It was Wednesday 15th August 2018, a big day in fact, it was the day we needed to have everything set up for Greenman 2018 by 17:00.
First, there was a whole day of work and a meeting with one of the biggest contracts of my professional career. Josh Bailey the co-founder of PPL PWR and a PHD student in the final furlong of his studies was my passenger. Being a student at the end of his studies, naturally leaves him with less money than a rag and bone man, so a lift was welcomed. Unfortunately, to save time he had to come with me to the meeting location which happened to be Southall in West London. Luckily, Josh being a man of cultural, wondered off into Southall and embraced some Indian culture and find some WIFI so he could continue his university work. I, meanwhile had to sit in a conference room listening to contractors and sub-contractors talk about geocellular storage structures and how my company can deliver a product that would suit the application. The meeting scheduled for 1hr had gone on for 2!
By this point Josh had got sick of waiting and decided to come and find me. Unfortunately, I was in a restricted area and the site was very “security” conscious. We decided to meet at the Tesco, Josh had decided to walk down a cobbled path. Which was not advisable in the shoes he was wearing? We finally met up. It would have been logical to shop in the Southall Tesco, but logic at PPL PWR is not the logical thing to do. So, it was decided to hit the road and make haste. We had a 3 hour drive ahead of us. We’d find a superstore closer to the Green Man site.
The journey went swiftly, being busy people, it was nice to catch up and relax. Knowing that over the course of the next 5 days we didn’t have to worry about work, study, house renovations, exercise, extracurricular activities or any of the trivial issues we have to deal with in day to day life. We did however, have to worry about getting food and boots for josh. We headed to a Tesco super store near the site. The sourcing of food and alcohol was straight forward.
Unfortunately, the sourcing of boots was not. It was a shame, I was rather hoping that the floral patterned boots would be the right size but it was not to be. Josh had to settle with shoes that were not watertight. In our rush and haste to the car, we found that the tag was still attached. Luckily my new Leatherman commando knife came in handy and I was happy to show it off like any “manly” man would. Unfortunately this wasn’t very sustainable as the tag is still in my car. I’m sure I will return it at some point.
We finally made our way to the site already past the set up time deadline, luckily Molkie and Ebby had already gotten on site and set EVERYTHING up.
We’d Forgotten the spring onions, the only thing the other volunteers had asked for, so, we lied and said they had run out, unlikely, but they seemed happy with the explanation. Upon arriving we meet with Molkie, our resident graphic designer, off road living guru and as will all guru’s the man with the biggest and best beard of the group.
He was also joined by Ebby who was on work experience with Camplight, one of PPL PWR commercial partners and a supporter of the cause. She was a very down to earth and the linguistic of the group native from Germany, living in the Netherlands, with routes in Iran. From memory she knew 7 languages. Molkie speaks three and Josh knows a few too, I know a grant total of 1. Molkie and Ebby had selected a previously camped area to set up in, this was a schlep from the car and it was a painful experience for all. We were camped in the family section on the other side of the site.
All loaded with bags, food, tents, camping equipment we made our way across. Ebby carried the bell tent all the way back! It was accepted that PPL PWR as a collective were in desperate need of an industrial grade trolley! Budgets restrict the purchase of buying such a vital piece of equipment for now, maybe next financial year will see an uplift in fortune. Back at camp me and Josh set up our tents as quickly as we could and had a quick drink. We had no idea where the other UCL’ellers were pitched up and only found out later that they were very close to the entrance. Molkie had tried to camp in that section before the festival started but was rejected and was told to move on by what is known in the festival world as a ‘jobs worth’.
Once we’d set up then we all made our way over to Einstein’s garden. A place of education and research, bringing together intellects from across the world. Being late all the stall were closed but we still compared stalls with other. We were more Camden/ East End London esque, rough rugged and raw so to speak that the other set ups. The set up was planned for the next day. We did one more trip back to the van that night to pick up the rest of the wind turbine and other components.
Thursday was an early rise to set up. The set up consisted of equipment borrowed from Navitron, our industrial partner. They leant us some solar panels, solar thermal vacuum tubes and a battery bank.
