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Community ‘glue’ dissolving in rain
IS IT going to rain this weekend? Almost certainly. Why wouldn’t it? Wimbledon’s started, which is always the cue for precipitation. Plus, according to my footwear index, it’s rained every other weekend.
My posh new white-and-tan leather pumps have been worn precisely three times since April; my ancient wellies, on the other hand, have developed a split in the sole due to constant use.
With form like that, the odds are there will be some wetness this weekend. I can feel it in my water, and that’s not just because my socks won’t dry out.
The weather has segued from temperate to tropical in the space of a season; damp laundry, jungly lawns and permanent frizz are among the more minor consequences.
The other end of the scale has people canoeing down their main streets, camping out in community centres and being winched to safety by helicopters, and that’s becoming an all-too-familiar sight too.
Recently, we saw people in Badger Hill in York sweeping out inundated properties while in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, the River Calder rose by two feet in fifteen minutes and the entire town centre was submerged.
Between the catastrophic and the commonplace are outdoor event organisers like myself; people that put on fairs and festivals, concerts and shows, for whom rain has become the new normal.
Huddled under straining gazebos, we have pretty much given up on the fantasy of sunshine, sleeveless clothes, barbecues and ice-cream and are braced for the reality of downpours, cagoules and soggy hotdogs. And a significant loss of revenue.
Will that stop people putting on outdoor events? The Somme-style mud and chaos at the Isle of Wight and the Download festivals does not bode well for the future of large-scale music festivals in this wetter climate, and that could have a significant economic impact on local economies.
The impact of wet weather on smaller fairs and festivals is equally devastating. Not only are these events part of the tradition of British summertime but they are also part of the “glue” that holds communities together.
The jam-making, the flower-growing, the handicrafts, homemade cakes, dance displays and cutest pet – village fetes spur people to organise and unite in a way that doesn’t happen very much these days (unless a planning application is submitted for a wind turbine).
Fortunately, being Brits, a bit of rain – or even a whole lot of rain – doesn’t usually stop us. The band plays on, whatever the weather. And I can vouch for that, being in one.
I’ve come to the conclusion that “getting on with it” is what we’ve all got to do from now on, and stuff the weather.
Of course, British summers are notoriously unpredictable, but a pattern is emerging and it seems unlikely that this amount of rain is a temporary blip. The first half of June was the wettest for 150 years and April was the wettest on record.
According to BBC Weatherman Paul Hudson in his blog, polarised, extreme weather is becoming increasingly common, and the jet stream is to blame. This is a high altitude, fast-moving zone of winds that produce rain-bearing weather systems, and it has moved south, which is why we’re getting dumped on so much.
Research published in Nature suggests that the warming of air at the Arctic may be affecting this; the jet stream is a function of temperature contrasts, so if it’s warmer at higher latitudes, the contrast is weakened.
Another bit of research, which has received almost no publicity, is that fact that monitoring stations in the Arctic recently recorded carbon dioxide levels at 400ppm – the highest they have been in 800,000 years. The “safe” level – ie a level that would prevent a more than two-degree global temperature rise – is 350ppm.
An ecologist from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said: “It’s an indication that we’re in another world.”
Indeed it is, and it is time we joined up the dots. What we do about it – and how we live in it – is affecting us right here, right now.
Still, whatever it chucks at us we will be parping our horns and blowing our cornets in the Museum Gardens in York this weekend for the Brassed On York 2012 festival for York 800. I do hope you’ll come and see us. Bring a brolly, something to sit on, a hat and sunscreen.
Hey, I’m an optimist. Toot toot!
Brassed On York takes place on Saturday from 10am to 1pm and Sunday from noon to 5pm.