opening day of Croissant Neuf is welcoming, friendly, smiley, and scenic

Croissant Neuf Summer Party 2011 review

By Fiona Tayler | Published: Tue 23rd Aug 2011

Croissant Neuf Summer Party 2011 - around the festival site (2)
Photo credit: James Tayler

Croissant Neuf Summer Party 2011

Friday 12th to Sunday 14th August 2011
near Usk, Monmouthshire, NP15 1HS, Wales MAP
£88 for adults and £35 for kids
Daily capacity: 2,000

We set off to the Croissant Neuf Summer Party full of anticipation. It's a new festival to us, which is always exciting, and, we're going to it in our "new" camper van. We're not sure what to expect from the festival, but the information that I've got from their website make its ethos sound right up our street, plus its history is long, and its organisers full of party experience so I reckon we're in for a good time.

around the festival site (2)
We arrive Friday lunchtime after taking the bendier of the two routes courtesy of our sat nav., and retrieve our camper van pass from the box office. Getting in is easy, the stewards are very friendly and smiley, and my feeling that we're going to be happy here is confirmed. After we park up, and get the awning up (which goes surprisingly well for a first attempt), we make our way to the main arena. And there, we all gasp a bit as it's stunning!

The Croissant Neuf location is kept a secret until you buy a ticket so I won't mention exactly where it is. I will say though that it's one of the most beautiful sites for a festival that we have ever been to. It's surrounded by trees making it feel secluded and private, and just a little bit exciting. A big wooden Croissant Neuf sign dangles from between two trees to welcome us, and there's a good selection of organic, ethically traded, and solar powered stalls and food concessions around the edge. I can see instantly that its “Best Green Festival” award from last year is well deserved – there are no generators anywhere on site, and solar panels power the stages. It is obvious that the stalls and food suppliers have been chosen especially for their like-minded ethics. I really like all the little areas on the arena that provide lovely places to sit and chill and chat with old friends or new ones – a fire circle, a flower garden, a bandstand, and other little rest stops.

around the festival site (1)
Our ten year old is delighted to spot a football match going on in the centre of the arena and he goes racing off to get stuck in. He's been struggling a bit with finding things to do at festivals this year that give him that little bit of independence in a safe environment. Finding a full programme of sporty activities that take place over the entire weekend brings a massive smile to his face.

RSVP (Dance Workshop)
Wandering through the middle of the arena we spy RSVP playing their instruments, and full of smiles. We're immediately put in a dancing mood and follow them over to Croissant Deux to watch their Bhangra dance workshop. We've taken part in one of their workshops before and the experience is unique and highly entertaining as we're instructed to pretend that we're "screwing in light bulbs" and "planting seeds". Before we know it, we're all dancing Bhangra style!

Inspired by all the "new" things on offer, we head over to the Croissant Neuf big top tent for a bit of Jimmy Davis. I'm not familiar with his music but I get in to it instantly. He creates an unlikely but successful mix of hip hop style beats with a fiddle, and throws in some very thought provoking lyrics to cap them off. Given the week's events in England, we fall silent as we take in a song's plea to change our ways. The final words are met with a massive round of applause. Jimmy is followed closely by Luke Concannon who, until now, I only know as "a bloke from Nizlopi". Their 'JCB Song' always makes my husband well up a bit so I'm pretty sure that we'll like these lyrics too. Luke is preceded on stage by his friend who recites a poem he has written especially for the occasion called 'Live your Love'.

The Jimmy Davis Experience
A fine and moving start to the set which Luke adds to by moving in to the crowd to pray before starting to play from within the audience. He moves around us freely with his guitar, singing and greeting us like friends. I get the feeling that he's a really nice chap. He intersperses his songs with stories of his travels and the nice people he's met, and explains how their kindness is the basis for his song 'Around the World'.

We get the call that our friends have arrived from Lincolnshire so we return to the campsite to offer a hand and a beer to get them set up in the mood for the weekend too.

Ed Sheeran
By the time we get back to the action, Ed Sheeran is on at the Croissant Neuf stage. It's really packed in the big top so we sit outside to listen while the children all run round. It's hard to hear well, but we're keen to stay around, and the music is perfect for this time of the evening. I make it in to the tent to catch 'The A Team'. I love the way that listening to music at festivals really opens my senses to beats and lyrics in a way that recorded music doesn't, and his music really makes the hair on my neck stand up.

We decide we should get a bit of light relief and mosey on over to the Stagger Inn for the pub quiz! The Stagger Inn is really unique as a festival bar. Set in a barn, there are comfy chairs and beds to sit on, plus a pool table and table football! We manage to grab a bed and get started on the quiz. We don't get on very well apart from the entertainment round where we get ten out of ten.

It's been a long old day so we head in to the warmth and relative tranquillity of Croissant Deux to be introduced to Kamilla Lovett. To begin, the audience is relatively sparse but her voice draws in quite a crowd – slightly husky, she reminds me of singers in times of old and we all really enjoy her songs – rare praise indeed from a ten year old that normally opts for The Brits CD. However, the lure of a new camper van persuades us back to the camp site for an early night. Having got the children settled in the roof, the guys of our group head back out to see Mad Dog Mcrea – an experience which they thoroughly enjoy. I stay back at the van to do battle with the roll down bed and get an early night ready for the next day.

around the festival site (3)
review by: Fiona Tayler

photos by: James Tayler

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