The battery bank had caused considerable issues (stress) at the last festival (Brainchild) that we attended! The batteries were dead/ dud, due to them sitting around for a prolonged period of time, so we had to buy more. Hunting round for places to buy them in the middle of Kent with limited signal and phone battery was tough but we managed to source them. Damaged was caused to our PPL PWR budgets, but the real damage was caused when carrying the dud batteries out to the car. As I completed my journey I turned to find the Josh had split his shorts clean down the middle. It was hilarious but only having some flowery board shorts was the icing on the cake.
Molkie had constructed solar powered table consisting of a Ikea table, solar cells bought from Ebay, a USB charger and some soldering. All coming together to create 5W of power. Just enough to trickle charge your phone (when it was sunny).
I brought my wind turbine to the event, this was made out of a treadmill motor that had been stolen from a unused treadmill, a caster wheel, scaffolding, buried PVC pipe, an umbrella garden base plate and some dis-guarded bits of wood. In erecting all the equipment, we had gone way out side of our permitted allocation. There were also issues with Health & Safety, we allocated a safe zone around the wind turbine. The health & Safety inspector came round, he spotted a serious H&S issue….a twig at EYE level on the tree near to where we were situated! Again, the Leatherman came in and saved the day. Thank god he didn’t look up to see the wind turbine. I’m not saying it was a severe H&S risk but it was a dam sight more that the twig.
We opened on Thursday and everything went smoothly. Paul turned up to assist, he is an expert in Solar and works for the Carbon Trust. Gabriel had also arrived to complete our contingent of 6. He had been sourced from a Facebook festival volunteer page. The rota was drafted, and the revellers started to pour in. We had some inflatable sofas to sit on, they deflated throughout the day, so it was a constant battle to keep them inflated. It did keep us comfortable throughout the festival and helped create some discussion groups around various subjects.
Friday, we awoke to a child screaming Abbra Cadavra… over….and over…. And over again. Now, I had a few the night before so maybe my sensitivity levels were lower than normal but this did not take away from the fact that 8am in the morning you do not want to wake up to children screaming, let alone Abbra Cadavra but, you can always see the funny side of it in light of you being at a festival. Plus by the Sunday morning they were all tired, fed up and unhappy…so I win!
Additionally, on Friday morning Molkie had found a great place to buy Scotch Eggs and they were vegetarian! The Wednesday night we’d brought some Scotch eggs and unbeknown to me they contained meat. Needless to say someone else enjoyed 3 scotch eggs…
The rest of morning consisted of working, which is not that hard. Its mostly about having up lifting conversations about renewables and sustainable interests. Each member of the team has their own interest and individual take on interacting with there audience. We are an enlightened bunch with a variety of different attributes making PPL PWR a diverse fold. Most of the festival revellers where interested in the technology we were showing off, but some were interested in the educational program we are setting up with schools as part of the Royal Academy of Engineering funding. Which was nice. Hopefully we can build on the program.
We embraced the Einstein gardens and went to various stalls. People representing the Bristol universities science department spoke to use about Diamond Solar Cells that could be 100% efficient, also outlined how the left-over radioactive material from reactors could be turned into battery that would last for thousands of years, you’d need a lot of them to get a considerable about of energy. This did get me thinking; can you mix radioactive material with concrete could release heat for a type of underfloor heating or roads to prevent ice build up like in Northern Climates. This would obviously be radioactive and deadly but given the right protective coating like lead could be a great solution. Maybe only to be used in colder climates, hot floors in the summer months in not an idea solution.
The tent directly opposite us was a XYZA and they conducted research into how things are measured, breaking units down into their simplest of components. They have come to the conclusion that there are 7 definitive measurements. They had very funky displays showing the different forms of measurement. Another organisation, that some of our group saw as a direct competitor in the field of education had come up with some genius ways of illustrating the use of power. They had bikes hooked up to various electrical components and the more amps that were required to run the device the harder it became to cycle. To make an egg at around 120W it took 3 of us cycling for 7 minutes. We didn’t even get to eat the egg!
