Sunrise Celebration rises from the depths
Sunrise Celebration 2009 review
published: Thu 4th Jun 2009
Sunrise Celebration 2009to
Gilcombe Farm, near Bruton, South Somerset
last updated: Thu 21st May 2009
After deciding to go to this festival at short notice, I was quickly able to arrange a lift via freewheeler.co.uk for myself and my 17 year old daughter Katrina.
So after being picked up we had a nightmare drive for 6 of us that took 8 hours from Manchester. We arrived on site after 11.30pm with some other folk, only to be told that the site was locked down for the night, and we would have to move on. However after explaining to the security that we were tired, they allowed us, and others, to set up camp overnight in a 'holding compound'. We quickly got set up and then I introduced myself to my neighbours, whom later I would camp with.
A misty start to the morning revealed some very tired people and the base of a hill on which the site was. The security pointed us over to a farm shop some 20 yards away for coffee and sandwiches, a shop that became a staple for our supplies over the weekend. 9am nears and then we are allowed to book in, but there are no complaints from most of us due to the delays.
This revealed a festival split into two small parts. The one closet to us was the 'Glen Camping' and had a few stalls and cafes, namely the Hurly Burly and the Buddhafield Cafe, but also the Solarcinema and a few stalls including a Freecycle book stall.
Over a small bridge and we where into the Main Arena, of which the first thing we noticed missing was the lack of a main stage. The arena is on a gentle slope, with a view overlooking Alfred's Folly, the place where Alfred defeated the Danes. A quick glance identified the main areas for music as the Bimble Inn, the Solarcadia Dance and Chill and Chai Wallahs.
Towards the top of the hill was positioned the Triban, the Healing Fields, the Kids Area and the entrance to the main campsite. The main market areas where based along the far side on the site and due to the lack of a main stage one could walk around the entire arena without a gap. I was told later that the choice of no main stage was one of finance rather than set up, but for me at least I found it preferable as it made the movement from area to area fluid, and avoided big empty or full spaces.
A look around the main campsite showed a spacious area and only a couple of hundred yard walk maximum from car to tent. The toilets across the site where the composting toilets and at first I was sceptical, but I have to admit that they were actually quite comfortable.
They were constantly stocked with paper and hand sanitiser, and kept clean with the smell being kept to a minimum by the use of sprinkling sawdust after use. For me these were some of the best toilets that I have used at festivals and a concept that I think should be promoted across the industry. The stewards and staff were very informative and friendly and really set a relaxed atmosphere to the festival. I will take a brief moment to praise the security team from 'Green Security'. Whilst been highly professional the security at one point was virtually invisible, mixing with the festival goers with their non confrontational attitude.
During the weekend I had the fortune to witness 2 security men racing after a fence jumper through the campsite. It is not often that you can see smiles on the faces of the security, but they were having fun. The offender was caught and given the choice to pay or clear off. I feel that the Sunrise is setting a benchmark for other festivals with the security team that they have on board.
So what of the entertainment at the place? Well where do I start? There was anything and everything available at this little gem of a festival. From acoustic sets, to permaculture lectures, to the healing fields, to a planetarium (with a telescope onsite) to the music. I could spend the review on just what was on site, but I think it would be best to just talk you through what I did over the 4 days.
After dark they had the 'Sunrise Celebration Opening Ceremony' around a fire towards the top of the main arena (an area called 'The Temple', with a fire show, drummers and fair maidens dressed as Dryads. Later, via the Chelsea Inn for a cider, it was off to the Bimble Inn to watched Stephen Junior who laid on a fantastic acoustic guitar set. Again it is to the benefit of Sunrise that the music venues were under cover with plenty of seating, bars and dance space.
Afterwards I moved off with a group and headed up to Triban for a sit down in one of the quiet spaces near the healing fields. After all talking for what seemed a short space but turned out to be hours we moved off for a dance at 2am in the Solarcadia and the set by Chandrananda for a little bit of psy. I was feeling a little tired to dance after a while, so it was off back into the main arena to find a good spot to carry on chatting and wait for the sunrise.
Once in the town we made use of a couple of shops, within which the locals were all friendly and very inquisitive about the festival. All in all we received a very warm welcome, again to the benefit of the festival. We made our way to the train station to await the shuttle bus which arrived in the form of the 'Big Red Bus', a former London Double Decker. All the staff where friendly, and at £2.50, it was good value, never mind having a good natter as well.
Once back on site it was back to camp for a respite from the hot sun and wait for the day to cool. As we walked back to the main arena we had to pass through the Glen Camping, and I noticed the Sunworshippers Planetarium and I felt the need to poke my head in. Good job I did as I found a mobile planetarium with some very enthusiastic people wanting to tell and show me the secrets of the universe. I stayed briefly as I was on a mission to visit the drumming workshop at the Chai Chapel.
