Guilfest 2009: Rated!

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Justin Madgwick, Steve Jenner, Annabelle Loveday | 14 July 2009

It's undeniably one of Britain's best family festivals, but it also has a great deal to offer teenagers, singletons and adults there for their own entertainment.

Overall - 8/10
The event has grown into a respectable medium-sized festival over the years, now boasting no less than 20,000 visitors per day with six live arenas and an ever-expanding dance tent. Founder Tony Scott, a local family man and music fanatic, remains fully at the helm and his passion still clearly defines the festival, shining through in every nook and cranny.
The festival site, located in Guildford's prized Stoke Park, had something of a tardis feel this year: small and compact, navigated from corner to corner in under ten minutes, yet packed with a massively diverse array of things to discover and do, regardless of age or taste.
Aside from the live music (see below) which, Tony Scott himself believed was his greatest line-up yet, there was a whole world of attractions and distractions to while away the hours. The Kidzone was bursting with fun stuff for toddlers and little 'uns with bouncy slides, fairground rides, brading, face-painting, clay modelling and a whole stage of entertainment from clowns to puppet shows. The Man In The Moon Theatre tent offered a varied programme of drama throughout the weekend; the Unison Tent hosted live performances from name artists (Neck, The Infidels) and allowed festival-goers in bands to get-up-and-play and the comedy tent offered well-attended alternative's to the music.
For those with enough energy left, after-hours entertainment was dished out until the small hours by the Farmer Giles Barn Dance and Ceilidh, a new (and very popular) 70's Disco Tent, the 'Decks of Death' rock disco and a campsite disco. And then there was the Pimms Bus, Calypso Cocktail Bar, the Electronic Arts gaming tent plus street performers and over 100 market stalls. The only draw-back was that three days just didn't seem enough!
Getting there and back - 8/10

Close proximity to the M25, M3, A3and A31 plus direct rail links to London Waterloo (half an hour's journey), Portsmouth, Reading, Epsom, Gatwick Airport, London Bridge, Manchester and Birmingham makes Guilford is one of England's most accessible towns. Stoke Park is a 15 minute walk (or 5 minute cab journey) from the train station. It can also be reached from the secondary station, London Road.
Atmosphere - 8/10

can claim a wider diversity of atmospheres than most other British festivals - all of them positive. Whether it's the sea of children in the Kidzone, fluorescent teens frolicking in the Rock Sound Cave, people of all ages raving in the Funky End dance tent or letting their freaks out in the 70's Disco Tent or just chilling outside the 150-foot main bar (the best pub in Guildford for these three days), everyone had a smile on their face. For most of the day, the main stages were relaxing places to be, with most people lounging on the ground with family and friends. In the evening, it was led by the music, with fans moshing to Motorhead, grooving to The Charlatans and Happy Mondays, and singing in the rain along with Brian Wilson.
Yes, the rain - it started on Friday night and lasted until Sunday morning. Aside from the usual annoyances of preventing you from sitting down whenever and wherever you pleased, it didn't dampen the atmosphere at all. If anything, it provided great amusement and entertainment in the market areas, as some struggled to stay on their feet and others didn't bother, mud-sliding with abandon.
Music - 8/10
Tony Scott told us he thought he'd booked the best line-up in Guilfest's history and the bill was eclectic and compelling, with something for everyone across the seven venues which included two outdoor stages, four live tents and a dance tent.


Novelle Vague - Second Stage, Friday

Fronted by ex-Lovegods vixen, Nadeah Mirander (the tallest, blondest, foxiest woman in alternative pop) and her equally flirtatious brunette French counter-part Leelou, Nouvelle Vague provided a superb set to one of the fullest crowds for the second stage all weekend, a crowd who willingly joined in with quirky versions of Depeche Mode's 'Master And Servant' and 'Just Can't Get Enough', a unique version of The Specials B-side 'Friday Night, Saturday Morning' and a host of retro-ed wonders from the 80's and 90's - the biggest crowd join-in went to 'Too Drunk To F**k', with Nadeah vaulting the barrier and dancing through the crowd.

Motorhead, Main Stage, Friday

Lemmy has recently remarked "we're not that good but we've been going 40 years so we must be doing something right," and he's right - they provide uncomplicated big rock tunes to bang your head to. A grateful crowd, some brandishing skulls on poles, with 'Ace of Spades' seemingly running for half the set to great adulation from the crowd.

Florence Rawlings, Main Stage, Saturday

As the weather worsened on Saturday afternoon the atmosphere was replenished and saved by an energetic and powerful performance by Florence Rawlings. The young Londoner, with her big soulful voice and her talented live band, revitalised the crowds and set the standard for musical talent for the rest of the day with 'The Only Woman in the World' getting top cheers. 

Athlete, Main Stage, Saturday

Missing from the mainstream for a while, Athlete gave as a good a set as they could with Joel Pott suggesting that "if you haven't already got on someone's shoulders do so now," for 'Wires', the first few rows all oblige, a great site and a brilliant version of their big number. New album ‘Black Swan’ is due out this autumn, so hopefully we'll see more of the South East London lads.

The Charlatans, Main Stage, Saturday

A brilliant set delivered against increasing rain; packed main stage crowd loving every perfect delivery of hits such as 'The One I Know', 'North Country Boy' and 'One to Another'. Tim Burgess and gang have had years to perfect their set, and they certainly gave one of the best performances of the festival.

Pendulum DJ's - Funky End Dance Tent, 9.30pm, Saturday

With MC Jakes, the Pendulum boys invaded Guilfest with the same level of intensity that has seen them turn so many other festivals this summer into sizzling raves, to be met by the same level of frenzied adoration. It was nigh on impossible to get near, let alone inside, the dance tent for this set. Those who did manage to get inside, and brave the soaring temperatures, were treated to something very special.

Simon Friend, Second Stage, Sunday

Simon had flown in from Norway, where apparently it was sunnier, with a replacement guitar having had his cherished instrument trashed on the way to Norway, to give a wonderful set. Introduced as "The Legend", he greeted the audience by announcing that he was going to raise the average age before kicking off with 'I Would Be A Free Man'. Several Levellers tracks are delivered beautifully, 'Mystical Child' getting a big whoop from the small but very appreciative crowd.

The Happy Mondays, Main Stage, Sunday

Everyone knows Sean Ryder isn't the best singer and Bez is no fleet footed dancer, but the pair give so much to their performance, bringing the house down in the sunshine as 'Kinky Afro' and 'Loose Fit' belt out, with Ryder's daughter and friends arriving on stage for the big one - 'Step On' which goes down a storm. They close with ‘Jellybean’ and leave a lot of smiling faces in the evening sun.

The Dolly Rockers, Main Stage, Saturday

No need for incessant swearing at a family festival early afternoon on a Saturday; unless your really exceptionally good, which sadly, the Dolly's aren't.

Random Events

Being situated in the middle of a major town, Guilfest is not as susceptible to the randomness that more detached events experience. The sight of a few thousand soggy people dancing and splattering in the mud and rain to Brian Wilson singing 'California Girls' on Saturday night was different, though.

An impromptu fire juggling display by a couple of guys who could be stand-up comedians such was their ability to woo a not small crowd on the edge of the Kidszone, in the rain, whilst The Charlatans were commanding the Main Stage.

Crowd dancers - a Woodstock-esque hippy getting down with a head-banging metaller to indie rock unsigned act Marner Brown; a phenomenal hoola-hoop girl giving a performance in the middle of the Happy Mondays crowd; the very short orange-shorts brigade (you know who you are!).

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