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We’re back, and we’re ready for another odd year,

Time has gone slowly, but now we are here

There’s so much to do and we’re the best team,

Look at us all, we do nothing but beam


Some returnees and some of us new

The last two years we’ve had so much to do

Travelling the world and seeing far off places,

Some having babies, so lots of new faces


We’ve been volunteering in science and galleries of art 

And underground tunnels all playing our part.

Literature festivals and Mach comedy fest,

With Alzheimers’ choirs, all doing our best

To continue the love of our volunteer friends,

Cos helping’s a gift we know never ends


Facebook and Instagram have kept us in touch

We’ve all had some fun, but never too much.

Mr Shanahan appeared in more selfies than most

With footballers, and the Queen, let’s give him a toast


Rucksacks and waterproofs and bottles galore 

Have travelled the world as never before,

Orkney, Chang Mai, Istanbul and in France

Jackets and t-shirts would always enhance


But one day last summer in sunny Gran Canaria

There was almost a case of mass hysteria

Only prevented by the rucksack’s large size

Cos Jon Quinn was beach ready, and it covered his prize

Last year it began with Mayfield pre-festival  

When ‘the rain that gets you wet’ did its best to fall

But the smiles and the grins still covered our faces

As everything that would happen, happened, in one of our spaces


Technology changes with barcodes on phones

And pre-programmed speakers delivering tones,

But a Polaroid camera with washed out pale pics

Took us back to the 70s when we were just six (teen)


Nights on the tiles showed design and some flair

I’m hoping I’ll see mine on Festival Square,

Crafting new bells to ring out for peace

And testing their sound under dripping wet trees


The office at Blackfriars had inductions and interviews

And leaflets and spreadsheets and plenty of other news

And walking the floors was Lola the dog

To help us get through the full daily slog


And so it begins on July the 4th

The best ever festival is here in the north,

The bells will ring out for Yoko Ono’s peace

And the theme will continue and only increase


There’s Tree by Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah

South African music with dance and with drama

Hear seven new stories in Studio Creole

And Janelle Monae in Castlefield Bowl


The sites for some shows required much research

Tuesday in Pendlebury in a grade one listed church,

Supper Clubs and music are in Festival Square,

Utopolis in Manchester, nobody knows where


We’ll see Maxine as Nico, and there’s Maggie the Cat

And ‘Thank you very much’ for the Elvis tribute act.

Laurie Anderson with VR on the moon will roam

‘My head is disconnected’ says David Lynch at Home


Atmospheric Memory will surely enrich

And the Halle will play Shostakovich 

Drink beer, not water at Victoria Station

And avoid the cholera with a brewery salvation


Flexn and Young Identity with Alphabus,

Join School of Integration to learn and discuss

There’s Skepta, Parveen and the Fountainhead

Or go and see animals at the Whitworth instead


Peterloo by the Anvil, from two centuries past

And there’s Philip and Improbable with Tao of Glass

There’ll be Interdependence and Festival Talks

Invisible Cities and plenty of walks


We’re ready for anything that’s coming our way

Liaising with artists and helping with plays

At audience members we’ll be smiling and greeting

And doing our best to find them some seating


As the first bell is rung and the festival starts 

A July full of music, dance, theatre and arts.

I’m oh so excited to be once more a part of it

Cos all volunteers will be at the heart of it.





