjoyable.

And then it was back to Leiden for much to little little sleep. I am so insanely glad that Heleen kindly let me stay with her or I don’t know how I would have managed!


In the morning, and img_0050-1after a wee run for the train, we finally arrived for day two which started with a little stroll around the terrain once more. We then settled down for a storytelling session with Bastiaan de Zwitser who is Heleen’s favourite storyteller. She wanted to see him and felt bad for leaving me so I decided, finally, to bite the bullet and accompany her despite the fact I was sure that my Dutch would not be up to the challenge. Major surprise – I ended up understanding the majority of it, missing the odd bit but certainly capably following the plot. As I’ve had absolutely no Dutch classes and am generally in a completely English speaking environment I was really amazed. My compliments must also go to Bastiaan who was certainly a wonderful storyteller and also a lovely gentleman. Long story short, I will go again.

And then came my moment of brilliance whereby I managed to make myself look like a bit of a fool. Long story short, when walking across a wooden bridge with no side rails, do not twist your ankle. I’m going to count my lucky stars… I did manage to avoid falling straight into the water but heavens do I ache today. Oops. See why I was surprised that I agreed to dance the day before? I’m a liability!img_0028

After a bit more music – we ended up listening to part of twibv and  The Royal Spuds’ sets  as well as watching Pyrolysis and  Rapalje once more  (seated for the most part!) – it was time to head home. Of course, the trains were as chaotic on the way back – what can one expect of Sunday evening travel? I was lucky enough to meet with a couple of people on the station platform who made traveling back rather enjoyable as opposed to being the come down it quite often is.

And that was that, folks! I had an examined presentation at nine a.m. this morning and I managed to loose my voice just in time for that (thank you Manon, Vani and Zuzanna for picking up when I could no longer speak!) but also managed to get through it so a success all in all. Now I just need to write three essays and tidy up my room before The Best Friend arrives tomorrow morning. I am impossibly excited!!!


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