In the 1980s, Edwina Currie was deeply suspicious of eggs. She thought they were silent assassins, killers lurking on the supermarket shelf. I feel much the same way about barbecued food. Don’t get me wrong, it looks lovely, but I’m never convinced it’s cooked properly. I watch as people in various stages of drunkenness, push bits of raw chicken and burnt sausages around on dirty barbecues, I watch, and wait for death to find me. So, what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than going to a barbecue festival.
When I heard that Grillstock, the festival of meat and music was coming to Walthamstow, I decided not to go. Keep your death infused burgers, I thought to myself, keep your charcoal sausages and killer chicken wings. I shall not be joining you at the grill, no sir, not me! And then they offered free tickets to residents, my inner bargain hunter woke up, and before I could stop myself, I had registered for two of the freebies. I still wasn’t convinced though, even on Saturday morning I was doing my best impression of a sulky ten year old, “I don’t wanna go” I said to my other half, “I won’t like it”. But we had already made plans to meet people, so with a healthy helping of reluctance, and some low expectations, we went out in to the grey September day, and I’m glad we did.
The terms and conditions of the free tickets said that proof of address would be needed to gain entry to the festival, but on arrival, no checks were made. I showed the steward my council tax bill anyway, it took me so long to find the bloody thing I was determined that someone was going to look at it. We walked around the festival site and my irrational fear of barbecues soon left me. These were not the back garden grillers that I was used to, this was barbecuing at a professional level. Barbecues bigger than my kitchen filled the field behind the town hall. Barbecues in all shapes and sizes, each one stacked high burgers and wings, each one sending curls of charcoal smoke in to the battle ship grey sky.
Having secured a pint, we watched an Elvis impersonator perform, then went over to the main stage and bounced along with Levi Roots. As the festival got busier, the queues for the food outlets grew and grew. What I had initially thought was an offensive amount of food was disappearing at a rate of knots. Eventually we found ourselves back at the beer tent furthest away from the main stage. Elvis had left the building and the small stage was now home to the meat rave, a DJ playing some pretty good stuff. We met up with friends and spent the rest of the night dancing like no one was watching.
OK, so I admit that Grillstock isn’t entirely my cup of tea. Barbecue food is never going to be my favourite, and I find the eating competitions that happen at the festival a little too wasteful. I did enjoy myself though, which came as a bit of a surprise. My dancing may have been pretty dreadful, but I had a great time, and despite my distrust of barbecues, really enjoyed the food. Yes there were long queues at the food stands, and yes the festival site was pretty busy, but it seemed to work. Grillstock does exactly what it says on the tin, it promises meat and music, and delivers just that.