Described as "Scotland's finest boutique festival", my expectations were high for my first experience of Eden, a small, four day festival near Moffat. Now in its seventh year, Eden promised an eclectic mix of sights and sounds fit for adventure seekers. I was excited to see what treats were in store…
Approaching the festival site on the sun soaked Friday afternoon, the rows of enormous evergreens up ahead and rolling hills beyond were simply breath taking. It was a stunning introduction to what transpired to be a gorgeous looking festival from start to finish (I owe you one, weather!)
Greeted at the gates by a team of friendly Eden folk, we were advised that there were two camping areas available – one a 3 minute walk from the main arena, and one a 4 minute walk. We couldn't argue with either of those options, but plumped for the second one as it seemed to look a little more spacious. With the tent swiftly pitched in a lovely roomy spot, I was reminded how brilliant smaller festivals like Eden are for the ease with which you can get settled in.
Eager to catch as much of the sun as possible, we headed straight for elm arch that signified the entrance to the festival site. Stomping down through the leafy clearing where the Boardwalk stage was located, we emerged a couple of minutes later in The Garden of Eden, a circular labyrinth of plants, shrubs, twigs and stones, centred with a wicker woman. Willow Eve was a magnificent and majestic creation who symbolises the festival's connection with nature and the land. Festival goers were encouraged to engage with the Garden of Eden by planting a seed of their own, or sit and reflect within the shade of Willow Eve's skirt.
This ethos of embracing a 'green' approach could be experienced throughout Eden, from the craft stalls teaching sustainable living, to the reusable pint glasses served in all the bars. I enjoyed absorbing the eco-friendly atmosphere as we made our way towards the main arena, and it certainly set me in asuitable spirit for the rest of the festival. The first act we caught at the Devorgilla open air stage were the Monster Ceilidh Band, an electro folk group from my home town of Newcastle. They fused traditional, intricate folk tunes played on the fiddle and mandolin, with boisterous drum and bass beats to create an intense sound. The crowd thrived off the band's energy and we were soon surrounded by swirling fans lost in an emphatic jig.
After exploring some more of the main arena area, which included perusing the various street food offerings (of which I was tempted by all!) we went in search of the slightly menacing sounding Snake Pit. Guarded by carved giraffes, an alley led from the main arena to the Snake Pit - a crossroad spiked with a series of tunnels - each leading off into a different den. Taking a left, we wandered along into the Vishnu Lounge; an exotic, other worldly tent where Buddha rules and bad vibes are banned. Festival goers lounged in hammocks or napped on the cushions scattered on the floor in this ultimate chill out paradise. Sadly the hammocks were like gold dust, so instead we hopped into one of the sunken bath tubs and enjoyed watching other festival goers' surprise and delight as they spotted us drinking in the atmosphere from down below.
As the golden hour glowed, we headed across the Sonic Henge to the Melodrome stage where several performers seemed to be spontaneously hula hooping at the front of the modest crowd. Their hypnotic dancing complemented the gyspy folk sounds created by the Prestonian band on stage, Mobius Loop. Singer Katie was reminiscent of Kate Bush, and I enjoyed the upbeat accordion playing amongst the use of various other instruments. We just about managed to fend off the midgies long enough to hear all of their joyful set, before seeking an indoor stage away from the pesky little beasts.
Squeezing into a packed out Rabbies Tavern, it quickly became clear that Gerry Cinnamon was a popular artist at Eden. Pro Scottish independence single 'Hope Over Fear' went down a storm with the punters, and I adored his warm, affecting tones. Cinnamon's patriotic guitar tunes prompted a set-long stage invasion with fans chanting his name down the mic and generally having a good old knees up.Afterwards, we made a stop off at the fire pit to warm up and mellow out before heading to back to the tent for a (reasonably) early night.
Saturday soon arrived and we indulged in a full fried breakfast on the camping stove to set us up for the day ahead. A morning mooch around the Healing Fields and the numerous craft stalls resulted in getting my face painted like a “space cat” - the artist interpreted my brief very well - and an amazing ice cream called Thunder and Lightning from a local supplier. I could imagine bringing the whole family to Eden, with plenty to entertain little ones, as well as those who are young at heart like me! The giant retro helter-skelter looked like it was well used, and there were activities like puppetry workshops, treasure hunts and circus skills classes on the schedule to keep the kids out of mischief.
