OK, this week is the Cheltenham Festival of the Paranormal. I must say when I first heard the idea of a paranormal festival many years ago in the CPRG (Cheltenham Psychical research Group) days I laughed — I never thought there would be any interest for such a way out thing. Of course that was back in the early 1990’s, before Most Haunted, though I think the X-Files was massive within the first couple of years of the CPRG. The CPRG used to attract 90-120 people to it’s monthly lecture series in the Children’s Library though, even back then, so maybe it can work. There are Ghost Festivals springing up all over the UK, what with last year’s Swindon GhostFest, this years GhostFest SouthWest, and many more besides. I doubt any will compare in scale with the Fortean Times UnConvention, or the annual SPR conference however.
Cheltenham is the home of Festivals, whether horse racing, literature, science, music or jazz (jazz is apparently not music!!!!) – and I am sure I have missed a few – other suggestions my friends have come up with as yet not implemented are the Cheltenham Festival of Erotica — and more fun — the Cheltenham Festival of Cravats and the Cheltenham Festival of Bungee Jumping, but my favourite remains the Cheltenham Spacehopper Festival. We do of course every two years host an Ars Magica RPG Festival of sorts – well a convention — Grand Tribunal, but this year (2011) that is in Cambridge. Till the Spacehopper fans arrive though, the Cheltenham Paranormal Festival is the newest and shiniest.
So what is a paranormal festival? I have been trying to think of an example of a ghostly Festival – does the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival still replay on moonless nights? Is a field on Max Yasgur’s farm forever haunted by the sound of Jefferson Airplane ? Sadly not. I would not be surprised if some stoned hippy on Glastonbury Tor to greet the dawn had not imagined the roar of the Festival over at Pilton or wherever it’s held. The closest I can think of is a report from Avebury of a ghostly Victorian Fair being seen amidst the stones – not really a paranormal festival, but hey, I tried.
The Festival is pretty much the child of Ross “Toss” Andrews — many others have been involved, and the idea of the festival has been floating around in its present incarnation for at least five years, but really ultimately Ross has coordinated the whole thing himself, and if it works will deserve the praise – and if it fails, will doubtless try again. I’m doing a few bits, helping out with the Ghostwalks on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from outside Tourist Information, and on Friday doing the Prestbury one, and will doubtless be appearing at the Ghost Hunts where the general public can come along and do a “Moose Flaunted” style investigation, complete I assume with gadgets and cries of “did you hear that?”. I have spotted the odd article in the press recently – the BBC cover the Festival here – but have no idea how my last event is selling – the talk Confessions of a Ghosthunter, priced at £3, at the Playhouse Theatre, Saturday 5th February 2011 from 7.30pm to 8.15pm. Yep, just 45 minutes, hopefully informative and amusing! Tickets are available here, as for all the events.
So what else is on? All kinds of really fun things, and certainly not all paranormal in the established sense. Film screenings, fancy dress parties at The Boogie Lounge, live music, “The Edgar Allen Poe Show”, “Villains; Songs from the Musicals” – hell if you have absolutely no interest in the paranormal there is probably something to grab you on offer! The only problem is that if you have absolutely no interest in the paranormal you have probably not read this far? Well maybe. Hopefully I’ll meet some of you during the week – say hi and tell me if you read my blog – and I’ll try to get to a few of the events, well as many as I can – I was really looking forward to “Ghosts and the People who Hunt Them” by sceptic Trystan Swale, Cheltenham Skeptics In The Pub’s contribution to the Festival, but I’m out leading a ghost walk from 7.30 that night so unless no tickets have been sold looks like i will miss it!