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Regent's Park

The first Saturday and Sunday in August having been described as the hottest two days so far this summer – with temperatures soaring into the late 80 degrees Fahrenheit – one would have expected all ‘week-end holiday makers’ to have flocked to the coast……. But, somewhat surprisingly, Regent’s Park, London, proved to be a prime week-end attraction, and visitors came from all corners of the country to attend an event entitled ‘The Innocent Village Fete’, organised by ‘innocent ltd’- known as ‘Innocent Smoothies’, who are renown for their high quality ‘smoothies’ drinks.

The week-end holiday visitors had come from as far afield as both Wales and Scotland, many of them having booked accommodation at various London hotels. As many as 25,000 people were present at the ‘Village Fete’ both on Saturday and on Sunday, and despite the scorching sunshine, seemed to be enjoying every second of the ‘holiday event’.

Although 2007 represented the fifth year that ‘Innocent Smoothies’ had organised a charity function at Regent’s Park, it was the first time that the event had taken the form of a ‘family fete’ – previous years’ events having resembled ‘musical festivals with pop bands’. The charities that were being supported at ‘The Innocent Village Fete’ were The Samaritans’, ‘Friends of the Earth’, and ‘Well Child’. Admission to the event being by ticket, all money raised through this source was to be donated to these charities. And this amount was expected to represent about £100,000.

‘Age Concern’ too was being supported at the event, with stalls entitled ‘The Big Knit’ being in full swing – with the slogan of ‘Keep Older People Warm This Winter’ emblazoned above their marquees. Their objective was to encourage people to knit little woolly hats for ‘Innocent Smoothies’ drinks bottles. And these ‘behatted’ smoothies bottles would then later be sold in various shops. And for every one sold, both ‘innocent ltd.’ and the shopkeeper would donate 50p to ‘Age Concern’.

And the aim was to create as many as 400,000 woolly hats for smoothie bottles, and in the process raise £200,000 for ‘age Concern’. I personally was attending the week-end function not exactly in holiday mode but in an employed capacity, having been selected to perform as an actor. For although the event was very much of a ‘family village fete’, there was a considerable amount of ‘stage entertainment’ included in the proceedings.

But I did manage to find time to ‘have a go’ at knitting – despite the fact that I had last ‘knitted’ as a child when I used to endeavour to produce dresses for my dolls! But it’s amazing how ‘old habits die hard’! I actually found myself able to knit part of a potential ‘little woolly hat’ with comparative ease!

But although I was attending the function in a working capacity, the ‘holiday spirit’ that prevailed was overpowering! Everyone seemed to be having a ‘thoroughly good time’. And Regent’s Park seemingly being on a relatively higher level than the rest of London, and situated alongside the canal, it was almost as good as being beside the seaside. And even ‘Blackpool’ might have found it hard to compete with the entertainment on offer! Marquees of every size and shape bedecked parts of the parkland – with a wealth of trade stalls spread across the length and breadth of the area.

In many respects it was also a ‘Kids’ Paradise’, with a vast variety of fun activities available, including funfair rides, a helter skelter, chair-a-plane and carousel, a trip on The Virgins Trains railway, and even a JCB’s mini tractor raceway. And there was scarcely a ‘kid’ to be seen who wasn’t holding aloft a cornet that was laden with a mountain of gorgeous looking ice-cream! And seeing their ‘kids’ fully occupied, the parents were able to enjoy their holiday week-end, either reclining ‘in’ the sun or ‘away from it’ in the shade of the many towering trees.

But for those who wanted to be active, there was no shortage of activities – be it as an observer or a participant. There was Dog Agility, Maypole Dancing, Morris Dancers, Duck Herding, Welly Wagging, Gymnastic Demo and Workshop, Bicycle Gymkhana, Barn Dancing, Open Air Yoga, and ‘Massages’. And what proved to be a particularly popular ‘observer sport’ was ‘the Ferret Racing’! And food and drink were in bountiful supply. In fact, one was ‘spoilt for choice’!

Although each day’s events commenced at 11.00 a.m. and ended at 7.00 p.m., many of the ‘week-end holidaymakers’ seemed to manage to fit in breakfast, lunch, cream teas, and supper while they were there – on top of which they also indulged in the ‘free’ cups of ‘Yorkshire Tea’ (together with the ‘free’ slice of shortbread that was available too!)

