Absolutely Staggering, at Standon Calling

Standon Calling 2022

Can you still enjoy a boutique festival with a recently-broken toe?

So, Friday morning, we're all geared up for a long-anticipated trip to the excellent Hertfordshire festival Standon Calling... and maybe a bit too giddy, as I then manage to smash my little toe into a bookcase leg and spend much of the afternoon at a minor-injury clinic, initially an X-ray as I'd hoofed that little limb so far sideways, the good doc and I both thought it was dislocated (they don't usually bother X-raying broken toes, it turns out).

Nope - smashed straight across, then gently but firmly shoved back into place "until it's too painful," he says, worryingly. But actually, it's fine, strapped, and 48 hours seems a decent enough rest-up time, no? By Sunday afternoon I'm limping from the car park into the site and trying not to think about the zig-zag nightmare my poor toe might end up as, a few hours later.

Standon Calling 2022. Si Hawkins

That soon recedes as we make it time for a memorable moment in the comedy tent, our main destination this afternoon. Tom Glover is the MC this weekend, and to test the boundaries early doors (or early flaps, it being a tent), he asks if one of the front-row kids would like to shout their favourite swear word. Probably something poo-based, let's face it.

But then up steps the cutest, tiniest, most angelic wee cherub you've ever seen. Butter wouldn't melt. Cue cooing noises all round as she just about manages to lift the microphone, looks startled by the crowd, then finally plucks up the courage: "Ummmm..... FUCK!"

Standon Calling 2022. Hannah Fairweather

And brings the house down. We are off and running. Hannah Fairweather then gamely tries to follow that, which is not easy, but her Taylor Swift stuff seems to go down well with the poppets, so I pop out to change the footwear.

Proper trainers are proving a big mistake, it turns out, as any pressure whatsoever feels like it's dragging the wayward toe in the wrong direction - back to the protection-free randomness of flip flops, just in time to catch a bit of drag sensation Bimini on the Laundry Meadows stage, who's so entertaining that I venture into the throng, stick my foot in a divot, do a little yelp but carry on regardless.

Standon Calling 2022 - Bimini

It's well worth it as Bimini - a RuPaul's Drag Race alumni - is a riot. She's hollering covers when I show up: Toxic ("love you Britney, glad you're free!") and one that feels perfectly timed for today's predicament, Peaches' Fuck the Pain Away. "This is me to the Tories!" she says, mid-song. "I mean, I wouldn't fuck the Tories..."

After which she hurtles into the crowd, encourages a load more front-row kids to swear along to that chorus, has comical difficulty getting back onstage, ("Ooh dear, I don't think I was supposed to stand on that"), eventually makes it, rattles through a few originals and end with the splits. Now that's what I call a show.

I flip-flop back to the comedy stage where Catherine Bohart is now in full swing, and having a lovely time, being as filthy as possible but on topics where the kids will have to ask their parents awkward questions afterwards ("dad, what is a dildo?"), while also empowering the front row girls throughout. To finish, there's a splendid exchange with a prostrate scientist, who's being vague about what he actually does. She turns her attention back to the front row. "Girls, if a man still talks down to you, when he's literally lying down..."

Standon Calling 2022. Catherine Bohart

Marvellous. A lot of folks then leave to go and rubberneck at Craig David, whose hits have been wafting across the site for a good ten minutes. I'm guessing the punters in this tent have stayed put until now because they're (a) really enjoying the comedy, (b) too polite to walk out halfway through a comedian's set, or (c) both of the above, and also worried that Bohart would tear them a new one.

I tend to think the latter is probably the case, particularly the politeness thing as I don't really have any issues with the whole flip-flop/toe situation, apart from self-inflicted stumbles. The nearest miss is actually a friend's energetic three year-old, Sam, who hurtles across my feet at speed and thankfully lands on a whole different toe. Big sigh of relief.

Anyway, that comedy tent churn is an opportunity for an excellent gag from Glover: "I'm furious at Craig David, he specifically said he'd be chilling on Sunday..." Which is either an excellent ad-lib, or our host appears at a lot of the same festivals as David. And chiefly on Sundays. Unless he's got a different gag for every day of that song.

Standon Calling 2022 - Tom Glover

Having headed off to America at the height of the Bo' Selecta! business, Craig has now put together a cool-sounding set-up called 'Craig David presents TS5', which sounds like a rap crew but seems to just be him setting up tracks on a laptop then singing along, which is a lot cheaper and no one seems to mind.

Back to the comedy and Glover is filling as there's a brief delay before Milton Jones' headline slot. "So, day four of the festival - anyone still holding in a poo?" Several pained hands are raised. As it's getting busy and potentially toe-traumatic I hover just outside the tent, and can see Jones pottering about backstage, so the delay is presumably due to something else, rather than, say, problems getting his hair fully erect. Glover looks to the stage manager, then reverts back to the Craig David material. "Is Milton ready? I'm about a minute away from rapping to Fill Me In here."

Standon Calling 2022

It's certainly packed by the time Milton does march on, people spilling out across the lawn, which allows for some cracking dog-spotting. Standon must be the UK's canine-friendliest festival - so much so that they actually postponed the dog show earlier that afternoon, not wanting unhappy hot dogs. Instead there are random pooches knocking around in all the coolest places, including backstage. The likeable dance-popper Sigrid is pictured on Twitter with three local labradors the day after. Lovely stuff.

Milton is on good form, as usual, that distinctively bewildered look picking up any slack if a gag falls a bit flat, but few do. A steelworks/fart line is particularly quotable, right up there with Stewart Francis's seminal shipyard one when it comes to great material about Britain's manufacturing infrastructure: we all love a bit of industrial language. Steel toecapped flip-flops, now there's an idea...

Anyway, comedy done, and the toe survives, which says a lot for the sort of folks you get at this increasingly enjoyable festival. A distinct lack of dicks, and Bimini's sign-off comes to mind: "Standing fucking Calling I love you!" That sweary kid down the front couldn't have said it better.

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