A “boutique festival” by name and a beautiful festival by nature, the Garden of Eden is a special place with a community spirit. Back again for chapter eight of the Eden story, the festival was positively blooming with a number of new areas to explore, in addition to all the old favourites.
Always a fan of a jolly jaunt north of the border, Eden is an excellent draw for northern English folk like me and bonny Scots alike. Taking just two hours to travel up from Lancashire or Tyneside, and situated almost equal distances away from Glasgow and Edinburgh, it's no surprise Eden sold out to around 8,000 punters this year.
Fortunate to be enjoying my second Eden experience, arrival was mid-afternoon on the Friday, although the four day festival officially opened on the Thursday. Headliners included Skye and Ross from Morcheeba, King Charles, Toddla T, Congo Natty, and Andreya Triana, not to mention the legendary Mr. Motivator. Aside from the big names, the real charm of Eden is discovering some of the lesser known acts on the line up, as well as generally drinking in all the other festivities.
The enormous tortoise shell of Devorgilla, or the main stage, had been completely rebuilt for this year, carefully crafted by local men and women. Performing on this fine stage on Friday night was The John Langan Band, whose rousing Romany gypsy tunes were well received by a cheerful crowd. Later the confident King Charles delivered a pacey set climaxing with the catchy 'Love Lost'.
Saturday saw the amazing Mr. Motivator slip into his infamous spandex one-piece once more. The spritely sixty-something helped festival goers blow away Friday night's cobwebs with his pumping routine. The packed out open air area proved that this 90s throwback has definitely still got the skills to pay the bills. High on aerobic energy, the crowd launched straight into the annual paint fight, followed by the (now rainbow coloured) Eden Olympics for which scores of attendees joined in.
With community at the heart of Eden, local acts are expected and applauded, but few quite so much as the Dumfries & Galloway Choir who entertained on the main stage during the afternoon. With a broad repertoire the vocal group surprised and delighted the crowd, closing the set with an impressive cover of 'I am the Resurrection' by the Stone Roses.
Later, Saturday night headliners Skye and Ross from Morcheeba proved they still have the power to spell bind with a set consisting of some new tracks, peppered with more familiar tunes like 'The Sea' and 'Rome Wasn't Built in a Day'. Stunning Skye even looked the part with her custom made tartan dress, specially chosen for the occasion. The crack of a few fireworks signalled the end of the live performances on the main stage and the crowd soon slinked off into The Snake Pit for the night.
Sunday at Devorgilla was certainly a sillier affair as gregarious Glaswegians Colonel Mustard and Dijon Five spread their madness. Their music is a little bit baggy, properly funny, and in parts insightful and political too. Crowd pleasers 'Cross the Road' and 'Peace, Love and Mustard' went down a treat, though the highlight was when they changed the lyrics of 'Gay Icon' to 'I'm a Unicorn' in tribute to the mythical beast festival theme. “Dijancer” Blair even rode an inflatable unicorn across the audience to celebrate, obviously.
Meanwhile in the cosier confines of Rabbies Tavern, festival goers enjoyed a more traditional Scottish knees-up. The Stumblers got everyone going with their folky pro Scottish independence song 'Anything But No', joking how “we all know how that one ended up”. Saturday night favourites Have Mercy Las Vegas played to a packed out pub tent, even maintaining the chanting crowd's attention after a lengthy sound check. Ukelele Bard Wise L Leathermonk took to the Wee Timrous Stage on Sunday, ranting and rhyming about all sorts of topics like 'Wizards in the Mist'.
This year the marvellous Melodrome nestled in new location in the woodland area just above the main festival site. A favourite stage of mine from the previous year, it was pleasing to see it as popular as ever (and not just with the midgies!) Lancashire band The Manfredis prompted a bit of a sing along with a succession of 90s covers on Friday night. Saturday however, was entirely different as the Spangled Cabarett took over this theatrical stage and magician The Great Aziz eventually captured everyone's attention with his levitating table. Later, the enthusiastic Dohnut (Formerly known as Eating Disorder) provided some brilliant beats for an expectant crowd.
Elsewhere, stages like the Furry Chillum hosted a line up as assorted as ever. From contemporary jazz outfit The Tramps, to the (not-that-fun) Fungasm Gameshow, to the well-attended Tribal Drumming Workshop, there genuinely was something for everyone. It was a shame that the re-located Thunderdome didn't seem too popular this year, though the odd downpour soaking the boxing ring style stage and surrounding hay bales probably didn't help.
A cracking poetry performance from East Glasgow based Victoria McNulty at the Garden of Eden Bandstand was a surprising highlight. Her powerful words, evocative delivery and down to earth themes like relationships and topical issues really resonated with me. Likewise the mesmerising hula hooping which took place in the Vishnu Lounge was unexpected and wonderful, and everyone enjoyed an impromptu skank at the Boardwalk Stage as they passed through the shady woods.
Dance fans had plenty of choice at Eden with the epic Ghilli Dhu Dance Emporium expanded for this year. Heaving and steamy, the massive tent hosted hundreds of drum 'n' bass hungry ravers under its tropical canopy each night, while others enjoyed the uplifting and energising sounds outside at The Lost Disco, keeping the festival thumping well into the wee hours and beyond.
Across the festival site at Eden you can't help but discover treats around every corner. There were excellent oddballs like the piano man from Rimski's Yard, the drive in cinema with an array of vintage vehicles to kick back in, and of course the brand new sauna in the woods designed to warm your bones. A Ferris wheel, stilt walking classes and fancy dress parades kept the kids out of mischief, while several street food stalls, assorted traders and a number of bars catered for everyone.
This festival has just enough to offer in terms of music and performances, but for me it's all the unexpected experiences that Edenites will inevitably treasure. Turning up on Friday with no fixed plan of where to go and who to see, then leaving on Sunday with a henna tattoo, some new mates and a sack full of amazing memories is what the festival is all about. Some people might go for that one favourite act; however the true spirit of Eden is adventuring together.
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