A delicious taste of normality, but is it all too premature | Jack Marshall's column

The sunshine was a good omen straight off the bat.

Monday, 1st November 2021, 4:55 am
The wonderful Marsden Jazz Festival

In meteorological conditions about as good as one can hope for in October, there was a muggy balminess combined with a hint of watery sun which - when it landed just right - was just about warm enough.

And the people gathered needed the weather to be warm enough, because this felt like a tentative and long-awaited return to a cosy and enriching, but all-too fragile, state of relative normality.

Looking in from the outside, it was just a little village festival but, on the inside, it was far, far more.

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Whilst we’re far from out of the woods and a glum winter may await, people are currently being told to pretend everything is back to normal by our silly government which seems bored of this whole Covid business. And, thanks to our wonderful NHS-led vaccine rollout, the reopening of society has brought a superficial tinge of Spring to a drab Autumn.

In the meantime, it’s the small things which are crucial bellwethers of how people feel. Like the charming Marsden Jazz Festival.

Heading across the Pennines to a gorgeous village for local beer, food from wonderfully colourful food trucks, and for a superb array of music is never going to be a chore, so the crowds which ambled through the streets were in good spirits. How could one not be?

With roads blocked off - pedestrianisation should be decreed by law, it’s just brilliant - the stream of foot-traffic from cafes to brunch spots to beer gardens to ad hoc stages and to tents bursting with carnival atmosphere was heartwarming.

There was a low crackle throughout the day, joy imbued in the little cobbled streets by people’s delight at being able to just be out and about again.

It’s an underrated part of life and so, as folks milled around, there were far more smiles than frowns. Then again, that may be down to the pizza and 7% stouts on offer, but who’s to know?

Not to be *that guy* either, but the music really was excellent.

A man from Wolverhampton played a soprano saxophone with such gusto that it was as if he was going to topple off the stage. Two sublime tap dancers married their machine-gun steps to a mellow backdrop of double bass. There was a brass band playing bossa nova and Duke Ellington’s Caravan. There were chips everywhere.

The sun set early but the rain stayed away. Everything’s not quite normal yet, but this was a welcome taste.