I’m not a fan of festivals normally. They consist of mud, drunks, foul smells and normally trouble. I’m the kind of person who tries to stay as far away from a festival as possible. Some groups of people would call that boring but what they don’t understand is that I am not averse to fun.
If I could only have 5 things in my life they’d be,
The Great Outdoors
Family and Friends (Dogs too!)
I think that sounds pretty fun!
The Good Life Experience is a festival set in a field in a British summer, but it is all of the list above and has none of the aforementioned unfavourable qualities. Here is what we found at this years festival…
The festival is set in rural Flintshire a stones throw from the Welsh/English border. A stones throw it may be but it feels very Welsh. Held on the fields belonging to the Harwarden Farm Shop and in the shadow of Hawarden Castle, it’s a stunning and beautiful place. The land belongs to the Gladstone family who own and run the Pedlars store and the farm shop. Due to the freedom land-ownership allows the festival is very relaxed. The campers and glamping tents are located on the billiard table, smooth Cricket Pitch. The vendors camping, where we parked our van, is amongst the Apple and Pear trees and next to Pumpkin fields. You wouldn’t get that at many festivals. The Broughton Brook winds its way past the fields and into the Fish Pond lake where you could go wild swimming and boating. There were ample trees all around the site making you feel you were truly isolated, but in a festival; lost in the woods with a thousand of your new best friends!
The festival opens on Friday afternoon and quickly fills with all manner of people. The weekend is inclusive to all. Families, Partiers, Travellers, Friends, there really is something for everyone. We saw such a diverse amount of people; Cuban men with massive cigars, traditionally dressed Rajasthani men, barefoot surfers and even a Wizard! It really doesn’t exclude anyone! You’d imagine a weekend experience that includes so many individuals may feel jumbled and disjointed. How can so many people be interested in the same things? Well that’s the amazing thing about this festival. Where ever you came from, whatever your background, beliefs, feelings about bloody Brexit, (and yes it came up in conversation a lot!), we all had one thing in common. We came to have a relaxed, great time and experience new things.
Two of the organisers of the weekend are Cerys Matthews, (from Catatonia and BBC 6 Music fame), and Steve Abbot, (music producer). So it is safe to say that music plays a massive part during the weekend. Anyone who has listened to Cerys’ show on 6 Music knows her indiscriminate and varied music tastes, and it is much the same here. We had rock and roll bands such as, Touts and Boy Azooga, indie bands like Ferris and Sylvester and Halo Maud. The Go! Team headlined on the Saturday night with the amazing Diabel Cissokho sharing the stage with them. Trevor Nelson played an unbelievable DJ set on Friday night before passing the headphones to Norman Jay MBE for a set on Saturday night. There were 4 main stages/tents for music. The Main Stage, The Ale House which had a more cosy feel, The Caught By The River tent, which had new independent artists on and the Kansas Smitty’s tent. The Kansas Smitty House Band were back again at the festival for a second year. They are the band at the Kansas Smitty jazz and cocktail bar in London. They bring their jazz infused music and tasty cocktails to the festival and it proves very popular.
The standard of music is so, so good. I lost count of the amount of times my jaw dropped and marvelled at the talented people on the stages. The Kansas Smitty Gypsy Jam, where musicians from France and the USA jammed on stage, was incredible. No script, no plan just pure music and passion. The schedule was well planned too which many artists not clashing and you often saw other musicians in the crowds watched their peers on stage!
The Go! Team were loud, bold and super edgy. They physically filled the stage and their noise filled the entire festival site. The next day everyone was talking about them! Trevor Nelson’s set on the Friday night was class and it was amazing to see such an iconic artist at work! Even better because of the size of the festival it felt super close and personal. Totally brilliant!
All of the bands and artists were brilliant but one group of men stole the show for me. The Rajasthan Brass Band. The beautifully dressed, super talented group of guys playing a mix of traditional music and pop covers really got the festival kicked off on Saturday morning. Then on Sunday they marched around the festival fields playing Mamma Mia as loud as they could. By the end they had quite a crowd following them around!
The Good Life Experience is about so much more than just music. Unlike other festivals, when the music stops there is plenty more to do. There are some fantastically interesting and compelling people at the festival to engage with in the many venues. The Academy and Speakers Corner had some talks from business owners, authors, artists and creative entrepreneurs, all of which you’d find inspiration from to take home. The Campfire cooking stage is where you’d go and make yourself hungry, watching some brilliant chefs, bakers and general foodies cook some delectable treats up. Tom Herbert was there cooking up beer bread and smoked trout, Roger Phillips once again took people out foraging for mushrooms and cooked up a feast afterwards, Tom Hunt made chocolate truffles, and The Ethicurean BBQ’d little gems and made a salad with roasted roots, fennel and squash. Set in the middle of the festival site the smells waft around the fields and draw crowds in throughout the weekend.
Over the course of the weekend you could go and listen to some really captivating speakers. We enjoyed listening to Peter Fiennes and Ruth Pavey in conversation about British woodlands and forests. It gave me a huge desire to get planting some trees. Ben Fogle was there for a 3rd visit. This time he drew in the crowds to talk about his recent Everest assent. It sounded terrifying and amazing at the same time, but safe to say I have no desire to follow in his footsteps!
There was a lot of talks and sessions around the use/ over-use of plastics in our lives. The event organisers do a great job each year to make many of the topics current and relevant. Staying ahead of the game and creating an intelligent and provocative atmosphere. Otter surfboards talked about their company and our friend Mark Musgrave from The Level Collective spoke about small batch businesses and the making of his products on a shoestring.
Every festival has a range of stalls and shops selling you their wares. It is normally stuff you don’t want, don’t need or at such an inflated price you can’t afford. This is were this festival is different again. The stalls and shops present, sometimes combined with workshops and demonstrations. Axe and Paddle Bushcraft, The Level Collective, Toucan Tango, Golden Bear Belts, Moors Wood, Welsh Lavender and Netherton Foundry all shared tents or grass space with some other amazing traders. All experts in what they do and full of enthusiasm for not only the festival, but being a part of something special. Of course they want to sell you their products but many also sell their time. We glazed a Raku pot and tried our hand at playing the Ukulele. One was successful and one required more practice- you can decide which!
Click the images below…
As I have explained early on, the festival is a massive cooking pot of talent and a celebration of The Great Outdoors. The eclectic mix of individuals gives the show a unique feel. Just reading about this festival can never truly convey the magic of it, this comes with visiting the event. Which you must! With so much to offer and show you it is yearning to be your new favourite festival. So let it!
Lets face it. Where else can you listen to American Jazz, Ben Fogle and sit around a campfire eating freshly foraged mushrooms after you’ve made a bow and arrow and wild swam in a lake?
There is nowhere else quite like it.