Shambala festival 2008

“Camping is like having a baby – you forget the pain and do it again,” said a woman at Shambala festival.

As the rain dripped, we wondered why we had left our warm dry homes to live in a field. Not even a quiet one because this was Festival Land where sounds pound night-and-day from eight different music tents. The chaos was offset by the healing area with its chimes dinging in the wind, and therapists offering massage or reiki or any manner of soothing restoration in calm tents.

I was helping the family crew welcome parents and children to the family yurt, a wondrous place of sanctuary. It was a pleasure seeing the children run free. And when dark descended, you could promenade in the anarchic carnival atmosphere.

Circus-huge tents were  themed from The Kamikaze tent and Geisha Palace to The Aloha beach with sand and pretend palm trees. My favourite was the Bollocks tent, a surreal lounge with sofas serving vodka shots and  impromptu jazz from top musicians dropping by.

There was always somewhere to have a cup of tea even at two in the morning such as Granny’s Gaff (granny looked manly and used tea-cosies).

Back at the family site, its boundaries not the usual walls but canvas, we took turns cooking the evening supper. On Sunday it was mine.

Two gas rings in a busy field kitchen and 18 adults and 12 children to feed. Mike was graceful about being my commis.

We served 500g split peas (soaked overnight and simmered for an hour) with juice squeezed from 10 fresh lemons, tahini and ground almonds; 400g of aduki beans (soaked overnight and simmered for an hour) with yogurt; mashed sweet potato; and pan-fried beetroot and carrot. I wanted to roast the beetroot and carrots but – no oven – so I experimented by cooking them for an hour in oil. They retained more sweetness than mere boiling.

We camped until the festival had truly ended. It was a privilege seeing the illusion dismantled like being backstage.

I watched the Posh Wash showers being loaded on to a truck and the mobile solar-powered cinema drive off. The circus was leaving town.

We slept the last night in an empty field where an owl hooted above the faraway sounds of the festival crew’s last party.

5 responses to “Shambala festival 2008

  1. I sampled the food – and it was delicious.


  2. You have to admire Elisabeth’s planning and organisation skills. There in the heart of chaos with the rain, noise, children, lost souls, crazy drummers, irate parents, mud and laughter, she embarks upon the creation of a vegetarian feast.

    It has to have no meat, no wheat, no tomatoes, no potatoes, no aubergines, no peppers and none of the other stuff that people might be allergic to or find morally offensive or otherwise distasteful.

    The chick peas took a bit longer to cook than anticipated, putting out schedule back because of the limited number of cooking rings and the it looked as if the quantities might be a bit short but nothing could deter us.

    The food was delicious and even the children ate it. You learn about a person by helping them cooking a meal for thirty people in the fields of chaos.


  3. Wow, 18 children and 12 adults!! And you cooked a meal in a camp. Amazing! It sounded like a feast too. Nice to hear the sound of an owl at bedtime.


  4. I was but a cog. All the other chef-parents were amazing too. We ate well the whole week including pasta with olives; risotto with parmesan; curried dahl, brown rice and yogurt; and a fry-up with scrambled egg on our last breakfast. To add to the luxury, Chris and Frank from the Great Cake Company brought gluten-free chocolate brownies made with Green & Black’s chocolate. None of this would have been possible without the extraordinary organisational skills of Jo and Charlotte, and Dan’s building ones. They remained gracious under pressure and deserve a medal. (PS I am the one who is allergic to tomatoes etc. so I was cooking what I like eating).


  5. Yum – I remember that meal for it’s vibrancy and deliciousness! Shambala has definitely made it as my number 1 festival – a true party atmosphere filled with lots of lovely warm, smiley people…


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