carrying home all the goodies you’d purchased or won during the day. Our new Labour councillors were getting out and about amongst their constituents as were those nice folk
from West Hampstead Life.
I must admit I didn’t get much time to experience all that the Jester had to offer as my own group’s stall, the West Hampstead Women’s Institute, was busy raffling prizes from generous local donors. Our highlight prize was a fabulous over-filled hamper of goodies, which somehow made it onto the ITV.com website. The magic of Twitter, I suspect. The weather gods smiled on us, and it was all great fun, although not completely without complications as far as the WI were concerned. Our stall was too big for our designated site so I had to negotiate carefully with the organisers from the Jester Festival Committee for extra space. Everyone is very protective of their patch but after some toing and froing, we were finally able to settle in for the day. The WI has only been going in West Hampstead for just under three years and we obviously still have a lot to learn about the niceties of Jester stall etiquette.
Over the years, I have helped out on other stalls too and one year was in charge of the storytelling tent, run by West End Lane Books. While I was reading to groups of children, some younger members of staff were dressed up as favourite storybook characters. The youngsters loved meeting Maisie and trying to spot Wally as he wandered around the Green. The fairground folk were less enamoured though and told Wally to “clear off” as he was distracting their customers and taking away their business. Not quite the spirit of the event, we thought. By the end of a day of reading and competing with music from the stage, I was completely hoarse. The WI stall is easier than that by a long chalk, despite the constant “Calendar Girls” jokes!
The festival has changed quite a lot over the years: entertainment used to include a tug of war, not pop bands and roundabouts. There used to be floats from local schools with a Festival Queen. The Jester (aka Stuart Abel, a local resident and architect) himself made an appearance in full costume. There was a whole week’s programme of events, including 5-a-side football matches and WHAT’S public meeting. One year, there was a drinks tent, which got rather out of hand and led to drunken brawls, so that idea was quickly dropped! Do you have memories of Jesters past that you would like to share? And are there different stalls or attractions that you’d like to see part of the festival? If so, you can comment on this blog on the website, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Jane May (Guest Blogger)