Welcome all to our party tonight

To celebrate three weeks of festival delight

The dancers and singers and other show participants

And all the volunteers who were simply magnificent 


The festival began with Yoko’s Bells for Peace

With our wishes tied tight to branches on trees,

Count the clouds in the sky and give them names

There was only one, so I called it James


The bells were four thousand and beautifully made

We worked like the clappers so they could be played

Chime in if you want, with the lows and the highs

The bells are quite safe with their new cable ties


Invisible Cities was at Mayfield station

With dancing and movement, an amazing creation

Stairs and bridges, a canal with a gondola

Staging and props were simply spectacular


Cold water dripping not just on the screens

And hot summer’s air with jumpers and jeans 

We admired the building and drank at the bars

And listened to trains and sirens and cars


Idris and Kwame sitting in a tree


Hidden histories were told, and the sins of the past

With imaginative story telling were discovered at last

In the space of Upper Campfield with movement and dance

The difficulties were found in a mixed-race romance


A rippling cloth river was made on the stage

And placards were raised for South African rage

Immersive theatre with fighting so near

But it ended with dancing, so nothing to fear


Janelle Monae was energetic and bright 

‘Train-stopping good.’ What a great night

Charismatic and fun, and owning the stage

Vagina pants are definitely now all the rage


Great bonding was done with origami birds

Pressing and folding in halves, never thirds

Biscuits and chatting while mindfolding

Origami is now the new yoga thing


But on Anvil day the wind did its best 

To keep the birds in their high car park nest

Returning them twice onto walls and on faces 

But they finally left, and flew off to new places


Celebrating Manchester and all those who fell

It’s changed since then but there’s still lots to tell

Cycling and demos through the day for us all

With music and poetry at Bridgewater Hall


Choirs have been many throughout the three weeks

For the Anvil and Tuesday and Bells for Peace

In Festival Square groups urged us to sing 

Music can inspire to do our own thing


Tania Bruguera’s school of Integration

Celebrates the diversity in this our nation

Passed-on experience to develop new skills

Learning about cooking with plenty of frills

Languages, calligraphy and tarot cards

Music and magic with games and with art


I’m definitely British cos I passed the test

But who cares about flags and saints and the rest

It’s important we’re us and live our good lives

And don’t think too much about Henry the eighth’s wives


David Lynch was as Lynch as he could possibly be

Lamps standing tall and amusing art so free

‘Didn’t know the gun was loaded’ is always a boast

But luckily it’s a phrase not used by most


The atmosphere memorises all our breath in the air

Kids flossing at the images in front as they stare

Vocalise some words and they appear on the wall

Or relax on a bean bag and just watch it all


At Victoria station over the lost River Irk

A Drop of Pandemic in bottles seems to work

A beer made from hops amongst cholera’s claws

Making piss bricks to help in our city’s walls

Recycling the beer back into a glass 

Kampai, arigato gozaimasu


‘To The Moon’ was surreal with masks on our eyes

Following the terrain on the moon as you rise

And fall through the sky on the back of a horse

I know it sounds weird but it’s Laurie Anderson of course


Parliament of Ghosts with trains making art

Arms with tattoos pulled at the heart

Lost objects were found and brought to new lives

Mosaics and school books and government archives


The story of a life lived in a church

Little boy Tuesday was left in the lurch

Song and laughter told a story so sweet

A mixture of tears and smiles was a treat


A wedding and a coffin could have been weird

But most understood, so nothing to fear 

Though health and safety might have been worried

Cos over nails and hinges and buckets we scurried


Ladders reaching so high with lights on and lights off

Hiding backstage trying not to cough

Creeping around often in the dark

A forgotten skirt and a baby shark


Angels crashing and backdrops dropping

Curtains in the wind wouldn’t stop flapping

Flowers and chairs always stood in our way

But we got through it all at the end of the day


At Royal Exchange a personal collaboration

Phelim McDermott’s simple creation

With music and paper and puppets and humour

Covered in music while lying in a coma

Life’s inspiration is not always as it seems

But Philip Glass at the piano was a lifelong dream


Animals have featured amongst all the talk

Rats in the drains and Cats on the walk

Mummy and daddy with little Baby Shark

Pets and humanz at Whitworth park

Dogs running around and beetles making films

And cows leading a conference showing off their skills


Studio Creole conducted sound through the bone

Seven stories in languages performed by one on her own

And soft furnishings with Maggie could only enhance

Quilt covers and cushions with contemporary dance


The Nico Project with cigarette and young dancers

Did these Nico-teens have any answers

To her inner demons both strong and weak

Delivered so well by Maxine Peake


Karl Hyde returned as if he were home

And scrawled his white words for this year’s Street Poem

Experiences were written and strongly expressed

People have problems and some are addressed


Everyone waiting to see Skepta’s Dystopia

Intimate and immersive but nobody knew where

Headphones and face painting were something to crave

But the best of it all was a sweaty laid-back rave


Little boxes speaking on Manchester’s streets

Bossy instructions to find where we meet

Numerous hosts where the journeys started

And Utopia was discovered before we all parted


A dancer supine in Festival Square

Wasn’t drunk or on crack so do not despair

Djs and bands made the venue their own

It was a drinking, partying and dance filled zone


There was Honest Crust and Ginger ice cream

And truffle chips and chicken like a dream

A place for photos with flowers so divine

Searching out tiles but I couldn’t find mine


Each volunteer was different, but looked all the same

In lovely red t-shirts and badges with names

Manly sized jackets with long gibbon arms

Rucksacks with name tags and plenty of charms


Such help and leadership from Rachel and Lee

And Federica and Esther so happy and key

To us functioning at our best through all different climes

And helping us get there at all the right times


All the volunteers and participants were simply the best

Working so hard with so little rest

Bringing babies along to help volunteer

Little hands to help us as festival fronteers


Boyfriends and girlfriends and husbands and wives

And children and pets have suspended their lives

But we’re back with our dearest at home feeling bored

Real life is upon us and can’t be ignored


We’ll all keep in touch for the next two years

And we’ll return here again with joyful cheers

Just remember the adventures now this is all done

That’ll keep us all happy till twenty twenty one

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