Saturday night we went out to party, Green Man has this amazing vibe about it. There is nothing truly commercial on site, the bars serve a range of craft beers. There is not a Carling in site. The selection of food is excellent with a range of veggie and meat-based delights, my favourite is the Goan Fish curry, I rarely eat Fish but when ever that particular stall is at a festival I will have some. Its not completely guilt free but they do source the fish sustainably. In the evening we met up with other UCELL’ers and enjoyed live music. My favourite of the weekend were called Soul Grove. Later in the evening we ended up in Chiwalla, being the geekiest of geeks we worked out how many electro thermal cells would be needed to power the tent we were in and what would the cost be from memory it would cost 200k and generate 3kW. The idea would be to have the fabric lined with the cells, the cold air outside and the hot air inside would create an electrical charge, all from the heat of people dancing to the music. The contrast between the outside of the tents and the inside was dramatic.
Sunday consisted of recovery, more scotch eggs, amazing food, deserts and work in the day time. Come the end at 5pm we could pack up. It was decided to head back late on the Sunday night to miss the traffic. As an individual I constantly find myself doing this at the end of festivals, this either goes to show how busy I am, or shows that I don’t embrace the moment and be present. Maybe next year without having a masters for 8 months of the year will leave me with more time and I can enjoy the festivals more.
The pack down was a strategic effort with people packing down the campsite and the installation separately but using the same resource which in this case was a hired trolley. Which in hindsight, (this very second) we should have got two or three to make it a lot easier. The hire place was outside. We have take it back to the campsite, take down the tents, travel back to the vehicle to unload, then back to the installation to the vehicle and back to the higher place before they closed at 6pm. It was going to be tight. So the first couple of trips went well. We rushed and managed to get the bulk of the stuff back to the van.
Now, it was only the solar panel, the table and some signs etc. still quite a bit. Josh and Molkie carried the table while I went back to tackle the solar panel. Basically, I carried a solar panel all the way back to the car, this was extremely hard work. Of the hundreds of people walking past only 2 offered to help. When the second person helped I was just about catching up with Molkie and Josh. Only to find them jumping into the back of a buggy…laughing their asses off that they had received some help. I on the other hand was less than impressed (Molkie: Should have got the spring onions then!). Anyway, all being said and down we were done with the work and could enjoy the last couple of hours of the festival.
We ended with some comedy and a great joke about an inflatable boy;
There was an inflatable boy, and he goes to an inflatable school. While there, he finds himself having a really bad day. Bored with the lesson, he gets up and walks out of the inflatable classroom but, while walking down the corridor, he sees the inflatable headmaster approaching him.
The inflatable boy pulls out a pin and punctures the inflatable headmaster before running out of the inflatable school gates. Just as he gets past the gates, he thinks again, “I hate school”, and once more pulls out his pin and pokes it into the inflatable school. He then runs as fast as his inflatable legs allow, all the way home and races into his inflatable bedroom.
A couple of hours later, his inflatable mother is knocking at his bedroom door and with her are the inflatable Police. Panicking, our inflatable boy yet again pulls out the pin and jabs it into himself. Later on that evening, he wakes up in an inflatable hospital and, in the bed next to him, he sees the inflatable headmaster.
Shaking his deflated head – more in sorrow than in anger – the Headmaster gravely intones:
“You’ve let me down; you’ve let the school down, but worst of all, you’ve let yourself down.”
Then got more food and watched the closing act on the mainstage. I had no idea who they were, but it was good to relax too.
The final act was the burning of the sacrificial Greenman, a huge piece of art some 15m tall. Fireworks and the burning of the giant man took a while, it was amazing though. With the expectation of a collapse at anytime gripping the crowd. The journey home took a few hours, I dropped Josh and Ebby at Hammersmith tube station at around 02:30am, where they had to continue their respected journeys to Croydon and East London. Everyone made it home safe.
I absolutely love festivals and Greenman is near the top of the list with Glastonbury and Shambala. The joy of festivals is there is a different festival for each and everyone of us. They are an experience to have fun at, to learn from, to create stronger bonds with friends old and new. They are a way to express yourself and be free for a short period of the year like nothing else we experience in everyday life.