Larmer Tree Festival 2010

Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset - 14-18 July

Larmer Tree Festival 2010

Photographer: Trevor Eales23 July 2010

Overall - 9/10

Over the past month, sun cream has found its place at the top of everyone’s shopping list, with the British summer firmly taking its toll. But as they say, all good things must come to an end, and for most of the UK, the weather turned sour with torrential downpours and gusts that would blow anyone’s mind.

Although it affected the morale of this year’s festival-goers, the Larmer Tree Festival ploughed through its 20th celebration in unique style. Fused with a multi-genre musical line-up, a list of comical geniuses and craft-like performances perfect for all ages, the festival truly had it all – not to mention some highly respectable toilets and showers.

The festival has developed since its humble beginnings in 1990, where the single day festival generated entertainment for approximate audience of two hundred (the current capacity is 4,000). As the festival has evolved over the last two decades, the eclectic array of entertainment has ticked all of the boxes for their diverse audience. Containing plenty of opportunities for the Larmer Tree’s entire demographic; the list of general activities ranged from knitting to yoga, massages to song writing and much, much more. It truly catered for anyone and everyone that entered to gates to the beautiful Larmer Gardens.

A lot of the main attractions coincided with the miserable weather that accompanied the first two days, including festival resident Jools Holland (with special guest Alison Moyet), mellow guitar plucking extraordinaire Newton Faulkner and uplifting folk-inspired legend Frank Turner boosting the morale of all the soaking wet dedicators. Following the impressive sets from each of the big names were the hidden gems of the festival (who thankfully brought the British summer back into our lives).

For the sake of our country, and a mere reminder of our 90s youth, Chumbawamba were a definite ‘must see’ act at the festival. Playing an intimate set within the ARC tent, the Burnley quintet avoided popular sensation ‘Tubthumpin’ at all costs and enlightened the packed out tent so some comical renditions of ‘Ratatatay’, ‘Torturing James Hetfield’ and ‘On Ebay’ leaving the crowd applauding for an encore.

Accompanying them during the festival was the fantastic performance from reggae phenomenon Toots and the Maytals, who absolutely stole the show on Friday evening with a string of hits including ‘Monkey Man’. Goldheart Assembly provided some mid-afternoon rhythms as they opened up the main stage on the festival’s final day, setting the tempo for the rest of the bands that played, including an impressive fresh and funky performance from Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.
With folk music’s popularity currently on the increase, the Grass Mountain Hobos were amongst many of the Larmer Tree’s well kept secrets that impressed the crowd from the Garden Stage. With their folk-infused bluegrass tearing apart the limited space they had to work with, the sextet portrayed a fantastic onstage ambience enticing not only their performance but the audiences’ eagerness to hear more. It may not be the perfect concoction to the UK’s music chart at this present time, but it’s the little bursts of fresh material that really grabs your attention.

With an increasing amount of entertainment taking place outside of Larmer Tree's musical bubble, families could indulge in a number of activities including dance classes, storytelling around a roaring fire and not to mention the popular debut film club hosted by legendary film critic Mark Kermode. There was something spectacular located deep within the mystical footpaths of the Lost Woods; the Folk in a Box. Considered to be the world’s smallest music venue, the mysterious wooden hut allowed an audience member to perch inside and listen to a live performance from an unknown artist from the Larmer Tree Festival line-up. There were intimate performances from members of The Unthanks and Raghu Dixit, who were among many musicians to ‘fill up’ the Larmer Tree’s iconic venue.

The Larmer Tree holds a number of little landmarks within its historical gardens reigning back to the 19th century. Passing through the main lawn it is difficult not to notice the beautiful ponds (known as The Dell and Grotto) and an impressive piece of architecture; the Temple. Like many other hidden gems lying in the shadows of the gardens, the history of the venue itself is something that certainly may be of interest to the older generation that attended.

As far as live performances are concerned, the ARC tent played host to the festival comedy as a number of the world’s finest comedians took to the stage to entertain the audience with their quick wit and naughty banter. The festival saw West Country superstar, Russell Howard, perform jokes surrounding his relationship with his brother, life in Bristol and many other childish pastimes. Flying in from across the pond, Rich Hall made a special appearance with a late night show full of notably controversial material.

With the unfortunate lack of llamas roaming around the complex, it was but a mere wonder as to how the organisers could obtain the missing piece of the festival jigsaw puzzle. Fortunately, the gardens contained free running peacocks and macaws that circled the festival unharmed. It did make a beautiful addition to the family-orientated festival allowing young children to enjoy the interaction of such animals without being spat on (llama reference).

It can be said that the festival’s 20th anniversary went out with a mass explosion leaving the audience to wonder how it could be topped next year. With thoughts about its 21st celebration underway, it cannot be emphasised more that it’s quite simply an experience not to be missed. Just one request… could we possible have some actual llamas at next years festival please?

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