I spent last weekend in a field next to a woodland containing military bunkers, with a fire pit, fighting arenas and a maze full of secrets just a few steps away. I could see huge armoured vehicles everywhere I looked and that didn’t even include the enormous bullet-holed tank in the main gathering area and the fire shooting half-a-car that formed part of the stage. There was also copious amounts of tea, blackberries from the hedge for extra snacks, and it rained. Welcome to Apocalypticus: Road To Ruin, a very British apocalypse.
Click for my video, with extra bits.
If you are (or anyone you know is) in my photos, let me know so I can tag and link you!
As I’ve attended postapocalyptic festivals Wasteland Weekend and Junktown, I was so excited to hear that the UK would reprise its own postapocalyptic event after last years’ success (which I was away for).
I was very interested to see how my own country would treat the genre. You simply can’t hold a Mad Max event without the prerequisite desert and England lacks the wide open spaces and lawless element that other festivals can use. While I had been given a sneak preview, I still was not prepared for the reality!
Let me show you around.
I pulled up around midday on Friday and once we turned down the path to the area it had begun to feel like a secret party- the camping space was already full of tents and cars. I’ve never been at a postapocalyptic or otherwise alt festival that does not have a close family atmosphere, and as I threw my things in the tent and made my way to the main arena, different friends and tent-neighbours had started greeting me and each other. As I was meeting up with a friend who had come alone and was a bit nervous about it, it was an encouraging sign that things were going to be just fine. :)
I spent most of the Friday being all sociable and exploring. Once guests passed under the headline sign, they’re thrown into what is arguably the trademark of the postapocalyptic scene; customised cars and kickass Mad Max vehicles- rat cars and rat bikes, as well as the workshop of “Spannermonkey”, who was making himself a sign from the rearranged guts of cars when I visited. I spent a lot of time looking around the vehicles- rusty, spiky, funny, scary or shiny and chrome…
Separating the main stage and food areas was the ‘village’. Or maze. Whatever we’re calling it, it’s a labyrinthine construction of narrow corridors and hidden rooms (as well as a little tunnel for the brave!) There were chillout rooms, an outdoor ‘coffee plaza’, plenty of photo opportunities, geeky in-jokes and nods to famous postapocalyptic films. I took myself around this place at least three times over the weekend and each time I found something I hadn’t seen before, though I didn’t see many other people exploring- possibly due to the weather which grew steadily worse throughout the weekend. Luckily, Brits are used to bad weather- we generally complain about it twice per conversation then drink some tea and get on with it.
The maze brought me out into the main area where most of the vendors and food trucks were (vegan/veggie as well as fish and chips, burgers, coffee/tea and cakes), as well as the bar, make-up area, dance tent, fire pits and enormous bullet-riddled tank which served as a photo backdrop, sitting area and seriously awesome sculpture. How many times do you get to look into a tank… through a bullet hole??! This is also where the stage was (and holy hell, what a stage!)
Same tank, three views, through one bullet hole…
The entertainment has arrived!
One of the first things we noticed was how varied the music was! From the moment I arrived until the last band on stage, it felt as though all the organisers and techies had thrown their MP3s together and pressed shuffle. I mean this in a GOOD way! The English are an eclectic bunch- from punk to classic rock and the bizarre and endearing cult subculture that is steampunk, we have our share of interesting music. Apocalypticus is only two years old- we simply don’t know what the favourite genre is going to be, so while I was surprised to see more dance and indie-type bands rather than the expected rock and metal, having such a variety was a very smart move! I loved watching Horatio Kuppa T and the Zeppelin Crew; a steampunk flavoured barbershop quartet style acapella band who are not only talented but hilarious.
I spent Friday night standing around one of the fire pits with my friend Ben (who still needs his postapocalyptic name) and more new friends (awesome Scottish couple whose names I have shamefully forgotten, and beautiful gothpocalypse women with off-the-grid living plans; you rock!) watching punk rock band “Rebel Station” perform. Saturday night, the band “UK:ID” brought almost everyone to the stage. We’re still not sure how to describe them other than very, very 90s, but we want them back!
Watching belly dancers
People watching UK:ID
We had more than music; belly dancers, fire performers, DJs and walkabout acts like a Mad Max stilt creature and the creations from Mechanical Menagerie (I wish, wish, wish I had got to see that mechanical spider walking around but I was on the ride-out). The fighting arena also had its own entertainment- axe throwing, various kinds of fighting open to the public and not, and the Wastelanders national sport, jugger. The UK laws regarding weapons are a hell of a lot stricter than almost anywhere else, but there was “real steel” included- though sadly, that was the one area that the rain truly dampened- much of the fighting was cancelled. Still, we’re all rather good at making our own entertainment and a couple of our bikers blew out tyres for our viewing pleasure and most of the dogs people brought were being very entertaining. Even walking around speaking to strangers was fascinating- everyone was friendly. Everyone had a story.
Isn’t it awesome!?
No fighting this time. Next year though… see you in the ring. 😉
What we’re all wearing.
