United Kingdom | 09 June 2010
Jon Wright heads to Somerset to discover the wonders of Sunrise Celebration.
Overall – 9/10
Self-styling itself as a festival of organic arts and culture, Sunrise 2010 is without question the best effort yet from the highly-dedicated team of ten people at the heart of the event. Sunrise blends one area to another rather seamlessly and it’s a nice feeling to meander in a festival that’s so instantly warm-hearted and friendly. This ethos cuts though the festival like words in a stick of rock, Kat, one of the organising team sums it up concisely and elegantly: “All we really want is for strangers to talk to each other”.
Getting there and back – 8/10
Sunrise is fairly easy to find and, as one might expect, there are a huge number of cheap shuttle buses to get people to and from the nearest big towns. The fact that many people have chosen more collective modes of transport mean that getting in by car is straightforward and quick - with no queues. Parking permits had already been sent via email, another nice touch.
The site – 9/10
This year sees a new site for the event, and it’s stunning. Set on a chalk ridge looking down over a valley, the site is just outside the historic town of Bruton. The gently sloping site gives a sort of hierarchy to the various elements, areas and stages that make up the fabric of Sunrise.
Atmosphere – 10/10
Sunrise has one of the most relaxed, chilled and friendly atmospheres of any small festival. True to their mission statement, the organisers have engendered a feeling that anyone can indeed go up to talk to anyone.
Stuart, attending the festival with his 15-month son suggests it’s the perfect environment for kids of all ages: “The provision for kids is superb, the range of activities and games is immense and it shows how much thought has gone into making the festival child-friendly.”
Arranged in two tight horseshoe shaped areas, the healing area and the alternative technologies area make up the key educational areas of the festival. In the adjacent healing area, the ‘mainstream’ therapies of reiki, massage and herbal remedy mingle with more esoteric treatments such as matrix re-imprinting and Mayan galactic signature, it may be some time before those appear on the treatments list for the NHS, but you never know.
Organiser Kat speaks of trying to pick music that embodies the spirit of Sunrise and is worried big name bands would overshadow the wider messages of the festival (they also might bring more people in), but the point is well made. In the light of that, Sunrise does not boast the summer’s killer line-up.
Lux Collective – 8/10
The Lux Collective is a theatrical, dance music driven troupe. This show, entitled ‘The Present’ is one of many performance pieces they do. Projections, frozen vignettes, postures and vocal harmonies are all acted out to some infectious dance rhythms, it’s a sensory overload and the crowd adore them for it.
ZubZub – 7/10
The other pick of the day are ZubZub – much evolved from a quite brilliant set at Glade festival a few years ago, the post-Ozric tentacles duo of Zia and Jumping Jon are still making inspired, dance-driven psychedelia together – it’s a joy to see them again – some sound issues aside – still the rig is solar-powered, and it is dusk.
Boxettes – 8/10
No-one could help falling in love with the five girls that make up the soulful, jumpin’ Boxettes either – never was beat-boxing so alluring or daring. With all five girls rapping, harmonising and beat-boxing their way through a number of soulful songs, The Boxettes bring a distinctive glamour and urban energy to the festival.
Dizreali and the Small Gods - 9/10
Find of the festival for sure, this band, fronted by Rowan Sawday (AKA Dizreali) are a tight little clan who pull in people from all over the site 10 minutes into their set. This boy can riff and rap and has an incisive wit. Take the closing lines of the chorus to his tune, ‘Engurland’: “Imperial hinterland, perpetual winterland where happy pills are in demand/ Engurland, Engurland, Engurland aren’t you proud?”
Hattie Hatstar - 8/10
Hattie plays accordion and ukulele and sings comic songs about our silly lives and all the silly things that happen to us in modern life. She’s got a song about fags, one about boyfriends and she does a blinding cover of ‘A Windmill in Old Amsterdam (I Saw a Mouse)’ and when Hattie calls for participation on the chorus, no-one refuses.
Eat Static - 8/10 (for what was seen)
Merv Pepler’s alien-obsessed progressive house should be in the uppers section, but for some unknown reason Eat Static arrive early, play early and go off early, much to the annoyance of many who try to stick to the tattered piece of paper called the Sunrise schedule. So disappointing to miss them.
Just about anything on the Spit ‘n’ Sawdust stage – 3/10
Comedic value aside, this stage played consistent host to the worst kind of discordant, dithering, poorly-engineered claptrap. Whether it was a middle-aged long-haired chap from Bristol believing he was really a lonesome traveller in the Midwest, or a wailing banshee from the rotten side of the folk tree, this was a stage to stay well clear of.
Macca B and the Roots Ragga Band - 6/10
Despite a few nice dub tunes that did steady the ship, this was not a great performance from a band who know how to do so much better. Repetitively hollerin’ ‘ganja’ at the crowd and asking them to respond in kind just seemed silly and by the volume of the response, one would think the crowd thought the same – wrong call Mr B.
Random events are entirely what this festival is all about. Acts of generosity, smiles, fireside chats with the security staff, getting soaked kids with water pistols, learning about transition towns, eating extraordinary organic food (Dahl and chips is the new thing), having your tarot read, actually enjoying going to the toilet in the clean, virtually fresh air compost loos. Drinking killer cocktails with Hattie Hatstar.
Two things about Sunrise really impress. One, it wants to be a template, no matter how small, by which all festivals can measure their environmental impact and two, the over-arching aim from the Sunrise team is to find a permanent site on which to have, in effect what would be, a year-round festival. This is an event with its heart firmly in the right place. It’s a heart that beats a little louder every year.
By Jon Wright
My particular thanks to Gareth Strangemore-Jones, Co-Initiator of the Worldshift 2012 Movement, John Cousins, who lives off-grid and loves it, and Dharmaruchi, who read my tarot.
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