The King of Festival Fancy Dress: Interview with Mr Fridge from 2000trees

Festival goers love a bit of fancy dress. Many a pre-festival Thursday night party has a fancy dress theme – see https://festivalvanlife.com/festival-campsite-disco-12-volts/  – and quite a few festivals also have a fancy dress day. In fact, some festival goers just can’t help themselves and keep it up for the whole weekend.

The fancy dress event of the year for us though, is 2000trees festival. There’s a competition each year on the last day of the festival, which is the Saturday at 2000trees. There are free tickets for the following year’s festival and other prizes at stake, so the participation is high, the competition is fierce and the creativity is outstanding.

The last 3 years the fancy dress themes at 2000trees have been 2000 Seas, 2000 Bees and 2000 Freeze. Do you see a pattern here? Our friend and fellow 2000trees addict, Lee, is anticipating (well, hoping for) a theme of 2000 Lees for a future festival. He already has his outfit planned. It will involve minimal effort but a high level of authenticity.

2000 Bees
2000 Bees

In recent years there has been one stand-out fancy dress competitor at 2000trees. His record speaks for itself. Two second places and one first place in 3 years. Darren Squires we salute you. Darren’s mosh pit performance as Mr Fridge during the Vukovi set, is the stuff of 2000trees legend. We recently caught up with Darren to see what a fancy dress mastermind does out of festival season.

FVL: Darren, it was great to see you again at 2000trees. How many years is it for you now?

DARREN: Well my first year at Trees was #7, so must have been going since 2013! It was my first time to a festival and I volunteered as a steward, so had to work but got a free weekend ticket and sandwiches. So all good.

Frank Turner was headlining on one of the nights but, unfortunately, I had car-park duty, but that didn’t stop us from having a bit of a dance and sing-along, as the main-stage was within earshot. I also remember helping 3 girls out carrying their crates of cider to their camp, only to recognise them halfway as The Cadbury sisters!

I’ve been going every year since, it’ll always be my first and favourite festival. I just love the atmosphere, the sense of community, and with so many great returning acts like Beans on Toast, The Xcerts, Jamie Lenman, Vukovi, and many others who wouldn’t want to keep coming back? I’ve even brought friends and family along too, as well as making new friends at the festival, out group has grown. We’ve got camp making down to a science now so it’s all very cosy.

FVL: Do you go to any other festivals?

DARREN: I’ve been to a few other festivals, none as regularly as Trees though. I went to one called Fort Fest in Berkshire (September 2016), that was awesome. Great line up (INME, Max Raptor, Empire, Kingdom Keys, The Xcerts, Lonely the Brave, Black Peaks, Arcane roots, Grumblebee, Press to Meco).

It wasn’t the biggest festival though. You could be front of main stage for one act, go get something to drink in between, and return to the same spot for the next act, it was that quiet. Unfortunately, that was its undoing and due to lack of ticket sales the following year it got cancelled.

I also went to Slam Dunk Festival in Birmingham for a few years, but now it’s moved further away to Leeds so it’s a bit more of an issue getting there and back in a day. I’d love to Download one year, but I like the little festivals best – easier to get to the stages in time to see all the acts.

FVL: You should give download a go. It’s a great festival for rock fans and has the best campervan field. So how did the fancy dress obsession begin?

DARREN: I wouldn’t say it’s an obsession, although I do like the challenge. I’ve always been a bit crafty and playing up to characters. Costume parties were always the best kind, growing up. Even into my adulthood it’s followed me into jobs as well as social outings, pantos and plays, garden centre Father Christmas, Halloween fright-night acting, conventions and tribute nights. It’s just a bit of fun though isn’t it? I do it more to see the reactions from people than be recognised. Maybe that’s why most of my previous costumes hide my face 🙂

FVL: Tell us about your podium performances at recent 2000trees fancy dress competitions.

DARREN: So for ‘2000 trees under the sea’ I had the deep sea diver costume. I still have it, and cracked it out again at Trees and Halloween again this year. It was essentially a paper mache balloon with shoulder pads. I must have spent about 3 days and 14 layers of newspaper making the helmet. The rest was a boiler suit, a pair of boots and a few beer can bandoleers.

