AGF Blog: Three Festivals In One Weekend

United Kingdom United Kingdom | 06 August 2009

Well, it looked like a busy schedule – the Cambridge  Folk Festival on Friday, Sonisphere at Knebworth in Hertfordshire on Saturday and then Y-Not near Matlock in the Peak District on Sunday...

And a busy schedule it was – it wasn’t quite four seasons in one day but I did have wind, rain, mud and lovely sunshine too!Last year when we did the green audit at the Cambridge Folk Festival, both the train lines into Cambridge were out of action - making the use of public transport a tad difficult. Would it be better this year? Well, yes, it was fifty percent better, as the Kings Cross line was fine and dandy (and the express train is far far quicker than driving) but strike action had shut the other main line North from Liverpool Street and South from Ely so that wasn’t all good news for public transport. I arrived at Cambridge station in glorious sunshine (although I was told later that it had been raining) and rather than catch the bus, which runs every ten minutes to right outside the festival, I decided to walk.  I had a map – of sorts – and my usual self confidence in my own unerring sense of direction. Three miles later (ermm it should have been no more than two really) and with my clearly now erring sense of direction I was sort of regretting my impulsive behaviour although the walk through the nature reserve was nice. But despite the extra mile or so (no matter) suddenly the festival site was right there in front of me. And Cherry Hinton Hall was looking green, leafy and lovely too.  The one thing I have to say about the Cambridge Folk Festival right now is that it is just so dang friendly – everyone from the gate staff to the box office to security to the bar staff to catering staff to site crew are just so helpful.  And the first thing you notice is that Cambridge is really hot on recycling – there were bags and bins for recycling everywhere, none were overflowing and the souvenier beer glass scheme is a no brainer meaning that t here are not thousands of plastic or paper cups lying around - in fact no litter at all. Cambridge, who won our Greener Festival Award in 2008, is also one of the festivals using the new Julie’s Bicycle tools to measure their carbon footprint and greenhouse  gas emissions in a move to minimise their impact on a year on year basis. For more information on this go to www.juliesbicycle.com.

The audience at Cambridge seems to make a real effort to keep the festival looking lovely and everyone seemed to respect the site and recycle cans, paper, card and food - the place is literally spotless. With ten thousand people enjoying each day at  Cambridge it is just a perfect size and you can’t but help feel welcome – and its making a real effort to go green too. On top of this great music too, and highlights included The Zutons, Bellowhead, Eddi Reader, Edward II, Buffy Sainte Marie and the Saw Doctors. In the meantime I am off to enjoy my lovely chilled beer in my Cambridge Folk Festival souvenir cup.  “Refill not landfill” – it really is “Cool as folk” … Cheers Cambridge!

So then Saturday and it must be Sonisphere at Knebworth – where black T-shirts, long hair, metal and mayhem would almost certainly ensue. With Metallica, Nine Inch Nails and Linkin Park headlining along with Anthrax, Coheed & Cambria, Heaven & Hell, Machine Head, Lamb of God, Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet for My Valentine and Thunder, this  is a beast of  a music festival and  surely there wouldn’t be any room for green  - would there? Well, yes there would. We trained it up from London which was dead easy and the festival was running shuttles from Stevenage rail station right to the Festival site. And these were free – hooray! That’s a good start- as the biggest proportion of greenhouse gas emissions for an out of town festival come from audience travel – so the more  people who train, bus, walk or cycle the better. There had been a few teething problems on Saturday morning with the shuttles but by the afternoon the coaches and buses were running every 15 minutes and it’s a pretty quick journey from the station to the festival site. The site is Knebworth Park which is absolutely enormous (I know because I walked right round it) with plenty of room for camping - and you know what (wot then?) Sonisphere had paid some attention to green details. It was nice to a fairly tidy site with litter pickers everywhere and the transport solutions had been thought about. But boy oh boy just as the evening started and Airbourne came on, the heavens well and truly opened and the rain just poured down. The crew at Cambridge had said they were expecting heavy r ain on Saturday and as the two festivals are just 30 miles apart it’s not surprising Stevenage and Knebworth got a downpour.  But for once I was prepared with a waterproof (although we found a handy set of trees which did a pretty good job for a while as nature’s own umbrella) and the rain didn’t last for ever ….. and anyway, what’s a bit of rain - Sonisphere ROCKED!

It’s Sunday so finally to the Y Not Festival – set in the beautiful Peak District near Matlock in Derbyshire.  This is a small 4000 capacity festival – and sold out to boot – so well done for that YNot! Having mentioned boots, I should continue and mention that wellingtons were a useful accessory – not that I had any – as the site was pretty muddy. The mud was not because the weather was bad – it was actually lovely and sunny on Sunday – but in the week running up to the festival the site had been rained on – heavily. But did it matter? Not at all – with some great acts performing over the weekend including The King Blues, Noah & The Whale, The Boxer Rebellion, Young Knives and Esser. And Y-not is another really friendly festival and co-organiser Alex took the time to come and meet me and show me round the site. Alex explained that the mud had scuppered plans to put recycling bins for paper, glass, plastics, food waste and cans around the site and instead all rubbish was being collected and sorted for recycling by volunteers. YNot’s big drive was to cut  the audience’s carbon emissions and from the vantage point of a scaffold tower (vertigo – what vertigo?) I could see that there were just two small car parks and really not many cars at all. Why? well YNot used shuttle free buses to collect the audience from two local rail stations (Buxton and Matlock), promoted and incentivised lift share and also installed a carbon calculator on their website so people could work out their carbon footprints to get to and from YNot. All good stuff and a lovely festival.

So three festivals, a veritable buffet of music including, folk, metal and indie, all lovely and many thanks to all three festivals for taking part in our Greener Festivals Award scheme and for making us so welcome.

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