21 August 2011

Dear Sophisticated Ladies

Well the six day Legacy and Challenge Festival celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Magdalena Festival finished today! It all passed off well and we are pleased with the way it all went. It was a tour de force and testimony to the commitment of the team who were behind it. Personally I will now be retreating to a dark room with scented candles and some calm music!

 Being surrounded by 90 plus enthusiastic international delegates all wanting a piece of you is exhausting both mentally and physically. I have met some wonderful women doing amazing things on fresh air; the cultural world is universally underfunded whilst simultaneously valued highly!

Consequently this week’s missive will be a little shorter than usual. Some of you may be relieved! And Mr Putin will not be making an appearance this evening – but I will be writing the next episode this week. Please do take a peek should you feel the need to slip into a moment of fantasy!

 I thought I’d give you an overview of the Festival week in brief. I should say that I am the Chair of the Magdalena Project Board and feel some responsibility to my fellow board members. I approach my responsibilities from a somewhat maternal perspective thereby creating a rod for my own proverbial back! I feel the need to make people feel safe and looked after – thank heavens I don’t actually have my own offspring to smother too!

 In preparation for being absent from the rest of my personal/professional life I make sure my current clients feel suitably loved – most of them are of holiday so that’s  not a problem. Then I remember that to function under pressure, I won’t say stress although that is actually what I mean, I need to stock pile drugs. The irony of this is not lost on me when days later delegates arriving from countries where drug trafficking is a problem face questions entering the country.

 The last locum doctor I had seen had suggested a battery of tests for my persistent cough and I have finally got round to having a chest x ray and getting blood tests done. OK this process took about a month longer than it should have because I was busy. Not being a stupid person I am pretty sure that I have a smokers cough and haven’t given the task the attention it probably deserved! It’s a hazard of the habit; one I accept.Deciding to kill two birds with one stone – not literally unless it’s the locum who ends every sentence with ‘so how does that sound’ – I plan to book an appointment late in the week when the all test results will all be available. This is where it all starts to fall apart; there are no appointments until Monday i.e. the first day of the Festival week.So I book an appointment for the Monday morning thinking that I can just slip into the 9 am festival meeting half an hour late.  This seems a workable plan on Thursday evening; I am annoyed but resigned to being a little rushed on Monday. The tone of the festival related emails on Friday begin to make this cunning plan rather less cunning!

 By Saturday when a fellow board member and I are doing some preparatory shopping I realise that I will have to cancel the doctors. I rationalise this by thinking that if the test results show anything alarming the practice would phone me; no phone call has been received so therefore it is safe to assume there is no problem!

Monday 15 August – the delegates and festival guests gave begun to arrive over the weekend. Accommodating people and associated travel arrangements for circa 80 incoming international delegates is a complex logistical operation. The person to whom this task has been allocated is a fastidious planner and everything within our control is under control. Unfortunately not everything is within our control; people arriving from Europe in the main arrive on time as scheduled. Latin America is a whole different ball game and this continent is where the Magdalena has its biggest presence. It is also where there is nervousness around drug trafficking and festival participants require visas. Of course workshop leaders are bringing materials i.e. unusual luggage!

 The frailest theatre practitioners from Latin America have the most difficult journeys of course. When I think of the ordeal some of the women faced to get to the Festival it is both appalling and utterly ridiculous. One delegate comes from a country where she is unable to break her journey i.e. she has to fly from her home country to the UK with no stop over. She is also unable to bring currency with her so travel plans have to be meticulous.  A delay in this flight means she misses the coach booked from the airport and she has no money to buy another ticket. Resolving this situation involves a trip to National Express where the staff are very helpful but it reminds me how lucky we are. In a similar situation I would simply use a credit card to buy a replacement ticket; our visitor does not have this option.

 Immigration officers at Cardiff Airport question our driver who is picking up someone from another Latin American country. They want to know if she will be paid and ask who this Magdalena Project is! A series of identical letters for the driver have to be written as the letters once shown are never returned!

 The bank telephones me and wants to know how they can compensate us for the shortcomings in the service we have received. At this point I have indicated we may be making a complaint but have not actually done anything about it. However, as a pre-emptive strike perhaps, our bank manager has made a complaint on our behalf! The upshot is we are offered £50 compensation!

 By the end of Tuesday the majority of festival delegates and speakers have arrived. We have all been efficient machines simultaneously smiling reassuringly and trying to answer ‘burning’ questions that frankly can wait! Arriving home at 10.45 pm (having left home at 8 am) I arrive home to find my disabled parking space has been painted and I have a sign outside the house. I have waited three and a half years for this to happen.

The week then follows a similar pattern of leaving home at 8 am and arriving home at 8 pm. At least this is what happens initially until fatigue takes over and light weight that I am I manage a mere 10 hour days! I don’t stay for dinner and as I had planned on the basis of eating at the festival my diet compromises of cereal! Thank god for UHT skimmed milk!

 Now the festival has finished I have the accounts to prepare from a pile of mysterious receipts! Having been responsible for both the finances and the petty cash I feel like a cash machine – in future I will not fill a cash box up with coins! No I will stick to the paper stuff as I hadn’t been prepared for having to respond to requests for £500 in cash on a Sunday morning!

 It’s been a long and short week that has gone both slowly and to quote a colleague in the blink of an eye! We have more than adequately marked the first 25 years of the Magdalena Project; met some great women and I have learnt patience plus the art of the deep breath (occasionally to the point of hyperventilation)!

I will be in touch later this week about the September Salon and with the further adventures of Mr Putin. Now it’s time for yet another bowl of cereal; this time in a darkened room having decided that there is something very wrong with chocolate flavoured porridge!


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