Wales' Gottwood is an eclectic little melting pot of marvelousness

Gottwood Festival 2014 review

By Bella Whately | Published: Tue 1st Jul 2014

Gottwood Festival 2014 - around the festival site
Photo credit: Bella Whately

Gottwood Festival 2014

Thursday 19th to Sunday 22nd June 2014
Carreglwyd Estate, Llanfaethlu, Holyhead, Anglesey, LL65 4NY, Wales MAP
£95 for a weekend pass - SOLD OUT
Daily capacity: 1,500

Gottwood Festival, running from 19th-22nd June, was to be my first festival of the season. After a four and a half hour drive cross-country over what can only be described as breath-takingly beautiful scenery, I was more than ready for what promised to be a weekend of driving bass, cheeky cuts and relentless rhythm rolling out into the woods.

After winding our way round the coastal roads, through the tiny village of Llanfaethlu, my friend and I parked up and dutifully set about liberating the cider we'd brought with us from its glassy prison which was, regrettably, not allowed on site.

Gottwood, now running for its 5th year, adheres to a strict green policy and rightly so given the idyllic setting. The campsite, situated on a hillside over-looking a valley leading down to the sea, was kept in fairly good nick throughout the weekend with litter pickers helping to clear the rubbish and debris inevitably left by festival goers, stumbling in and out of the woodland in varying states of consciousness.

The set theme for this year's festival was 'Jungle'. I had heard some amazing things about people going all out in previous years with themes including 'Woodland Creatures' (somewhat fitting!), 'Tribal', 'The Summer and Love' and last years 'Wild Things'. However, I must confess had I not been aware of the theme I wouldn't have guessed there was one, save for a couple of groups in loin clothes carrying clubs who staggered passed in the heat of the day Saturday afternoon.

That being said, such was the nature of the decor within the woods, any additional theme beside that of the general wonderfulness of the tiny touches applied to tree branches, root stumps and rocks was rendered unnecessary. Over-sized origami boats floated in the lake where wire dragonfly sculptures dipped lazily into the water.

Having rolled up typically late on the Friday night the music, which began 4pm Thursday, was already in full throw. I must admit to being so horrendously over-excited by the remoteness and the beauty of our surroundings that music took a back-seat to exploration for the majority of the festival for me.

This still small, independent festival, tucked away in the coastal recesses of Anglesey features bespoke decor which will blow your mind. From UV twine weaved through the trees mimicking the web of some kind of giant disco spider, to large mushroom structures fit to sit and unwind in, to comfy sofas dotted generously between the trees.

Upon entering the woods, we were greeted with warm lights and the gentle pulse of the bass which breathed gentle through the trees. Shaking off the now distant memory of my computer desk and stubbornly unalterable office chair, I knew the secluded playground would not be one I wanted to leave in a hurry.
Trundling through the woods we had the good fortune to collide with an array of colourful characters as well as some wonderful members of staff who, for me, transformed the festival from a standard event  into the eclectic little melting pot of marvelousness it proved to be. Characters such as 'Steph the barmaid' who would not accept a tip (despite my friend's best efforts!), ‘Alan the friendly security guard’, 'Tom the barrister' at Cafe Carrello and a tousled haired little fellow who we came to know only as 'Piano man', named thus for his prolific and relentless tinkering with the stand alone piano which had been placed in a clearing in the woods. A man of few words, but many melodies.

After jumping and tripping around from rock to tree stump to sofa to swing (a selection of which hung from high branches at the tip-top of the trees) and flitting between groups of people each more smiley and happy than the last, we finally found ourselves at The Barn stage where jungle pioneers 2 Bad Mice were dunking the proverbial bass biscuit into a steaming puddle of shiny, sweaty revellers.

With deep, swooping bass lining the floor, top-line melodies skittering around the rafters and a sea of flailing arms and wide grins inhabiting the space between - the seasoned manipulators of breaks did not disappoint, the Barn providing some amazing acoustics into the bargain.
Just down from this stage in the Boxford area, a large wooden structure come sculpture stood looming over the outdoor dance area. The stage, affectionately known as the 'Mother Owl', designed by the Io Collective, is a DJ booth set high above the ground into the chest of a giant owl. With light streaming out from the eyes and it's wings spread wide as if to embrace those gyrating on the dance floor you could almost hear the big 'Mother Owl' hooting 'Let's be 'avinyoo! hoohoooo!' over the din of the bass.
The Io Collective is a creative force to be reckoned with. The group of artists, comprising of Joe Adams, Nick Wolstencroft, Aziz Hasan and Elle Baines joined forces with some of the Gottwood heads to build an equally impressive, yet slightly less friendly, African mask which formed the stage in the festival's walled garden.
Despite big names such as d'nb legends Calibre, TC and DJ Die as well as hip-hop stylings from one of the most infectious purveyors of funky loops and breaks DJ Format, not to mention live sets from the likes of Max Cooper, Mo Kolours and Zero 7, one of the best sets of the weekend was that of competition winner Rob Vanden. Definitely one to watch, this 22 year old Bristolian tore up the Barn stage with an eclectic mix of glitchy drum and bass to satisfy any tech-itch.

Then, all of a sudden, inevitably, Sunday happened.

As is common knowledge, Sundays can be quite hit or miss at even the best of the best festival shindigs, particularly if feet are muddy, tents are sodden and you're muscles ache in ways you didn't know were possible.

However, the sun was shining down on Anglesey, music floated out over the fields and I'm pleased to report a distinct absence of Sunday blues of any sort! My Sunday was spent happy tired sprawled out by the lake...then in front of the owl...then by the Barn lapping up the tail end of the ambient summery tunes.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

Caked in glitter and, I expect, looking slightly dazed, we pulled into a petrol station to fill up for the long journey home. After narrowly escaping a dousing with petrol from my wayward passing of the pump,  the helpful attendant who had took it upon himself to fill up my car to spare me the pain of navigating the nozzle asked, "Just come from Gottwood, have you?" with a knowing smile. I have little to no idea how he could have guessed.

Gottwood – the boutique festival designed to be intimate rather than to intimidate with ridiculous race-around-the-site line ups and riled up, lager fuelled crowds. Preferring to concentrate on the little things which its larger contemporaries possibly overlook, Gottwood you were more than a bit good – until next time.

review by: Bella Whately

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