GREEN MAN FESTIVAL
The number of open-air summer festivals in Britain seems to have mushroomed over the last ten years or so and, never one to be caught out even remotely behind the times, I attended my first festival in 2007. It’s called Latitude and takes place in a kind of country park near the captivating Suffolk town of Southwold (to which, if you’ve never been, you should make it your business to go). You may have heard me go on and on and on and on about Latitude that year on the Big Blue Bus.
In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I went again last year - and it was even better. It’s not just the music, either. There’s poetry, drama, comedy; even BBC Radio 4 (no less) has a marquee there. Well, I say ‘marquee’; portable broom-cupboard, more like. But hey, they try.
However...no sooner was I smugly regarding myself as up-to-date with the summer festival scene than I was abruptly told that Latitude was way too middle class and ‘comfortable’. Too many people arriving in 4x4s with kids - or rather ‘children’ - called Jocasta and Monty. Too many bearded, cardy-wearing Guardian-reading social workers in once-a-year ponchos. Who, I ask you, would want to be identified with that particular stereotype?
So this year, I adjusted my aim a little. Broadened my festival scope. Extended my horizons...and all that rubbish.
I’d heard how good the Green Man Festival was - and my goodness it was. People arrived in
slightly cheaper 4x4s with children - yes, still ‘children’ - called Cerise and Lexi and the number of Guardian-readers - including your blogger - remained obstinately high. Everything else was different, though. Fewer festival-goers and few, if any, big name bands.
The atmosphere was wonderful, though (not that it hadn’t been just as wonderful at Latitude) and the setting was breathtaking. The Festival takes place in a heavily wooded, steep-sided bend of the River Usk in south-east Wales, not far from Crickhowell and Abergavenny. It’s truly sumptuous and the main stage is set in a natural amphitheatre so everyone can sit comfortably on the grassy banks and get a good view of the bands.
You can get an idea of it in the crowd photo above. In fact, if you look carefully...see the house? Focus on the right-hand edge of it. Slightly below it and a little to the right you will see a very large summer hat. Under it is my friend Sue. So now you know.
Food provision was jaw-droppingly cosmopolitan; Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, American, Italian, Spanish - even Welsh. So perhaps it’s just as well that the dreaded toilets (toilets are always ‘dreaded’ at festivals like this) were, in fact, spotless and pristine. And queue-free (which is also just as well).
Of course, attending a festival like this one is all about the music (though there was other stuff, too). Some of the bands I saw - and which I strongly recommend you keep an ear open for - included...Gang Gang Dance, Broken Records, Wave Machine, Beth Jeans Houghton (who is truly special AND a local lass), Sibrydion, Grizzly Bear, Vetiver (old favourites of mine), Camera Obscura, She Keeps Bees and The Leisure Society.
Specially The Leisure Society. I’d already caught them at The Cluny in Newcastle and was already a big fan. Listen to Save It For Someone Who Cares or Last Of The Melting Snow and you’ll see why.
It was a great weekend. Good weather (unusual for this damp and cloudy part of Wales), lovely scenery, good company, great music - much of it new to me, which is never a bad thing.
In fact, on the strength of the fun I had there, I decided to take the plunge before it’s too late. I’ve put my name down for The Big One. Next year’s Glastonbury Festival! It really is one of those things you should try to do before you die, isn’t it?
THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU DIDN’T KNOW
* 30% of all the Benedictine drunk in Britain is drunk in Burnley;
* The hour between 1900 and 2000 on June 24 is thought to be the ‘loveliest hour in the English Year’;
* truckshunter Alison Best’s sister Anne is the World Speed-Reading Champion;
* the BBC Gardener of the Year lives near Lanchester; he’s called Bob Tridgett
(those last two courtesy of an email I’ve received from Alison Best herself).
I’m surprised to be telling you that I’m not a big fan of Lee Hall. I know he’s a local lad but that just makes it worse. I thought his depiction of pit-village life in Billy Elliot was a travesty - not just inaccurate but patronising, too. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way I saw it at the time, and still see it.
Pitmen Painters, though, is an entirely different kettle of fish. I saw it during a recent visit to London and found it inspiring. He seems to capture the spirit, aspirations and outlook of the Ashington miners of the time perfectly. It is by turns funny, sad, moving, uplifting, liberating, desperate.
It’s coming to Newcastle’s Theatre Royal soon. Go and see it. I am.
(And if you're not sure who the Pitmen Painters actually were, visit the Northumberland Museum at Woodhorn.)
STILL TO COME...
...but not today...
*news of AGM VI at Tynemouth;
*heartfelt requests about how Facebook actually works;
*stories told in six words;
AND DON’T FORGET...
*October 1 is World Vegetarian Day
*I’m looking for dates/venues for AGM VII - a splendid time is guaranteed for all.
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