there's a myriad of activities for all the family on offer at Larmer Tree Festival

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review

published: Fri 22nd Jul 2011

around the festival site (3)

Wednesday 13th to Sunday 17th July 2011
Larmer Tree Gardens, near Tollard Royal (about 16 miles W of Salisbury), on the Wilts./Dorset border, SP5 5PT, England MAP
weekend tickets sold out, day tickets left for Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday
daily capacity: 4000
last updated: Thu 30th Jun 2011

Being woken at a festival by the heat of the sun on your tent and kids laughing merrily is a great way to start the day. Given the good weather, we decide to use the perishable foods in a big fry up and set ourselves up for the day. As the campsite comes to life and the sun pops behind clouds and reappears, we gather ourselves together and head to the business end of the festival site.

around the festival site (2)
We begin our Friday with a Samba Drumming Workshop in the big top. Although we don't arrive in time to pick up one of the many drums available, we stick around and listen to the instructions and the patchwork of beats being pieced together to form the bedrock of samba rhythms. The bandleader then gives instructions on how he will swap new beats in like a dance DJ chopping in new tracks. The finished product is awesome and most of us without drums are pounding out a dance with our feet.

Larmer Tree has two stages on the main lawn that are a great way to have almost continuous music all day. Generally acts alternate between the slightly smaller Garden Stage – a beautifully painted wooden stage, and the larger Main stage. This allows acts to be turned around quickly and means shorter gaps between performing artists.

around the festival site (street performers 2)
We take the kids to separate workshops. I take our lad to do some more circus skills and the two ladies go to get their faces painted and to Bouncing Bears. Bouncing Bears (in five year old speak) consists of some bouncing, some stuff with parachutes and running around, and then some bear-related stories.

The café next to the main gardens – Café Dish – does a roaring trade and we enjoy a coffee and hot chocolate under the gazebo as the first rain of our weekend starts. Kids and Mrs safely installed somewhere dry, I make a dash back to the tent for waterproofs. Another beauty of Larmer Tree is that nothing is very far away and all walks are relatively short.

around the festival site (3)
The ladies find Knitting Noras, a knitting workshop hosted in a bell tent out of the rain and both kids fancy a go too. They get "cast off" by a nice lady who explains what to do, and they're away. It's not really my thing so I go on and explore the Bar. Over the weekend I try four of the real ales on offer and two of the ciders, and they're all really nice. Priced at around £3.50 a pint it's not mega expensive either compared to some festival bar prices.

As the rain stops, we take a walk around The Lost Woods together. Out first stop is The Wishing Tree. We're all invited to write our wishes on pieces of different coloured fabric and tie them to the lower branches of one of the gardens trees. Some of the wishes were heart breaking, and some ingeniously funny!!! By the end of the weekend, the tree is covered in multi-coloured wishes and looks fabulous.

around the festival site (3)
Around toward the Water Gardens, the Woodland Crafts area seems really busy all weekend. Some of the activities are weather dependent (making charcoal isn't going to work in the rain), but the yurts and tents offer shelter from the rain while the kids make magic wands and learn about the healing properties of apple wood.

We also try out Book Crossing. A great idea! Books are left hanging from trees in waterproof bags. If one takes your fancy, you pick it up and take it away. There is no charge, but you must hand it on once you've read it. The books are registered online so once you've read it, pass it on and you can even track its progress as others read it, register and then pass it on again.

The woodland is filled with lots of secretive places to go and relax and Ian Freemantle has installed a huge carved wooden throne in a secluded spot this year, where we spend a lovely hour sitting on this magical-feeling piece of wood as the twilight turns into night and the wood comes alive with the fire pit; adorned with disco balls and the sound of people chatting – although we decide it isn't built for long-term comfort, we could hardly walk when we got off.

The Hush-a-Bye is back again this year with bedtime stories. It's a lovely wind down to the little one's days – one little lad even fell fast asleep, and most of the grown ups weren't far behind.

Ozokidz
Musically there is no doubt that the kids' highlight of the day is when Ozomatli put on an Ozokidz Show. The kids are all ushered to the front while expectant parents all look on slightly bemused. Ozomatli come on to the stage wearing Mexican wrestling masks and playing instruments. The favourite is a chicken song called 'Gallina'. Their best is yet to come in the evening headline slot where some of the kids witnessing this show are allowed to stay up late. Other highlights include Matthew and the Atlas who remind me very much of Danny and The Champions of the world with a folk/ country blend of music. The Phoenix Foundation and their laid back Indie music from New Zealand suits the transition from afternoon to evening perfectly. They close their set with 'Buffalo', a real uplifting track.

Mama Rosin is a three piece with accordion, guitar, and drums. During one of their tracks I'm amazed as the drummer puts down one of his sticks, and picks up a mic'ed up harmonica and plays it while continuing to pound out a rhythm in another hand. Their Cajun bluesy sound seems a far cry from their native Switzerland and although the rain is pouring down through most of their set, the crowd they've managed to pull in is pretty impressive. They thank the Brits for being one of the few nations who will stay out to dance in the rain and they strike up a real rapport with the punters.

Bellowhead
Bellowhead put on a great set with my highlights being 'London Town' and 'New York Girls'. It's purely coincidental that both are about prostitutes and more relevant that both are on their latest album which has featured quite heavily in the car on the way to Larmer Tree. Our lad goes to meet the band and collect signatures at their signing in the Songlines tent after they come off stage and he reckons they're all really lovely.

To many, Ozomatli are not obvious headline material, but having seen them a couple of years ago in London, I'm already won over and it doesn't take long to get the rest of the crowd on side either. Based in L.A., but with influences from all over the world (hip-hop, salsa, Cuban, eastern European folk, funk, reggae and oodles more), their set is a massive melting pot that's bounding with energy. 'City of Angels', 'Saturday Night', and 'After Party' are my favourites and really showcase the brass section. They end by walking through the crowd, still playing and with lots and lots of new fans!

We head to bed really weary and manage another good nights sleep! From our perspective splitting the camping out into sections has really helped us in this getting a decent night.

Ozomatli
review by: James Tayler

photos by: Andy Pitt

Wednesday 13th to Sunday 17th July 2011
Larmer Tree Gardens, near Tollard Royal (about 16 miles W of Salisbury), on the Wilts./Dorset border, SP5 5PT, England MAP
weekend tickets sold out, day tickets left for Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday
daily capacity: 4000
last updated: Thu 30th Jun 2011


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