Wychwood Festival revals a family friendly side on opening day kids

Wychwood Music Festival 2012 review

published: Fri 15th Jun 2012

around the festival site (2)

Friday 8th to Sunday 10th June 2012
Cheltenham Racecourse, Prestbury Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England MAP
£115 for the weekend, plus £22 for camping
daily capacity: 7500
last updated: Wed 30th May 2012

As Cheltenham Racecourse opened its gates, once again, for the annual Wychwood festival, I found myself in the car travelling down the motorway, wet with a cool, aerial spray. My hopes for the weekend's weather were not soaring by any stretch of the imagination, especially since we were expected to pitch tents in potentially gale-force winds. Great weather for sailing? Maybe. Great weather for camping? Definitely not.

around the festival site (1)
We arrived in Cheltenham around mid-afternoon on Friday and managed to navigate our car into the racecourse through the car park and, eventually, down through the green. The stewards we met along this route were courteous and polite, complimented by a sudden change of weather. They lead us around the track until we found a snug little spot to set-up camp a short walk from the festival happenings. After the tents were up and all accoutrements were unpacked, we set sail towards the noise of funky music, like sailors towards the Sirens; what we stumbled upon, though, was far from rocky graves...

The funky rhythms were being secreted by a peculiar-looking outfit known as The Cuban Brothers – a disparate gang of dancers and musicians – bongos, brass, and all the usual funk necessities. Moving closer to the stage, their ludicrous outfits leapt out at us. The paunchy singer sported a soft pink blazer, aviators and very, very small hot-pants, whilst two break-dancers wore spangly, hot pink jumpsuits of the figure-hugging variety. The crowd seemed up for a laugh as clothes were shed on stage and fevered hooks were released by the band: very catchy and great fun.

The Damned
After The Cuban Brothers shook their tail feathers, the next band to grace the main stage was a gaggle of old punks, The Damned. Dave Vanian appeared onstage clad in a black trench coat with leather gloves and a military hat to match, whilst Captain Sensible (being as shy and retiring as ever) arrived looking like a politically-charged muppet, complete with red beret, pink fur top and equally furry yellow trousers (many may argue he looked even too camp for Jim Henson's bunch of fluffy creations). The Damned brought with them the melodies and theatricality that made them stand out from the original punk bands. As they tore into classics such as 'Eloise' and 'New Rose' (the first ever punk single released in the UK), Vanian's crooning vocals didn't appear to have aged. Who says punk is dead?

Bellowhead were the headlining act on the Friday night, and they were a great choice to close the main stage that evening. Breathing new life into old traditional folk songs, this award-winning eleven piece band kicked off with a real raucous rendition of 'Whiskey is the Life of Man,' which got the crowd moving. Each song seemed to improve upon the last, as the band loosened up, dancing and generally just having a good time onstage. Their cover of Jacques Brel's 'Amsterdam' was a particular delight.

By 11.00 pm all the bands had to stop due to a noise curfew, but the night was far from over yet. There were plenty of different activities to participate in. The Headphone Disco was held under the Big Top tent, there were comedy stylings within the BBC Introducing tent, waifs and strays strumming battered old acoustics in the hooker pipe tent, and poetry readings from the likes of the ex-Birmingham Poet Laureate Dreadlockalien.

There were two things that really stood out about this festival – 1) how geared towards kids it was (such a happy, family friendly atmosphere with all the little 'uns running about) and 2) how middle class it was (a Pimms tent, a wine tent, free soya yoghurts and many seats facing the stage holding people who, by all appearances, were too posh to mosh). Alongside this were fancy power-showers as well as real toilet facilities... something no one would complain about.

around the festival site (1)
review by: Tom Smith

photos by: Rob Matheson

Friday 8th to Sunday 10th June 2012
Cheltenham Racecourse, Prestbury Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England MAP
£115 for the weekend, plus £22 for camping
daily capacity: 7500
last updated: Wed 30th May 2012


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