By early afternoon it was time to return to the main arena for the one we'd all been waiting for – the legendary Mr. Motivator . I must admit I was probably more excited about seeing him than any other act at the festival; as a 90s child I remember being mesmerised by his moves on GMTV. This was not to be missed! Unfortunately the Motivator-mobile was running a little late and so The Paint Fight took place first. Paint bombs were dished out to a several hundred strong crowd in preparation for the Holi festival style celebration. A compere on stage signalled the start of the mass fight and within an instant a plume of rainbow smoke rose from the arena. Minutes later festival goers emerged from the mayhem, covered head to toe in dusty technicolour; beaming smiles all round.
Mr Motivator arrived soon after, and he was all I'd hoped for plus much more. Donning his signature day-glow spandex jumpsuit with matching bandana and bum bag combo, he received an almighty roar from the crowd as he skipped on stage. Joined by his wife, Sandra, the youthful twosome bounced into action, squatting and lunging in time to the pumping dance music. The audience obediently and jubilantly followed his every action, proving he still lives up to his famous nickname. A highlight for me came when someone shouted "You da man!" and Mr Motivator replied "I know I'm the man!" I've got no doubt the uber-confident, crowd-pleasing 60 year old will be back at Eden once more next year.
A delicious, rustic wood fired pizza and a few tins of beer later, and it was time to return to the main stage for some more music. The Undercover Hippy kept me thoroughly entertained with singer songwriter Billy Rowan's amusing observations delivered via his witty lyrics and catchy choruses. This Bristol band has mastered the art of imparting political ideals on an audience who were totally involved with their MC style vocals and chilled reggae vibe. Eden really impressed me with the diverse range of acts playing, particularly on the main stage, and I was pleased I caught The Undercover Hippy as a part of our already packed out agenda.
As Eden welcomed the darkness of night, festival goers buzzed around the site in anticipation of the Saturday evening headliners. Ms Dynamite provided a fairly short but slick performance, and we waited for the biggest act on the bill to arrive. After a false start – as he wasn't satisfied with the stage set up – the one and only Grandmaster Flash took to the decks. The crowd went barmy for old-school classics like 'Funk Soul Brother', 'Back To Life' and 'Gangsta's Paradise', as the DJ urged everyone to “take me back” and “stay with me”. I was blown away by his admission that he's been “doing this turntable thing for 47 years now” but I guess the Grandmaster's unrivalled skills on the decks speak for themselves. The hip-hop pioneer proved he can cast his magic spell on the Eden audience, and closed his epic set with 'The Message' as a lasting reminder of his musical immortality. It only seemed right to then move on to The Lost Disco for a shuffle on the illuminated outdoor dancefloor before stumbling back to the tent.
Sunday arrived too soon, and we were at the main stage again for creative chaos that was Colonel Mustard and Dijon Five. They seemed to have legions of fans in advance of their show, with loyal followers handing out homemade smiley face masks fashioned out of paper plates to the crowd. This band was born to make you feel happy, and they certainly brought the sunshine to Eden, bounding on stage with bags of energy, clothed from head to toe in yellow. Highlights for me included the sublimely ridiculous 'Bouncy Ball' and 'Cross the Road' - a song allegedly designed to teach road safety to festival crowds, which involved a lot of mass participation, and produced a load of laughs. It's no wonder Colonel Mustard and his gang have progressed from a small slot at Eden in their first year, to now taking over the main stage, as they are the ultimate festival party band - with bells on!
Searching for somewhere to kick back after all the excitement, we finally stumbled upon the Drive-In Cinema. Nestled in the woodland fringe of Eden, this place was the perfect retreat from madness of the main festival site. Sadly the films were only showing after dark, but I still took the chance to jump behind the wheel of a smart vintage VW Beetle and an old soft top MG. Another unusual experience for a Sunday afternoon came courtesy of King Lagoons Flying Swordfish Dance Band. The fascinating group from Brighton were definitely the most exotic beings I'd seen all festival, and their African and South American inspired sound was really uplifting. Even more intriguing was their 'Smell Technician' positioned at the front of the stage, conjuring up potions in her various pots and pans as the band played. This tribe were brilliantly bonkers and I'll be looking out for them again.
So aping pong match, lashings of glitter, a psychedelic temple, some Can Can dancers, and a fire show later, it was time to wave good bye to Eden. With 250 acts that played across nine stages, and endless amounts of fun and frivolity in between, this festival was perfectly proportioned for me. The Eden site was a beautiful, peaceful and idyllic place, which came alive with the spirit of the lively festival goers. It's probably a good job I never did get a rest in one of those hammocks; it'd be impossible to tear me away from this bohemian wonderland.
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