If you find the same old acts are clogging
up the nation's fields, the more intrepid festival goer
may care to venture a little further afield for a truly
memorable experience. Bill Borrows is your guide A festival
doesn't have to be middle-class tossers from the home
counties wearing ethnic print T-shirts, drawstring pants
, and "eye-catching" headgear, taking mind-altering
substances and sleeping with their friends in rotation.
Take my word for it, it can get a whole lot more mental
than Jocasta dropping acid for the first time and giving
Toby one off-the-Wrist even though she's supposed to
be seeing Angus and Toby hasn't really got over Phoebe
yet. There are plenty of festivals weirder than Glastonbury.
Here are some of the best, with details
of when and where and a rating out of 10 indicating
the chances of bumping into anyone with parents who
"made a lot of money in the eighties". Ten is bad news.
THE KEPPEI KRABTASTIC WORLD CRAB-TYING
CHAMPIONSHIPS (May, Australia) 2/10
Not really what you might expect from a nation dedicated
to the cult of machismo. Whereas American rodeo riders
rope cattle and steers and then jump from moving horses,
the brave inhabitants of Keppel Sands (Queensland) take
10 steps into an arena filled with big crabs and try
to tie their claws together before getting nipped. Almost
unbelievably they are forced to go barefoot. Only a
militant vegan would consider this cruelty towards animals.
THE BUN FESTIVAL (May, Hong Kong)
This is a festival which has lost some of its edge since
a bad accident in 1978 saw a huge bamboo scaffolding
decorated with buns collapse and injure several people.
It is still, however, pretty bizarre. It is designed
to placate the spirits of the dead (victims of either
the plague or the pirate Cheung Po Chai in whose lair
- Cheung Chau Island - it takes place) and as a concession
to the spirits of the animal kingdom is entirely vegetarian.
The "floating children" appear on the third day, the
main day of festivities, but are actually juveniles
in hidden harnesses on top of poles. Leave the acid
at home. Buns are now handed down from the scaffolding
to stop intoxicated revellers climbing the traditionally
THE CAT FESTIVAL (May, Belgium)
Belgium is something of a surprise package on the festival
scene. The Cat Festival in Ypres is only one of many
but, given that (until 1817) it used to involve throwing
live cats off a belfry to see if they would land feet
down, it deserves a mention hare. Today the cats are
made of material but the original impetus for the event
stemmed from a rising cat population. No doubt there
was a huge campaign not to ban the pastime conducted
along the same lines as that recently co-ordinated here
by the pro-hunting lobby. "You just don't understand,"
the wealthy, in-bred and slightly dim burghers of Ypres
will have argued. "It is the most humane method of controlling
the cat population. We have personally seen them drag
babies from rudimentary perambulators and rip their
heads off. Have you?" It should be noted that the annual
goat-tossing from the church belfry in Manganeses de
la Polvorosa (Spain), although outlawed since 1992,
still continues and involves the almost certain death
of an animal. Perhaps the pro-hunting lobby can relocate.
NEAR-DEATH PILGRIMAGE (June, Spain)
Since the death of Franca, Spain has gone festival-mad,
indulging both its predilection for over-the-top sanctimonious
religious worship and a well-documented love of partying.
This is a festival held in Pontevedra, Galicia, for
people who consider themselves lucky to have escaped
death that year. Taunting the Grim Reaper to a reckless
degree perhaps, many arrive in coffins before jumping
to their feet. Amusingly, one person en route to the
festival in 1994 was killed instantly when his car collided
with a coach.
COW FIGHTS (June, Switzerland)
Not really a festival as such, more a case of humans
in Valais making a spectator event of the natural competition
for social ascendancy between Herens cows - slow bovine
creatures of minimal worth -in ad orgy of horn-locking.
Much like the Tara and Tamara column-inch war in this
SEAMAN'S DAY (June, lceland) 9/10
Only really listed here for its cheap gag potential
but still a 100 per cent guaranteed bender with enormous
potential for death by alcohol poisoning. A rare opportunity
to eat both blackbird and penguin.
NAADAM (July, Mongolia) 1/10
The major festival in the country is called "The Three
Manly Sports" (or, in Mongolian, "Eryn Gurvan Nadom").
Those sports are wrestling, riding and archery. It is
a nationwide event and competitors wear tight-fitting
shorts and a harness over a bare chest. This uniform,
they are loath to disclose, was introduced a couple
of centuries ago to confirm that those involved were,
indeed, men. This measure was introduced after a champion
wrestler subsequently became identified as a woman.
The sound heard at the time was believed to be that
of either Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun, or possibly
both, turning in their graves.
THE LUHYA CIRCUMCISION CEREMONY
(August, Kenya) 2/10 (until it appears in Mane Claire)
Not much room for gender identification problems here.
This is an annual event held in Kakamega between the
18 tribes who farm the area. It is a massive initiation
party for teenage boys which, unlike this country, does
not involve sniffing glue, buying a copy of Fiesta or,
indeed, driving one. Not for the squeamish.
LA TOMATINA (August, Spain) 6/10
Held in Bunol, near Valencia, this amounts to the biggest
food fight in the world. It is a hormone. charged free-for-all
involving 110,000 kilos of tomatoes and any person able
to throw a ripe red borderline fruit/vegetable at anyone
else Origin depends upon perspective, it was either:
(a) a bizarre political response in 1945 to the continuing
influence of Franco or (b) a chance occurrence after
a lorry-load of tomatoes spilled on to the streets of
Bunol around the same time. Whatever. It is the most
fun it is possible to have within the constraints of
the law, involving, as it does, underage boys and girls,
fruit/vegetables and extreme violence. This is a solid-matter
variant of the Wine War in Haro (also Spain). Use your
THE BAYREUTH WAGNER FESTIVAL (July,Germany)
A really strange one this, dedicated as it is to Stephanie
Powers' co-star in Hart To Hart and the former husband
of Natalie Wood. But where's the logic when David Hasselhoff
is the number one recording artist in Germany?
THE MOOSE SHIT FESTIVAL (July,
When the snow melts in Alaska it reveals millions of
fields full of moose shit. Alaska is a lonely country
and, consequently, the inhabitants of Talkeetna arm
themselves with what's at hand for the annual festival.
The line-up of events includes dancing, drinking and
throwing slit at targets and each other. Whatever is
left over is used to make jewellery, which, presumably,
was where Gerald Ratner did most of bulk-purchasing.
THE HUNGER HOOTING FESTIVAL (August,
In Accra, the firing of guns and incessant drumming
indicates a good harvest and the beginning of the festival
to celebrate it. Citizens run around shouting, "Thursday
people, Thursday people" which commemorates the day
of the week the founders of the city -arrived there.
It is, basically, a huge feast with an unusual side
interest for the mothers of twins who daub their children
in white clay and cook them a meal of yam and eggs.
THE CACI WHIP-DUELS (August, Indonesia)
Essentially a graphic illustration of the Far Eastern
concept of entertainment, two men whip each other until
bleeding occurs. The blood is then collected and used
as an offering for the spirits of ancestors. The subsequent
welts and scars are much admired by women of Ruteng.
There is, it is believed, soon to be a sister festival
in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.
Bill Borrows is currently writing a book about some
of the weirdest festivals in the world. Global Warning:
Bizarre And Savage Writing From Five Continents will
be available from Virgin Books early next year