the surprising return of Sunrise Celebration is a delightful success

Sunrise Celebration 2017 Review

published: Tue 29th Aug 2017

around the site

Friday 18th to Sunday 20th August 2017
new site, Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales
Early Bird £76 for the weekend
daily capacity: 5000
last updated: Mon 7th Aug 2017

When Sunrise was cancelled at short notice in 2015 and following the silence in 2016 it was assumed they were gone from the festival scene. When we got a surprise email saying they were back in 2017 and asking us if we wanted first issue tickets for being on their previous attendees list we thought it would be churlish to refuse. We wanted to see what the all new Sunrise Celebration was about.

The new event was now said to be 5000 capacity with a policy of 100% renewable energy and sustainability. So far, so familiar. The new location was outside Hereford and it is hoped to be the permanent home for the event. It is really picturesque.

We turned up on Friday lunchtime, got a wrist band and headed the short distance to the van parking and set up. The site had three areas, one with Avalon Fields and healing areas which had talks, craft and performance, a DJ stage in the woods with bar, and the main field with 2 stages and other stuff.

The main stage was actually the Croissant Neuf tent, very distinctive and still shiny new. There was also the Cat’s Cradle as a second stage with performance, yoga, spoken word and activities during the day and music by night. Food was limited but plenty good enough, and the main bar sold 2 beers, a lager and a cider, all good quality. The cocktails were bloody good as well. Toilets were composting, kept clean and never had a queue. A circus skills area, crafts, some second hand retail opportunities and various groups and initiatives completed the area. There was no corporate presence, everything maintaining the free festival spirit and reuse / recycle ethos.

Everything worked and after the previous weekends Boomtown experiences, it was nice to lay in til late, wander up for a lunchtime Dark and Stormy and chill out to music, dance like no one is watching, or simply watch the world go past. I was told by one of the traders that the festival had sold about 1000 tickets and looking at the crowd over the weekend would believe that. It was never too busy, always people at the events or stages, and the atmosphere was chilled but nicely enthusiastic. Smiling seemed to be the order for the weekend, time to relax and consider what was important in life.

The festivals sustainability message, activism, and organic living was to the forefront throughout. Carbon offset and recycling 100% were major targets for the event, never pushed on you but omnipresent. Jeremy Corbyn’s brother turned up to talk about climate change at one point and it was advertised by a very quietly spoken young man individually informing you about it just in case you may be interested.

Musically there was a great mix, acts were written on a blackboard for our information and the sound was excellent on all stages. Performance from Slipmatt, Banco di Gaia, Undercover Hippy, Laid Blak and the Might Dub Generators were highlights. DJ stage acts were many and highlights included Totterdon, the Fat Stash Collective, and reggae dread breakbeats from Cockney Nutjob and Kurnel MC.

The overall impression of Sunrise was that it worked at what it set out to be. The green agenda was the important message, plenty of good entertainment was provided, despite a bit of iffy weather it continued with a smile, and it made you appreciate what these events are for. I have been told that the festival tries to operate on a not-for profit basis and tries to retain the old free festival spirit. It was in complete contrast to the previous epic madness of Boomtown’s world, here we relaxed, talked, drank and danced in a beautiful location. I hope that they made enough money from the ticket sales to continue, it really would be a shame if not. I would certainly go again and would recommend it to others looking for an old school event without shiny things and corporate bullshit.


review by: Digger Barnes

photos by: Dee Barnes

Friday 18th to Sunday 20th August 2017
new site, Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales
Early Bird £76 for the weekend
daily capacity: 5000
last updated: Mon 7th Aug 2017


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