Another summer, another week of madness working as part of the media team at a major Scout and Guide Jamboree. Kent county organised this large event, with thousands of young people staying for a week at Kent County Showground, and getting up to all sorts of brilliant activities - kayaking, climbing, parascending, arts and crafts, microlight rides, day trips to London, 4x4 off roading, assault courses, and in the evenings, discos, a 'nightclub' for the 14-17 year olds, and large opening and closing ceremonies on a festival stage in the main arena.
An understaffed video team for the opening ceremony meant that I was drafted in to camera operate - shooting with a teradek wireless link from my camera to the vision mixer, to let me roam both the crowd and later shoot the action on stage - to be mixed in with other camera and graphics feeds, for display on the LED video wall at the back of the stage. Therefore, I don't actually have any pictures of the opening ceremony!
The opening ceremony was postponed from the first night, because of what I can only describe as the heaviest rain I've ever seen in this country. Truly torrential. For safety reasons, the stage crew and managment decided that everyone would enjoy it more if we held the opening in the sun, the next evening. Wise choice!
However, eventually that night, the rain cleared, and left a stunned campsite with an amazing layer of mist hanging over it:
And then, the next day, it was lovely and sunny, and everything went into full swing! The activities started, and the sun came out...
The on-site circus proved a great hit with the participants, with acrobats, clowns, and then a circus skills workshop where the Scouts and Guides could put what they'd just seen into practice:
The evening entertainments are always a highlight of the week for many of the young people, and with everything over the week from a beach party in 'club 14-17' - with the 'bouncers' on the door even ID checking me - I knew I looked young, but not 13! - to a DJ soundclash on the main stage between the radio team and the stage team - to a special 'pub' for the younger participants. The whole time, milkshakes, burgers and mocktails kept the Scouts and Guides fuelled up, beyond the massive meals that their leaders were dishing up back at their camp.
The activities continued through the week, with each group having different days to visit each activity zone, to make sure that everyone got a chance to try everything.
One more unique set of activities at this Jamboree was the 'lift off' zone, where the Scouts and Guides could try parascending (flying on the line between a huge parachute, and a landrover), and microlight rides, giving them a great aerial view of the site.
Other more grounded activities included the ever-popular inflatables, and craft and science zones. The science zone, with many of the bases provided by the science outreach society at Cambridge university, gave some great hands-on demonstrations, while the craft zone let participants make souvenirs and gifts to take home:
Guests and local dignitaries visited the site, to see the impact and energy behind Scouting and Guiding in their communities. Some got more stuck in than others, but top marks to the Mayor of Dover, who even joined in with the 'Kent Jamboree Shuffle'!
One of the amazing things about international Jamborees is how easy it is for everyone to meet new friends, from not just all over the country, but from around the world. With groups from Canada, all over Europe, and a group of Nigerian Scouts, the diversity and friendships that are made at Jamborees are great to see - and indeed many groups even end up organising foreign camps to visit other groups that they've met on Jamborees before!
This applies for everyone on site, not just the young people, and having worked on a jamboree every year for the last 5 years, I've made some amazing friends, both in and outside of media teams.
Friendship and adventure are the two real key principles behind both Scouting and Guiding, and seeing these in action at Jamborees is always brilliant.
though there's always rare moments of peace and calm on the site...
The last day, Friday, was festival day, and the normal activities packed away and each subcamp offered an amazing array of different activities for the young people to try with their new friends - after a huge communal breakfast!
The site started to look empty, as groups started to pack down the huge village that was KIJ...
But there was, of course, the closing ceremony to end the week on a high. Once again, thousands and thousands of excited Scouts, Guides and their leaders, poured into the main arena for performances, dances, and a live band on the festival stage
There was one, final surprise in store for the Scouts and Guides - as they spent Saturday saying their goodbyes and packing their tents, an excited rumour quickly spread around the site, and there was a whirring of rotor blades, as UK Chief Scout and TV action man Bear Grylls, along with his friend comedian David Walliams, landed by helicopter on their whistletop tour of camps around the UK, to say hello.
Instead of going for the shots of the duo on the festival stage, I was in the landing zone for some closer images with Bear, alongside a very quick video shoot as he greeted some Scouts. With social media, as well as our external press coverage, a real key, I was initially shooting tethered to my laptop, and had pictures of the helicopter landing out on twitter and facebook almost instantly, which will have spread around the main arena in a frenzy of excitement, before they appeared up on stage!
An amazing week, some nice pictures and some great friends. I'm hopefully off to a jamboree in Norway next year, I fancy a change...