Apple Cart Festival 2012

A few weeks ago Sue decided to buy some tickets for this festival in London so she could have a get-away-from-it-all day, something she definitely needed as the last few months hadn’t been much fun. Samantha and I decided to come along and keep her company.

Today was Diamond Jubilee flotilla day so we were expecting the train to be busy. I suggested the Waterloo line, rather then going to Paddington. Although the travel time is longer, we don’t need to change trains and Reading is the start of the line so there should be adequate seating available. We walked to Earley for the half eleven train and the platform was busy for a Sunday morning – almost week-day levels. With each station we reached, the situation was the same until soon the train was full and the guard allowed people to stand in First Class too. Easily a hundred people must have been unable to board the train by the time we reached Waterloo. I’m not sure where all the people were planning to go – it wasn’t to watch the flotilla as we could see the Thames from the train and there was already a crowd at least half-a-dozen deep along its banks.

Not having checked where the festival site entrance was, we took a guess and rode the tube to Bethnal Green. After a quick loo break in The Salmon and Ball, we popped on the bus for a couple of stops, and started walking. The closest end of Victoria Park turned out to be the wrong one and so we kept on moving until 2pm and lunchtime at The Royal Inn on the Park.


Being Sunday, the menu was roast chicken, roast pork or roast beef so we opted for one of each. I’d made a big mistake, though, as I had forgotten that restaurants don’t actually cook beef in the same why I do – which is to actually put it in the oven so it cooks. If the pork or chicken was served up still bleeding to death there would be an outcry so I really don’t understand why beef should be served up so undercooked. Sue, who doesn’t mind bloody beef, traded her pork for my meal and we tucked in. Well, Sue tried but the beef was so raw that it was really hard to cut, even after I’d requested a steak knife to try and get through the meat. I’m impressed the chef was able to slice the roast in the first place. Best choice was Samantha with half a chicken which required some assistance in clearing up {{nom}} due to the amount of meat on the carcass.

From the pub we could see the massive tents of the festival and eventually, by 3pm, we were walking the damp, and in places soggy, grounds towards the entertainments of our choosing. Mine was to be the comedy tent and I arrived part-way through Josie Long’s set, having already missed the last couple of hours (Suzi Ruffell, Bobby Mair, Miles Jupp and Abandoman). Josie was working through the same material I’d seen on her recent tour, which was to be expected. One thing I can say about Josie is she uses the most excruciating voice you can imagine when doing whingey/whiney pieces, so much so that I had to force myself not to retreat to a safe distance (which would be outside in the newly arrived rain, or another tent).

I did, despite this, enjoy her 30-things-to-do-before-you’re-30 list which came from MSN’s website, or “” which Josie insisted on referring to it as. Why she did this I don’t know – it’s just an address. I don’t refer to my home by its house number and road name every time I mention it in conversation so why can’t Josie just call the source of the list the “MSN lifestyle website”? Anyway, the list is still online at and is a few years old now. Her sketch was basically what would happen if she tried to tick them all off in the remaining time she had before the big three-oh … and in order. Some seem to be mutually opposed, such as get on the property ladder and use a savings account against blow £500 in one night. Others are like giving to charity – by the time you’re 30?

Seann Walsh was next and by now I’d managed to move from the tent fringes to near the front. Very good set, especially the observations of Londoners on the tube (example below of unconcerned newspaper reader oblivious to the rats that live down below).


Rich Hall is one of my favourite comedians. I love his delivery style and the US view of the UK. This man can do no wrong, even when he is turning his anti-Kraft rant into a car crash by mixing up cheese and chocolate, which explains why I was in the comedy tent instead of at the main stage with my family singing along with Billy Bragg. I didn’t realise Rich was so old and was surprised to see on Wikipedia how many years he’s been in the industry ((check out the amazing photo of him there)).


Josh Widdicombe on next was either not very interesting or I was going through some personal sense-of-humour dip. The fact that I didn’t take a picture of him is some indication of how I was feeling at the time. Sure, the jokes were funny but the cold delivery didn’t engage me enough to really enjoy his set.

Shappi Khorsandi started off well with her four year old son singing a children’s song in front of the audience. Very sweet. Her act, though, didn’t seem to engage the audience as much. I think that part of the problem was that stories about being a 38-year-old divorced mum don’t always work with an audience that is mostly made up of people who are still some way from being either 38, divorced or mums. [[I did take some photos of the two of them but Shappi has asked that I don’t publish photos of her son and I’m happy to oblige.]]

Star of the evening was Sean Lock, a very confident comedian and a pleasure to watch (if you like his type of humour). Like most comedy gigs, though, it is difficult to remember specific jokes afterwards so I am at a loss to explain what he is doing in the following shots. I think in the second he is impersonating a Mr Whippy ice cream machine … O.o

image image

With the stand-up out of the way and Rich Hall’s Hoedown requiring the stage to be set up, I drifted off to see what was in the Spinning Wheel tent next door. Beth Jeans Houghton and The Hooves of Destiny were part-way through their set, being watched by Sue and Sam. I had no idea who BJH was so have resorted to Wikipedia.

“Hougton, who turned 22 years old in 2012 has been dating Red Hot Chili Peppers singer, Anthony Kiedis who turns 50 in November, for well over a year.”


  1. Impressed how young she is and touring internationally with a band
  2. Kiedis is only a year or so older than me so there’s hope for us all (as long as we’re rock stars, of course)
  3. She’s the same age as my daughter; obviously I wouldn’t be too impressed if Samantha went off with an aging rock star…

Rich Hall’s Hoedown shows off his musical skills as well as his ability to improvise song lyrics from audience interaction. I’d forgotten that Kirsty Newton (Mitch Benn’s gorgeous bassist/keyboard player) was now one of the Hoedowners. Unfortunately her fair skin and bright spotlighting meant all of her photos were washed out, unlike craggy old Rich.


With the comedy tent closing for the day, my family took the opportunity to highlight how cold, damp and tired they were and proposed the idea that we all went home.


I checked the festival schedule and we still had Adam Ant, Scritti Politti, and Noah and the Whale still to come before the festival closed at 10:30pm (and us getting home after 1am). Now I’d seen Adam Ant at Sub89 back in January and had a reasonably dull time of it. Scritti Politti would be more curiosity value – I’d sing along vaguely with a few of their hits from 30 years ago, like Woodbeez or Absolute, and then for the rest of the set wonder why I was there. Noah and the Whale, like me, were at Reading Festival last year and were enjoyed by all the Noah and the Whale fans around me at the time; I didn’t become a convert. So it looked like the best option would be to take my family home before the poor darlings became any more wet, cold and tired.

So, overall the festival seemed a good one but there was so much that I didn’t get to see, being there less than five hours. Next time I think I will make my own way there – no cheap group railway ticket – and arrange to meet up with the fair weather fans when they eventually get there.

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