The ‘Yorkshire Tea’, which hailed from Harrogate, had been specifically blended to cope with ‘hard water’ – and certainly the ‘Tea House’ where the ‘free tea’ was being served seemed to be ‘permanently packed with people’! And, on the subject of drinks – with the exception of bottled water to cope with the effects of the scorching sun – it was hard to judge what was proving to be most popular.

I personally opted for a Pimms on the first day, then tried some ice cold cider on the second day. But the majority of the ‘holidaymakers’ seemed to be regularly carrying aloft trays bearing glassfuls of beer as they moved from the ‘Real Ale and Cider Tent’ to their own family groups. Certainly, the queues at the ‘Beer Bars’ seemed to remain consistent! But no-one seemed to be in the slightest bit inebriated. And the food on offer at the ‘barbecue stalls’ was both satisfying and well cooked, most of the grilled meat being organic, and the cheese, fruit, vegetables and salads being either organic, seasonal, or locally grown.

After all, that’s what ‘smoothies’ are all about – drinks made from ‘natural one hundred per cent crushed fruit’! Particularly popular at the function was the ‘Penguins Classics’ Marquee’, which bore the title of ‘Best Books Ever Written’. Here one could recline in the shade on laid-out deck chairs and read any of the books on display.

In addition to the collection of the assessed ‘Best Books Ever Written’ there was also a long list of what was believed constituted the most notable incidents and characteristics that had ever been committed to paper. And these included: the most shocking sex scenes; the most gratuitous villain; love – at its most enthralling and at its most heartbreaking; the darkest criminal minds; the cheekiest minxes; the most inspiring heroes; and the best politics, psychology and philosophy since ancient civilization……..

Featured in the Marquee too was a printed announcement declaring that ‘Innocent’ were in the process of writing a book which would be published by Penguin, and which would be available to purchase in May 2008. And there was also a published précis of the proposed book which declared that ‘Innocent’ started making ‘smoothies’ in 1999, and sold 24 bottles on the first day but now sell 2,000,000 bottles a week……..

Seemingly outstandingly popular at ‘the innocent village fete’ was a stall entitled ‘Herbal Heaven’. Here pot plants containing a total of 200 different types of herbs were on display. And their numbers were diminishing rapidly, with non-stop purchases being made!

Everyone seemed to be flocking to this stall en-masse – including myself. And there were herbs here that I’d never heard of ever before, including ‘balm of Gilead’ – with an exceptional musky aroma, Good King Henry Perenial Herb, Prostrate Rosemary Herb, Tangier Sage, and a ‘Curry Plant’ which originated from Southern Europe and was a new addition to the herbal list! On display too were printed accounts of the histories of all the herbs and their origins.

Had I been there in a ‘holidaymaking role’, I think I would have stayed at this stall for a considerable length of time and studied the various origins in detail. Certainly those who were there in holiday mode were doing precisely that……

Stage Performances – both musical and otherwise – were in evidence in all corners of the park. And bands of every type played on, providing an ever changing pulsating refrain, while singers sang, and costumed dancers danced. And there were numerous ‘character actors’ to be seen, mingling with the crowd. And probably the most photographed ‘character actor’ was ‘The Live Scarecrow’.

With his high hat, painted face, straw covered body, ‘scarecrow- sounding- speech’, and convincing manner, he appeared to be a great success with the children – most of whom insisted on being photographed beside a ‘Live Scarecrow’!

And each evening ended with an ‘Alfresco Ballroom’ scene where the holidaymakers joined in the revelry, and responded to the prevailing music and singing by either ‘rocking and rolling’ or participating in whatever dance rhythm that blared forth. And while part of the park was transformed into a ballroom scene, nature’s ‘food and drink’ continued to flow…………

For certainly ‘natural products’ seemed to be ‘the name of the game’ at ‘The Innocent Village Fete Week-End Holiday Event’ – which to all intents and purposes definitely constituted a particularly enjoyable ‘mini-holiday’ as far as all the visitors were concerned………..

And, while Regent’s Park has had to bid farewell to being a ‘week-end holiday haunt’ until next year, ‘The Innocent Village Fete’ will continue to tour the country – on a somewhat smaller scale – their next venue being the ‘Bristol Balloon Festival’

Roberta Crookes has worked as a newspaper journalist throughout most of her life, writing news stories, editorial features, advertisement supplements, and reviews. And in the course of her work she has interviewed many famous people from all walks of life. She has also managed to combine parallel careers in both journalism and acting, and, being Welsh speaking from North Wales, her main television featured parts have been Welsh language roles with BBC Wales.