United Kingdom | 10 June 2010
When the average festival-reveller comes across a stall called "Herbal Heaven", the last thing they expect is a nursery selling palatable pot-plants. Kae Karadelis reviews Britain's most family-friendly festie.
Overall - 8/10
A lengthy queue is gathering outside a tent quaintly called the Pomme Stage. It’s not a bunch of flustered thirty-something female folk fans waiting to get Seth Lakeman’s autograph. It’s a line of anxious parents eager to make dreams come true by introducing their kids to CBeebies star Mr Tumble.
Wychwood welcomes everyone, young and old; its littlest visitor is just a few days born and there are teenagers, parents and grandparents aplenty. The two Waitrose-sponsored bars reflect this, one selling very affordable (and very alcoholic) cocktails and the other, a smoothie bar, where children can join juice-making workshops.
Smoothies aside, there are dance, poetry, crafts, storytelling, tipi making and bongo drumming lessons throughout. The sweet fruits of all this labour come together in a parade on the Sunday.
It’s not all holier than thou, though, with a silent disco till 3am and late-night movie showings, including a silent version of Czech abstract film Faust performed with a live soundtrack. Particularly brilliant is the post-watershed comedy, especially local man and not-an-iPhone-fan, Nick Page ,who tells a packed crowd his latest app inventions: the iPhone bathroom scales (“I’ve had more than 2000 complaints from people about their cracked screens”) and more recently, the iPhone pregnancy test (“I’m just waiting for everyone to start pissing on it”).
Getting there and back - 10/10
The festival is at Cheltenham Racecourse. Note this before you go, and you can’t go wrong. All signs point to the racecourse from about ten miles out of town. Car parking, meanwhile, is on tarmac! In a real car park! With outlined spaces! And the car park is actually near the entrance to the festival site and if this seems like luxury, believe it or not, some campers are even permitted to drive up to their preferred pitch and unload. From a public transport perspective, being held at the most prominent landmark of a fairly large town also undoubtedly helps this event’s accessibility.
The site - 8/10
Literally in the middle of the racetrack (campers have to cross between fences and hedges to get to their tents) the festival arena is flat and has the benefit of tarmac paths. As a result, Wychwood is particularly welcoming to wheelchair users and of course, baby buggies. And it doesn’t turn into an endurance test when the torrential rain hits.
The arena in front of the main stage is fairly cramped, and there’s a German-style “reserve a sun-lounger-before-sunrise” scramble for green space; i.e. many families eek out a small territory by building a fortress of folding chairs and picnic blankets. If you don’t hoist your colonial flag early, you’ll be left standing at the fringes.
Atmosphere - 9/10
Relaxed. Wychwood is full of people not worrying at all about image or reputation and having fun with their nearest and dearest. Take, for example, the portly middle-aged man in the Hawaiian shirt, recruiting passers-by to join his family in carefree boogie. In other circumstances, his teenage daughter might hide her face in shame, but in the spirit of Wychwood, she’s dressed as a hula-girl and shimmying happily alongside dad.
There’s a characteristically local feel about this event, but not in a League of Gentleman sort of way. The crowd are down to Earth and the pretentious London yummy mummy set is seemingly absent.
Music - 6/10
Wychwood’s musical offerings - while trying to be varied - are underlined by a love of folk strings. They also encompass the sublime to the ridiculous; “I left my conscience like a piece of roadkill on an open highway,” sings accordion-playing Texan belle Piney Gir, one minute. The next, Martha Tilston serves up a traditional Irish lament song, a capella. Later, ex-Bottom comedian Adrian Edmondson and his fiddle-uke band, The Bad Shepherds, do covers of well-known punk classics with bizarrely sincere vocals…
Toumani Diabaté -8/10
“Music has no boundaries”, says the renowned Malian kora player as he and his energetic orchestra open a philosophical set. “An ‘F’ is the same in the guitar, in the kora and in the piano.” Giving a poignant solo performance at the end, Diabaté discusses his late friend Ali Farka Touré and his role as UNAIDS goodwill ambassador.
Goldheart Assembley - 7/10
Tipped to be huge in 2010, this is polished indie-folk-rock with commercial hooks and rich vocal harmonies. Nothing revolutionary, but BBC 6Music requests an encore of their catchy album-opener ‘King of Rome’, which must mean they’re doing something right.
Kila - 10/10
When Irish jigsters Kila performed at the Cannes Film Festival, the reviews described them as "raucous". This doesn't really do justice to the Cork outfit's Bodrhán-wielding tazmanian-devil of a frontman, nor to their mind-blowing mix of celtic and African tribal rhythms.
Mechanical Owl - 7/10
By the end of their set in the BBC Introducing tent, the audience has motion sickness thanks to the amount of instrument swapping these guys do. We get the picture, you can multi-task, okay? But when they get down to business these nervous-looking lads from North Wales sound a bit like Death Cab for Cutie, or even a low-key Passion Pit.
The South (Formerly The Beautiful South) - 9/10
Twenty years on, Dave Hemmingway's vocals are still as crisp and sweet on all the crowd-pleasing faves: ‘You Kept it All In’, ‘A Little Time’, ‘Old Red Eyes is Back’. Founding member Paul Heaton's absence has barely made a dent on the band as far as sound is concerned. The crowd sings along heartily when Alison Wheeler - the third replacement front woman, though you wouldn't know it from the vocal - sings the x-rated version of ‘Don’t Marry Her, Have Me.’
The Selecter’s formidable singer is as politically charged as ever. Grown men skank nostalgically to her band’s tenor sax as though they’ve been keeping it suppressed for decades. Even the younger audience are drawn in when she does a cover of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back to Black’. But it’s all over too soon when Wychwood’s electricity generator blows, cutting the set short.
Shaun Ryder and Co sound well-rehearsed, but it’s a no-show for Bez. Rumour has it he’s on the festival site - he just doesn’t want to come on stage. There's a sense that the band are racing through the motions and it leaves the many Mondays fans that bought day-tickets just to see them, disappointed.
Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer
Mr B is a white-suited man who talks about sandwiches and cheese to The Great Escape theme tune. Stage presence? Nil. Amusing in anyway? No.
Two colourful wig-wearing women in lab-coats and oversized plastic glasses give a silly science lesson on gravity. This involves lobbing a plastic giraffe and another poor unsuspecting object from a great height, much to the delight of on-looking infants.
Be the first to make a comment!