There is no shortage of weekend music festivals during the brief summer months in the U.K. This festival was unknown to me, but with the secluded wooded ‘abandoned village’ setting, and the strong line up of dance and electronic music acts, like Floating Points, Fatboy Slim, Mano le Tough, John Talabot, and Fatima Yamaha, we joined our friends and grabbed some tickets.
It is in some fields in Lincolnshire, which was a good several hours drive North of London. We arrived the day before, and joined the crowds in the queue for the shuttle bus from the parking area to the campgrounds. The sniffer dogs took a keen interest in the tent we’d just purchased from a friend (that was previously used at Glastonbury). Premium camping locations were long gone, however, we managed to eek out a small patch of land to fit all of our tents together, not too far from the entrance, and not too far from the bathrooms (though, far enough to not smell them). Face painting was mandatory, so we did our best to fit in.
Our friend who did all of the organising saw that there were some well known chefs (Michael O’Hare and Lee Westcott) putting on a ‘Tribal Banquet’. They were said to be Michelin star quality chefs, and for £59, Fear Of Missing Out took hold, and we bought in. As we arrived, we learnt that we hadn’t just paying for a feed, but we had bought into an experience, with costumed performers, and an amazing decorative location setting the scene, long before the food came out.
The food was amazing – sorry I can’t be more descriptive, my palate isn’t refined enough for the delicacies we were treated to – and was exactly the type of quality that I was expecting. However, it was most certainly quality over quantity, and after three succulent courses and a desert, I was ready for a giant cheeseburger to fill my hunger. Dinner was also paired with wine, and cocktails, so we ended up unexpectedly drunk – some of us more so than others – and the evening ended with panicked attempts to get out of the tent to throw up the wine.
We made a quick lap around the festival, checking out the stages in the last remaining light of the day. The festival didn’t fully start until tomorrow, however, Norman Cook (a.k.a Fatboy Slim) took over the main stage with a DJ set and got the party started.
Some of the crew were nursing hangovers as we started the first real day, so we settled for chilling out in a large grassy area. We sat back, ate good food, listened to the music, and watched all sorts of performers trickle past.
In the daylight, it was more apparent just how much effort the organisers had gone to in creating this setting. There were so many little hidden features, and small pieces of decoration, as well as some really cool side attractions. One of the standouts was the magician, who we found in a small opening in the forest. I’m always amazed at illusions, and he was fantastic. We left genuinely wondering how he managed to do all the things he did.
In addition to all the music and the performers, was a great comedy tent, where there was a steady stream of comedians performing. It was great to take some weight off our knees and settle into a giant beanbag and have a laugh. We ended up at the front of the stage, and were the focus of more than a few of the jokes.
As the light faded again, the creative costumes and characters really came out. I even ran into a colleague of mine, with glowing homemade LED glasses.
The music got heavier, and the party kept going long after I’d given up and retired to our tent.
The final day was an even slower start than the last.
It was possible to book hot tubs, but they were a little prohibitively expensive, so we passed. It looked like fun, and there was more than a little jealousy as we passed by. The other boys went to give archery a try. The tutor was a funny old Scottish man, and he saw a bit of a protégé in Phil.
We eventually tore the two of them apart, did some hula-hooping (or tried, in my case), ate some jerk chicken, and listened to some more music.
We came across one of the standout performers of the festival, and they were a complete surprise – the Showhawk Duo. I could hear what sounded like an acoustic cover of 90s Trance anthem, Better Off Alone. It got us up off our arses, and the duo busted out cover after cover with incredible intensity. If you ever get a chance to see these guys, you won’t be disappointed!
We saw more bizarre performers, including some goblins who got in and joined the dance party, and an enormous water bomb fight.
But, the best for me was a random encounter as a group of performers were hiding in the forest as a dead pilot was reunited with his bride. The whole thing just seemed to organically happen, with 1940s style big-band music that started, and an impromptu dance began.
The music had started to get a little repetitive, and we soon ran out of energy and retired, leaving the party going for those with the stamina.
We’d been incredibly lucky with the weather, which ended on Monday morning as we packed up our tents. The rain clouds were building, and a light shower had begun, with heavier rain looking likely. The drive back to London felt somehow longer, and the challenge to stay awake was especially difficult. Thankfully I wasn’t driving this weekend.