I’m writing a full blog about the differences between the festivals I’ve been to, but the short version is that while there was a dresscode here, it was very open to interpretation in a similar way to the Junktown dress code. However, while there’s more tribal unity at Junktown (you can usually tell which tribe somebody belongs to by their outfit), here you could have a group of friends each sporting their own personal colours and style- steampunk, neon mutant, military, all kinds of tribal and barbarian, completely ‘out there’ etc etc.
In the tradition of the major postapocalyptic festivals, there were make-up artists and custom clothing experts who were on hand to fix wardrobe issues and give people a new look, or make outfits better. It is always much appreciated!
Here are a couple of my favourites. Proper post coming another time. <3
I’M DRENCHED! I’M DRY! I’M DRENCHED AGAIN!
I’d stayed up late on Friday. I was woken up on Saturday morning by an air horn and shout of “ride-out in 15 minutes- drivers and passengers, get over here!” I fell sideways out of the tent, dressed while hopping over to the arena (luckily less than 30 seconds away), waved my thumb like the overexcited hitchhiker I was, and was offered a ride by a car driver. At the last possible second, I was redirected to one of the biker crew who had an awesome sidecar. The weather was bright and breezy and in the last minute before I reached the gate, I did my make-up. So far, so kickass……….. until the downpour hit. Perhaps I should have mentioned that the sidecar had no roof and my outfit is half leather, half yoga-pants.
We all managed to stay together for most of it and the little country villages seemed fascinated (including a lovely elderly lady who wanted to know all about what we were doing, and our opinion on her new shoes). With a blown engine, a lost Humvee (seriously, HOW??!!) and a couple of inconvenient traffic lights, our convoy grew a little ragged towards the end but we all made it back safely through the gates though I did head straight for the coffee and wouldn’t speak until I’d downed two muffins, three coffees and a flapjack.
Waaaah! I’m cold and wet!
One of our cars. I’m in the middle of editing a video. You’ll see it on my YouTube channel.
Every postapocalyptic themed event I have been to had a very strong tribal/family feeling- we’re all crazy together. But this is the first event I’ve been to that was literally a family event; children and dogs are allowed, and I’m interested to see how this develops over the years. It’s often hard to tell when everyone’s covered in dirt and war paint but there seemed to be a lot of diversity and it was extremely safe (only one bad apple and he was kicked out), I felt confident walking around alone ‘while female’ at any time of day or night, people looked out for each other and this included the animals. I noticed one dog who was not quite so sure of all the noise and strangers, and saw her later being fed meat and given a safe spot to curl up in, watched over by several caring people. Britain is, after all, a nation of animal lovers. 😉
Can you spot Odin? He’s very loved and it was his birthday! <3
The separate areas and the weather spread a lot of us out so at times there seemed to be fewer attendees than there really were, but unlike many small events I have been to, the atmosphere was the atmosphere of a festival thousands-strong. People stayed out until the early hours, even in the lashing rain. People watched the bands with equal amounts of dancing and fascination. People talked, whether they already knew each other or not. On the last night, the view of us all crowded together around the fire pits was the same view I have seen at Wasteland Weekend, Junktown, Wacken and anywhere else, just on a smaller scale.
Currently, the Apocalypticus tribe is not huge compared to other events- I think around 400 people were counted. BUT… that is about three times last years’ turnout! People came from all over the UK, including Cornwall and Aberdeen! A few came from outside the UK. Some drove eight hours to reach the site. Some flew. In the spirit of family, I saw a stranded attendee get offered a lift back to the airport by multiple people- and as for me, I was checked on by just about everyone after the rainy ride-out, even after I no longer resembled a grouchy caffeinated Gollum. 😛
The atmosphere on the last night was of celebration- the crew looked as excited as we had been and I’m really, really interested to see what happens to Apocalypticus in the coming years. Next year’s dates have already been announced: July 19th-21st. We’ll have tea and eccentricity at the end of the world but maybe, just maybe, we’ll have good weather too. What on earth are the Brits going to talk about??!!!
p.s. All the soppy stuff.
Team- Lou, John, Geof, Alex, Ady, Tori and everyone else, you rock. Seriously, I know how hard you worked and this was amazing. (Thankyou Ady, for the tent and the lift, and Alex for the charging point.)
Nickie at Devolution and Gary Trueman photographer, it was so, so lovely meeting you and I can’t wait to get started on the project. Bex and Jay, it was awesome meeting you at last! You’re fascinating and so interesting to talk to- lets hang out more. <3
My memory sucks- lovely biker with the sidecar, thankyou for the ride and for holding my tea. And guys also on the ride-out, thankyou for the loan of the camo jackets- they were much appreciated.
Ben, Sarah, Tori, I’m so happy I got to catch up with you! <3 See you next end-of-the-world. Or sooner, if possible.
Fooooood! Thankyou for burning my bacon perfectly and giving me the biggest jacket potato I have ever seen. Thankyou for the yummy vegan burger and all the lemonade! COFFEE PEOPLE- you know what you did. Thankyou for staying open until midnight.
And lastly, I was overwhelmed by how many people recognised me from online and came to say hi. Especially Ian, Faith and Viking! It really really really makes my day when people not only like my stuff but take the time to come and chat to me. <3 All of the love and I hope you had as good a time as me.