So,what was my weekend at the Wychwood Festival like? I loved it! I was sad to have to miss The Levellers on Friday night as I was only able to make it down to the festival on Saturday morning.
When I arrived I was surprised at the size of the festival. I thought it would be a bigger festival on a smaller area. Maybe because the only comparison I have is the V Festival (huge festival on huge site) and the Cambridge Folk Festival (massive in name and v. busy but on a very small site).
The Cheltenham Racecourse is massive so having the campsites inside the racecourse was a great idea. It meant camping was far away enough from the event to be relatively quiet and yet close enough to still feel really in the middle of a big party.
The campsite offers 'regular' camping, a family camping and a 'quiet area' for people, like me, who come for the music and social atmosphere but who, once in the tent, really just want to sleep and not be kept awake by people with different ideas. Unfortunately I accidentally put my tent up in the Family area so instead of silence, I was surrounded by little kids screaming. Oh well, my fault.
I like the idea that parents can take their kids to a festival and feel safe about taking them into the 'arena'.
In front of the Main Stage, the whole thing felt more like a Sunday in Hyde Park than a festival. I mean that in a good way; at no point was it too crowded, were people pushing or rude or inconsiderate. People with chairs & picnic kit were as welcome as people who just wanted to stand & dance.
So, the atmosphere was lovely. If you are not sure about going to a festival and you want to see what it is all about, the Wychwood is the one to start with.
Not least because there is so much to do, other than sit in front of the main stage.
And this brings me to the other great thing about Wychwood. When I went to the Cambridge Folk Festival last year, I only knew a handful of the acts of the line up. I did not like all the stuff that was on but there was precious little else to do for those moments that I was not interested in the music. There were some shops and a smaller tent but that was kind of all.
Wychwood however offers a wealth of things to do, both for kids and adults. There was a fantastic workshop for Samba drumming. about 6 or 7 throughout the festival so everyone had a chance to participate. Amazing to see about 60 people, men, women, children, most with no musical experience, get together and learn how to play like a true Brazilian drum band. It brought tears to my eyes every time.
For those who liked things a little more quiet, there were ukulele workshops. Or a literary tent. Or a medieval storyteller who spun some great yarns that kept adults & children glued to their seats. I certainly did not feel too old to sit down on one of the tiny chairs and listen to him for about half an hour.
The BBC Introducing had their own stage with new upcoming acts and comedy later in the evening, there was a cinema, dance workshops for kids, circus equipment, juggling for kids & adults, the list is endless.
All festivals have a slight hint of Hippie and at Wychwood, there were palm readers, homeopathic remedies, chines massage, scalp massage and, my personal favourite, a travelling osteopath. I had been meaning to make an appointment at home to sort my back out so Wychwood gave me the chance to have it done right there and then. And after a night on a thin mat in my tent, a good cracking of the spine was exactly what I needed.
All in all, the festival just felt like a Village Fete on a grand scale and without the grannies baking cakes. Lovely Pimm's stand and with Waitrose as the new main sponsor, there were even posh cocktails to drink with the (rather expensive) food for sale.
As a Sound Engineer In Training, I took the opportunity to chat to the sound engineers and they allowed me behind the desk to observe them at work and they explained loads of stuff to me. An unexpected but very welcome addition to my weekend.
I am definitely going again next year and I would urge anyone who is a festival virgin to go as well.
Oh. Nearly forgot. There was music as well!
What did I really like? Martha Tilston. Piney Gir and the Country Road Show and my personal highlight: The South (formally The Beautiful South).
Thank you to Wychwood Festival for giving me the chance to experience your lovely festival. I'll be back next year!