Wednesday 11 July 2012


The Olympic Torch procession was due to weave its way around the streets of Winchester today round about midday, just the time of day when I go for my swim. I had no interest in seeing  the torch – my main concern was how to get to the swimming pool when I knew that the roads would be closed for some time.

Eventually, I decided to do something I haven't done for a long time due to illness. I would walk to the leisure centre, which takes 15 minutes. I wasn't sure if my legs would be strong enough but I was determined to give it a go.

And I managed it!

But on my walk back home, I came onto Andover Road leading out of the city and saw crowds of people waiting by the road and suddenly I was struck by the wonderful atmosphere and sense of anticipation.

I asked a police officer when the procession was due and when she told me it would be in about 10 minutes I did something I find difficult to do at the moment i.e.wait.

So I sat on a wall and watched as police cars,  police motorcyclists, large open topped buses  advertising products with attractive young women dancing and hyping up the crowd to the background noise of loud music, plus a bus with the next runner and his torch, which stopped nearby.

And then came the runner with his lit torch and I witnessed the changeover of the flame.
It was such an emotional moment  that I was moved to tears.

Of course, I didn't have my camera with me but what really struck me was the enthusiasm of the crowd, waving union Jacks and shouting, cheering and clapping. It was truly inspiring and as I walked home I felt a feeling of elation and of being personally involved in the Olympics.

Pure magic.  And all the more so for being unexpected.

Monday 2 July 2012


Me with my camera pass
What a wonderful festival this is and amazing that it has been going for 15 years – a massive four day and mainly free extravaganza of music. John and I – the daftnotstupid team – have been to nearly every festival and as we have done so, we have grown to appreciate and love the genre of Gnaoua music and delighted to experience how well it fuses with other  genres: jazz, reggae, hip-hop, rock and so on.

At first we just watched the performances and then John started to record much of the music and put it on his daftnotstupid U-tube site and I took photographs and wrote a blog on my site.. It was such fun.

Added to this, our hotel balcony overlooked  Bab Marrakech, the large square just outside the walls, which was used as one of the venues. Therefore, we had a truly breathtaking view of performances there of both performers and audience. I doubt if any other festival in the world had such an incredible viewing area.

And then, three years ago, the Festival organisers offered us press badges with that all important camera symbol, which allowed us to video and photograph right below the stage.This was in recognition of the work we had done to promote the Festival and to allow others to share in and enjoy the performances. It was like giving a pair of children free access to an enormous sweet shop and indeed a great honour for which we were very grateful.

Then last year, Bab Marrakech was dropped as a venue, probably for financial reasons, and it meant that we had lost that wonderful viewpoint.  But we still had our passes and watching performances really close-up was an incredible experience for us.

This year,however, things were very different. We were still to get passes but there was some doubt as to whether we could actually go to the Festival because I had been ill and had not fully recovered but I was so determined to go and we did, which was an achievement in itself.

And to add insult to injury, I strained a tendon in my right arm on the plane over so I was very limited in what I could do.  Had Bab Marrakech been used as a venue, I would have been able to report on eight performances. But, sadly, it wasn't and I found getting to Moulay Hassan very difficult. However, I was able to watch and photograph three of the performances which you can view once I have prepared them. And, as usual, I have included photographs of the all important audience.

I particularly enjoyed Omar Hayat who gave such an exciting and exhilarating performance that, despite doctor's orders, I found myself happily dancing. (And here I need to thank Docteur Charif Toufelaz who treated my arm and neck so that I was not totally immobile.)

In an ideal world, I would have seen and reported on more of the Festival but this is not an ideal world and for me the fact that I was able to do as much as I could despite adversity gives you an indication of how much I love the Festival.

Gnaoui with Maalems Said Ougassal and Abdella Akharraz 

Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad

Maalem Omar Hyat

Crowd scenes
John wearing his new red Kangol