This year I spent a weekend at a festival that I haven’t been to before. Usually M and I go to the Beautiful Days Festival in Devon in late August, but this year for some reason the Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons seemed like an interesting alternative. This annoyed our regular festival-going friends immensely because they were smitten with Beautiful Days, but sometimes you have to strike out on your own to see whether the grass is greener on the other side. We had come to be very familiar with the Beautiful Days scene and its acts, and in a way a change is a better form of rest, to mangle a popular phrase.
We got the site and were amazed at the scale of the layout – only a small car park (you are encouraged to car share or go by public transport) but the camping area was huge and there were lots of performance areas, we discovered. If you’re going next year I’d highly recommend hiring a trolley. We didn’t and regretted it even though we were only carrying enough for two, not a whole family.
Suring the festival the music and comedy were the highlights. In the weekend from Thursday evening to Monday morning we managed to watch these acts:-
- Gruff Rhys – web site - YouTube clip - absolutely amazing live and I loved every second.
- The Villagers - web site – YouTube clip - a delightful first encounter with them, and liked their style a lot.
- Hannah Peel - web site -YouTube clip - her cover of ‘Sugar Hiccup’ by The Cocteau Twins was delightful and made my eyes go moist.
- Fleet Foxes - web site – YouTube clip – obviously good, but couldn’t stand all their set, I’m afraid.
- Laura Marling - web site – YouTube clip – amazing voice, OK songs.
- Bellowhead - web site – YouTube clip – the usual raucous rambunctious rowdiness.
- Robyn Hitchcock - web site -YouTube clip – what an oddball, but surreally delightful in small doses.
- She Keeps Bees - web site -YouTube clip- like a new PJ Harvey with her old attitude.
The best thing about the entertainment was Tim Minchin – comedy musical genius (see his home page). I had seen him on other comedy shows as a guest, but not in full flow at the piano where his prowess and talent were able to just splurge out and flow all around everyone making the whole audience putty in his hands and slaves to his genius for 45 minutes. It could have been an hour. I wished it was more. He has a new fan, for sure. I highly recommend you take a look at his work. Here’s an example.
The Best of the Rest of the Fest
There was a surprising paucity of spiritual aspects to the festival – not many spiritual type people either, it seeemed. I thought that there would be quite a lot of druid-y types around, old hippies, new hippies, barefooted playboys, whatever. There were very few. The crowd seemed mainly families of middle-class folk with all the gear. There was not much larking about. Except maybe for this bunch of ladies:
Which was good in a way in that we got three nights of really sound sleep, but…it’s a festival and it all felt a little bit buttoned up….still. We are getting older ourselves!
The Green Man
One of the highlights for me was going exploring up to the “top field”. As we walked over a rise I suddenly caught sight of the full height and majesty of the hand-crafted Green Man statue. It was fashioned out of wood, bark, straw, leaves, plants, everything organic you could imagine. It was so absolutely delightful – you could go under it and leave a message on a post-it note inside, and it never seemed to be without a visitor even though it was set aside from everything that was “happening”. People loved it, and its size and scale and grandeur were truly awe-inspiring.
The Green Man itself set the tone for the whole place – it was delightful, calm, chilled out, relaxing, and carefree. Nobody was going wild, there were no great orgies of destruction and drunkenness. It was just people enjoying themselves in the last remaining sunshine of the summer. With the wonderful Welsh hills as a backdrop and the wide slow-flowing river as a boundary to the festival, the whole place had a wondrous and back-to-nature feel. Yet, within the main arenas you could find walled gardens, enclaves of red-brick walls and lavender gardens. Neatly-trimmed grass and well-placed shrubbery. This was definitely a stately home estate, and yet for one weekend it was a magical environment of mirth and merriment.
All in all The Green Man Festival was well worth a visit – one of the better festivals I’ve been to – and I hope to go back again next year. If they sort out the exit strategy for cars! Three hours in the blazing sun was a poor end to a wonderful weekend.