It’s an easy system. For every plastic beaker taken from the Lost Picture Show bar, the punters deposit £1. The £1 is returned when the beaker is. During their loan, the punters get to wander through Shambala, and ask for a drink in any bar. If they lose their beakers, they lose their £1.
After each film, beakers populate the floor. The bar staff gather them up, wash them up and re-use them. Most beakers go into the day. To be replenished and re-drunk from. But punters are punters. And festivals are festivals. And many beakers end discarded in the grass, on the metal pathways, left between the tents and the stages and the rides.
It’s Sunday. The last working day. Lawrence of Arabia plays. Peter O’Toole’s watery eyes and blond hair dominate the screen. The desert rises. Camels. Djellabas. A battle to take Damascus. It’s hot outside. The sun governs. The Picture Show is rammed. Punters sprawl on the red velvet cushions and the carpet. Grip the armchairs and the stools. Occasionally, one wanders to the bar and orders a Mojito or a Bloody Mary.
Then a little gang enter. Three girls and two boys. They wear T-shirts and ripped shorts. The eldest boy must be about 11. The others are smaller, maybe around 6. The main boy is as blond as O’Toole but less angelic. He has a serious regard. A sense of purpose. In his hands, he carries a stack of plastic beakers.
The boy walks up to the bar and plonks the beakers down. Lorcan, the barman, looks at him.
"That’s £25," the boy says.
Lorcan squints. “What?”
“£1 per beaker. We’ve got 25. That’s £25.”
Lorcan turns to me. I’m by the DVD player, lining up the films for my shift. The boy looks at me. His tiny army follow. 6 pairs of eyes blink my way. I shrug.
"I’d give it to them," I say. "For their wit and ingenuity."
Lorcan nods but looks torn. He fixes on the group. The tall boy grimaces.
“Well,” says Lorcan, “I’m gonna check with my manager.”
Lorcan disappears into the production office. The tiny army wait, without speaking. The eldest boy crosses his arms. The beakers sit on the bar. The stack stays static.