2000 Seas Deepsea Diver
2000 Seas Deepsea Diver

In the end I lost out to a guy dressed as the Castaway dude with Wilson. Afterwards he came up to me and said ‘Mate, I really thought you were going to win this year, I only spent 20 minutes on my costume!’. We had a good laugh about it and there were no hard feelings.

Last year was the ‘2000 Bees’ Theme, which was a bit random but it was a Facebook poll and I guess we were just lucky not to get something like ‘Festival McFestface’. It was a bit of a tricky one, at one point I was playing with the idea of a gorilla wearing a beekeeper suit (An Ape-iarist… get it?) but I probably would have suffered heatstroke if I’d worn that.

So I thought I’d go simple. I had a beard already, so thought I’d fill it with some handmade clip on bees that I made from some exfoliating fingertip pads. I also knitted a Beehive hat too (knitting is also one of my many secret skills). I ended up giving out some of the clip on beard-bees to a few people, so if you’re reading this, and you have one… Ebay, haha!

Darren 2000 Bees
Darren 2000 Bees

And of course, this year was Mr Fridge (or the official costume competition entry name ‘Fridge Geezer’). Believe it or not, it wasn’t my original plan to dress up as a walking appliance.

Initially, I was trying to design an ‘Unfrozen Caveman riding Mammoth’, as that would tie in with the ‘2000 Freeze’ theme coming from the Ice age. But in the end, I couldn’t figure out the weight distribution of the mammoth, not to mention the fact that it was looking like an expensive build.

I had a bit of a revelation and opted for a fridge suit with a false compartment front that I could fill with old packaging and bottles. There were a few issues with this costume though. Visibility was very limited with the door open and almost impossible with it closed.

Just like a real fridge
Just like a real fridge

So, either I couldn’t see or had a door flailing around that could potentially hurt someone. Luckily, that’s what little brothers are for and Craig was an absolute star helping with emergency repairs and guiding me around the crowds. Another problem was that it was difficult to drink or eat anything while wearing the suit (not to mention use a portaloo!), so it had to be easy to take off and put on.

FVL: We can’t talk to you without mentioning the Vukovi mosh pit incident at 2000tress 2019. What exactly happened?

DARREN: 2000 Trees history my friend! Haha! Honestly, I’m not even sure (visibility was limited in the fridge). I remember bopping around in the crowd when Janine exclaims with her inspiring Glaswegian accent ‘Is that a F***in’ Fridge?! Who comes to a festival dressed as a fridge?!’ And then she proceeded to invite me into the centre of the pit! As I was being guided by Craig the crowd was chanting ‘Fridge! Fridge! Fridge!’, it was mind blowing. ‘Keep Mr Fridge safe!’ Janine commanded to the crowd as they began to surround me. And then to encouraging rhythm of ‘Boy George’, the crowd whirl-winded around me.

Mr. Fridge in the Vukovi Pit
Mr. Fridge in the Vukovi Pit

It got a bit wild in there though. One excitable fan attempted to lift me up for a crowd surf, only to cause me to trip up and fall to my knees – at this point I was a little concerned about the costume breaking and couldn’t see what was going on behind. But then, like a Valkyrie’s battle cry I hear ‘Protect the Fridge’ and am helped to my feet by half a dozen people. I looked up to see that Janine was right in front of me!

So, we dance around for a bit as the song ends and Janine thanks me and gives me a hug and a little peck on the lips through my viewing hole, before being safely escorted through the pumped crowd, to the chants of ‘Fridge! Fridge! Fridge!’ Absolutely the best festival experience of my life, so far.

Here’s a the interview with Vukovi’s Janine and Hamish by Krazy Doug for Bro-radio to get their take on it…

FVL: That’s a great story. It’s amazing how far some cardboard and white paint can get you. Does your creativity go beyond your obvious fancy dress skills?

DARREN: I’m quite a crafty guy, yeah. I like to cook, so I’m always trying out new things and experimenting in the kitchen. I’ve also got a green thumb and have trained a few Bonsai trees (not quite 2000 though). I also like wildife and am quite knowledgable about bushcraft and survival skills. Did you know you can use a tortilla chip as a firelighter? I’m quite a handy guy to have around, ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’.

FVL: Too modest by half. You are a certainly a master of festival fancy dress and doubtless many other things. Will you be going to 2000trees again next summer?

DARREN: Yes, of course. Even if I hadn’t won a free ticket! 😊

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