Now that the UK summer is finally on its way, we turn our attention away from urban multi-gig festivals to outdoor festivals; the fantasy towns built of canvas where we leave our troubles at the gates and indulge in three or four days of musical and non-musical madness. It’s fair to say that summer festivals are some of the absolute highlights of the Breaking More Waves calendar. Despite the evolution of festivals from being something on the periphery of society to mass media publicised events that embrace the mainstream, the best festivals still conjure and embrace an ideology that is based not just around the music but the very fabric of the temporary society they create for a weekend, where a true sense of community exists; people have a great time but look after each other.
Wychwood Festival (main stage pictured above) is one such festival. It may not have the big name headliners, the latest fashionable cool bands or Kate Moss in her wellies, but it has a real sense of community, a relaxed atmosphere, compact site and embraces all ages from 6 to 60 year olds. It also features some fine quality music and hidden gems. Last year for instance we caught the then little known Stornoway playing in the festivals 3rd stage to a small but rapt audience and a love affair was confirmed. Wychwood has been described by The Independent as “Like a bijou Glastonbury, the perfect way to ease into the festival season,” and we couldn’t agree more.
Wychwood was created in 2005 by a group of festival enthusiasts who wanted to run their own event. It has been nominated every year it has been running for the ‘Best Family Festival’ in the UK Festival Awards and has seen the likes of Super Furry Animals, Billy Bragg, Badly Drawn Boy, Duffy, Camera Obscura, The Unthanks, Supergrass, Little Boots, The Divine Comedy and Guillemots take to the stage. This years headline acts include The Levellers, Happy Mondays and Seth Lakeman. The festival is set beneath the beautiful Prestbury Hills in the grounds of Cheltenham race course, with the campsite being located in the middle of the track itself, leading to the odd sight of campers being surrounded by national hunt fences. This location provides a couple of distinct advantages for less hardy festival goers. First, providing the weather is reasonably dry, ticket holders are allowed to drive onto site and pitch their tents - no lugging of heavy rucksacks and equipment across hills. Secondly the festival is able to use the permanent toilet facilities of the racecourse, so no squeamish festival toilet experiences and the bonus of hot running water.
Besides the three main music stages Wychwood is very proud of its large range of workshops and other entertainment, which include film, a children’s literature festival, Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, English National Ballet, circus and street theatre and a huge amount of workshops of which there are so many to list you are better just clicking here. You could have so much fun (child or adult) that you never even see any music.
But if you can drag yourself away and sample some music, here are 5 acts that Breaking More Waves recommends for this years Wychwood 2010.
With 2 Ivor Novello nominations under their belt you can rest assured that The Leisure Society know how to pen a good song. The group are currently readying their second album, the follow up to their debut Sleeper and will no doubt be playing some of these new songs. Beautifully restrained, this band make orchestrated folk pop with just a hint of American influence. Soft harmonies, wonderful melodies and beautifully tender, they are the perfect band for the main stage on Friday night.
At the end of 2009 we named Beth as One to Watch for 2010. A strange mix of warped folk, glam stylings, pop and soul, Beth is hardly the demure sweet singer songwriter - often taking to the stage wearing big wigs and hotpants. Backed by her band The Hooves of Destiny her song I Will Return, I Promise has a jaunty, stomping rhythmic Celtic sound that will probably make you jig madly in a little circle.
Cardiff’s The School are a band whose sound is obsessed with sixties pop. They are the full take on girl-group bubblegum cuteness - think Camera Obscura and The Pipettes and you won’t be far off the mark. One of their songs - Valentine was chosen for a fridge advert in Japan. We bet that’s something other welsh compatriots The Stereophonics have never achieved. Playing the BBC Introducing Stage on Saturday, they are a must see for fans of all things sugary, twee and ever so slightly flat in the vocal classroom.
Bath five piece Kill It Kid may look like a typical indie band, but they have one very secret weapon - just wait till the lead singer opens his mouth and starts to sing. A bluesy bellow of some distinction, their brand of delta-blues rock earns them the dreaded cliché “mature beyond their years,” but in this case it is a massive compliment.
Back by popular demand Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer was one of the highlights of last years Wychwood. Straight out of Surrey Mr B brings “Chap-hop” to entertain the masses. One of the funniest musical acts we have ever seen, if watching a posh man with a banjo reinterpreting hip hop classics and dissing Tim Westwood doesn’t have you in stitches, as well as singing along, then frankly you are probably dead. Let him smoke his pipe !
Finally, rather like our Great Escape coverage a few weeks back Breaking More Waves will be (mobile phone reception permitting) tweeting our way round the festival, so if you are on Twitter and want to join the fun, follow us by clicking here.