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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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This could be a big catalyst for even more

The defining moment that put the Big into Big Weekend came for me when a lovely young woman buried her breasts in Cumberland sausage.

Not just any old Cumberland sausage, mind you. Only Cranstons Cumberland sausage would do for breasts that clearly weren’t just any old bosom.

And the lovely young woman with the impressively pert, sausage-coiled boobs – well, she did a similar meaty nestling thing with her bottom too. As you do, I suppose, when you’re in the hands of Cranstons, newest Cumbrian couturiers, and university student designers.

More sausage, lamb shank, attractively streaky fatty bits and lengths of string worked together to drape the particularly svelte model’s youthful frame with an elegance that Coco Chanel might have described as boucherie beaute.

And by the time she’d finished dressing, all model girl Hannah needed was a brush of oil, a smattering of roughly ground black pepper and a turn on the rotisserie and she could have fed a Cub Scout jamboree, no bother.

By way of explanation – and I confess, I needed one – the meat dress was created and modelled by students from the University of Cumbria in celebration of Radio 1’s Big Weekend, which kicks off at Carlisle Airport tomorrow with top rock and pop bands, 40,000 fans and not nearly enough portable toilets.

The Cumbrian mixed grill cocktail number was designed and hand-made in imitation of Lady Gaga’s original meat dress, a slinky little low-cut shift in matambre – an Argentinian speciality of flank steak rolled with boiled egg, olives and red pepper, which is cooked, then sliced thinly and draped around feisty blonde pop stars.

Lady Gaga wore it at last year’s MTV awards in a successful attempt to make surgically-enhanced and unfortunately vegetarian Cher gag during polite, air-kissing. All big stars air-kiss. It’s as compulsory as self-adoration.

But not so matambre frocks. They are now so last year, darlings. The designers at Carlisle Uni knew that much the minute they were asked to set their talents to creating a dress fit for a big weekend at an airport where planes aren’t allowed. But they still thought it was a brilliant idea.

And, while not wishing to blow too many trumpets too loudly before the music starts for real, it was an idea that originated here at the News & Star.

Journalists are well-known for their style, sense of now, cultural creativity, artistry – and eye for a great story. One such paragon piped up a couple of weeks ago to reveal all aforementioned virtues.

“Let’s have a meat dress made,” she said.

“If you like... but why?”

“For the Big Weekend. It would be like Lady Gaga’s – only Cumbrian.”

“Of course! Silly me. My mind was wandering...”

Not to self: Google Gaga’s meat dress and pay more attention.

“Local designers, local butcher, local produce. Showcase Cumbria!”

“Indeed.”

So, with the bit between her stylish teeth, out she set to put high protein plans in action. And Cranstons, accepting the challenge along with University of Cumbria students, gave runway razzmatazz to the resulting meat dress, which has been seen all over the country and beyond as print, social networking and pets-online media have aired it with greedy admiration.

I reckon that all goes to show that there’s no such thing as a silly idea, no weekend that couldn’t be big with a bit of forethought and planning, no outfit deserving of condemnation as inappropriate. And nothing you can’t do with a lamb shank.

Rarely has Carlisle and Cumbria joined so enthusiastic-ally to embrace any event. The Big Weekend has captured the imagination of – mainly – young people in a way that simply couldn’t have been imagined prior to Radio 1’s announcement.

The business of choosing Carlisle for the event, turning a field into a tented stadium and bringing top bands and artists here for free concerts to live audiences of 40,000, has been the catalyst for much more.

Cumbrians have added their own hand-prints to Big Weekend. Local bands are performing all over the place, pre and post Big Weekend parties are planned, tasty Cumbrian specialities will be served to top acts – and that meat dress, now being appreciated by guests at Wetheral Animal Refuge.

The job, as they say, is a good ’un. All round satisfaction and a spontaneous, widely-shared celebration of all things Cumbrian to boot.

All that’s left now is to enjoy the music, come rain or shine. And to show the world that here in Cumbria we not only know how to party – but we wear sausage pretty well too.

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