After an hour of drumming I made my way up to the Natural Be-In Yurt and I caught the end of a talk on 'The Importance of Bees' and stayed for a talk on Planning Law and Radical Action. I had been advised to see a band in Chai Wallahs and I moved off, only to be waylaid by 2 men that had set up 2 telescopes in the field for a bit of astronomy. I shouldn't have stopped, but I was entranced and spent a good half hour looking at the craters on the moon.
A run over to Chai Wallahs, and I caught the end of wait seemed to be excellent set by the King Porter Stomp. The only way I can describe their music is as jazzy, funky ska. Either way I am glad I caught them, but it was time for a cider. I stayed around Chai Wallahs for the The Undercover Hippy, set, with his incisive rapping style. Afterwards was the Dub Pistols Soundsystem, featuring Rodney P. These were on the list of sets to see, and I am glad I did as they rocked the house with their hip hop twist on dub mixes.
The evening became a haze for me, as I moved over to the Solarcadia but it was very busy and I was in the mood for a chat as well as a dance. Whilst walking to the Bimble Inn I was ambushed by a small group who were taken by an amusing T-shirt I was wearing, and I ended up going to a party in their truck. This culminated with us all stood outside to watch the sunrise, and still chatting until 10 am.
I did feel the need to sleep and eat, but when I got to my tent I found that the morning sun was so hot that I had burned my legs all the way from my knees down to my ankles. That and pure exhaustion and lack of fluids sent me straight into my tent to sleep. Unfortunately that is where I stayed for the whole day as I was in a lot of pain. However we managed to rig a lean too for me to sit under, so at least I could see people walking by, and listen to the music coming from the Hurly Burly, behind which I was camped.
Sunday brought us another scorcher, but I felt it prudent to stay in the shade until mid afternoon. I left camp on a real mission to take photos and see bands but again I was easily distracted. I had to pass the Bandstand Cinema, which had various acoustic sets throughout the day, and I was transfixed by the vocals of a young lady playing a Native American drum and singing laments. I noticed a sign in the Bhuddafield Cafe offering a meal for an hour's work, and as I was low on funds, I opted for the washing up.
After washing up for an hour, and a jacket potato with beans, I went to check on my daughter, who had managed to get herself a job supervising the people on Johns Inflatable Fortress of Fun next to the Bimble Inn. Even though the festival had provided a tremendous kids area with various workshops, nothing beats a bouncy castle. During the day it was for children and the evening adults could bounce to their hearts delight to the sounds coming from the Bimble Inn.
So I made a move to the drumming workshop, but I couldn't sit comfortably enough and I decided to find something else, which came in the form of a talk on Future Energy Solutions. After leaving I was again distracted but by the shiny things in the shops in the Market Area that I had been studiously avoiding all weekend. I decided on a cocktail for my beverage and found myself swept up in group heading off in to the centre of the main arena.
A fire had been laid out, and much to my amazement it was revealed that there was to be a Sunrise Firewalk. After waiting an hour for the coals to be perfect 20 or so brave souls did a fire walk over a 10 to 15 ft long fire pit. I was very impressed at not their bravery but at the respect they received from the audience, as none of the participants had done such an act before.
After all the drumming and excitement I was one very contented person. It was getting close to the time that I was due to see the headliner, Baka Beyond, but unfortunately the time had been changed to midnight, so I listened to Planetman in Cha Wallahs for a short while, but to be fair there had seemed to be a lot of Reggae and Dub over the weekend and I was all dubbed out.
I went to the Sunrise with many preconceptions about the festival, but I am pleased to say that they have all been blown away. From the moment I arrived on site I could tell that there is a lot of love and passion that goes into this little gem, from the organisers, to the workers, to the volunteers, the traders and the punters. In Bruton I was asked by a local "Is it like Glastonbury?" to which I replied "No, it's better than that". After the calamity of last year the organisers have pulled off a miracle. The site is perfect, the people working are all wonderful and the organisation is spot on. Over the weekend I did not hear one complaint, and I could find no real faults.
Maybe more water points, you can never have enough water points. From start to finish I have loved this festival, and it is on my list of festivals that I will attend every year now. Sunrise goes against convention in many ways e.g. you won't see corporate logos, and that is to be celebrated. It would be totally unfair to even compare Sunrise to any other festival as I feel there is only one festival like it and that is Sunrise. Actually it would be impossible to compare Sunrise to any other festival, as they have set some good benchmarks to follow i.e. security and stewarding, composting toilets, brave move not having a main stage. I saw 6000 very happy people at Sunrise and I hope in future years I will see more.
Thanks guys you have indeed created a 'Festival of our times'.
review by: Rufus Gwertigan
Sunrise Celebration 2009to
Gilcombe Farm, near Bruton, South Somerset
last updated: Thu 21st May 2009
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