Dance Camp East

Aug 17, 2009 by

So, as you may have gathered I’m back from the wilds of Suffolk. I’m still a little hippied up – the world yesterday was full of lovely loveliness, and I’ve retained quite a lot of that positivity – and have had three very late nights in a row, so I’m a bit dizzy with it all. It always takes a while to readjust to the real world after DCE. There’s no constent pot of tea and the difference between living in a circle with thirty other people and living in a house of two (one of whom is actually in Suffolk herself, visiting family!).

Anyway, camping

9 1/2 days of sunshine out of 10. A sky clear enough to see the milky way. Dancing like a mad thing ’til three am to the sound of drums. Homemade hot tubs under the stars and saunas before bed. Outdoor showers and compost loos. Cooking for thirty people on an open log fire. Learning to swing dance, relearning the can-can, recognising the playford dancing*, attempting belly dancing and going to a creative writing group. Fetching wood and water daily. Sewing buttons onto a piece of material to spell “Sublime”**.

It was a good year, one of the best in the fifteen years I’ve been going. Most of our circle (like a village of tents) had been before, so there was very little drama. There were 31 people, the youngest 7 years old (but a veteran camper) and only only 5 under 18. There were no lone campers in the circle; it was all families and couples, which also helped a lot. Most of the circle had jobs on site, including the late night cafe crew who we almost never saw, but we usually managed to pull it together at meal times. The food was impressibly varied compared with the early days – we only had ratatouille once! – and we even managed to acquire cake and pizza from the cafe ovens.


Swing dancing was the only workshop I stuck to all the way through, because it was so much fun. Two couple dancing sessions (I was the man both times) and two and a bit Shim Sham sessions. I’ve done the can-can three or four camps in a row, as a surprise for the caberet most times. It was really tight this year, with a decent sized troop.

I made it to one Playford session; I hold ‘Darcy dancing’ in great affection, but I remember so much that the first few workshops are frustatingly slow. I dropped in on the belly dancing, but I had to do my half day’s work at the sauna so I left early. I did a single drama workshop, which was a lot of fun but I’m just not a performer (though it did give me a research-heavy plot bunny for a story about a Mongolian wizard).

In the evenings I put all this dancing into practice, and went to a Celiedh, a Tango night, a ball and an acoustic rave. I didn’t actually do as many workshops as before; I deliberately chose to chill-out more this time and get some writing done.

Creative Writing

I’m glad I chose The Dark to focus on, rather than a novella version of Swan Made considering the news I received when I got back! I spent a lot of time working on the daily tasks set by the writing group. I had mixed feelings going into it – I had such a good experience with the York Uni group back when I started uni – knowing that Dance Camp can be a little too hippy for my tastes sometimes, and I was worried that criticism would be discouraged. A lot of people came to the early sessions with something similar in their mind, looking for somewhere to talk about writing or find inspiration.

The guy who ran it wasn’t looking for that though, despite the first-thing handholding and introducing ourselves with how we were feeling; he had set tasks for each day and wasn’t interested in a lot of discussion about writing, just what we had written. Though I found myself disagreeing on some fundamental elements of characterisation (very heavy of the gender stereotyping) the structured nautre of the tasks and the way they built on each other was useful and inspiring in its own way. I got the impression it was originally meant to culminate in writing a scene in which the characters we had worked on met, but this was overtaken by the idea of reading the “characterscapes” we had crafted at an “Acoustic Salon” at the late night cafe at midnight. Since my descriptions were more functional than literary I bowed out, using the excuse of the lateness of the event. Those who did attend seemed slightly nonplussed, partly by the way the event was run (closing half the cafe and refusing to allow themto serve people) , with mixed responses to the poetry, stories, characterscapes and original music. The format was generally agreed to be quite pretentious, but the content well done.

Awakening Albion

The event I did make a point of attending at the late night cafe was the premier of Awakening Albion. A group of people, many of whom came to camp, had walked 550 miles in seven weeks across the south of England.  The film was made from 35,000 photographs taken during the walk, with originally composed music. It really showed how much countryside can change over a relatively small distance (compared with America, anyway) and how beautiful the South of England is. I’m definitely getting the book (and the film, if it becomes available).

Things to Come

I’d like to post over the next few weeks about the daily tasks relevant to Fantasy novels and their ilk. Things like wood chopping, how heavy water is, how long it takes to cook over an open fire, and how incredibly long wet clothes take to dry. Things that are obvious to people who camp regularly, but can never occur to people who don’t (and some things that even campers may overlook). Who knows, maybe I’ll even post that review of the writing holiday I went on in February at some point in amongst it all!


but I’m typing this on my brand new un-hippyish toy: a Samsung NC-10. I had to get my housemate to set up the internet in the end, but otherwise I’m just trying to remember my myriad downloads from over the years. I’m not a namer of inanimate objects (of my childhood oys, only one had a name that actually stuck) but since it needed a name for the network, this dinky one is Daisy, and I’m going to rename my old laptop HAL.

(admittedly, I found 2001: A Space Odessey pretty dull the first time I saw it. I’d already read the book, so I knew what was going on, but it was so slow I got bored. It wasn’t until I watched it on the side of York Minster that the power of it really hit me. The small screen does it no favours, alas)

* Jane Austen era dancing. It’s a lot of fun, but you end up concentrating so hard the only conversations you ever actually have with the other dancers in your group usually consists of “Sorry! Was that your toe?”

** each circle had a coloured flag, ours was lime. We weren’t the only lot of come up with a pun, either: Heigh Ho Silver Lining and the Tangorines also stick in the mind!


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