Nibley festival is located in Gloucestershire, close to Wootton under Edge and easily accessible from the M5. The event takes place on the village cricket pitch, daily capacity is 3500. The majority of punters are from the immediate area due to the ticket sales method of offering tickets to villagers, employees of the main sponsor and then general sale of the remainder ensuring a sell out in very short order.It does tend to give a “village fete with music” feel to the event. The festival is run on a not for profit basis and staffed entirely by volunteers.
The festival is a Saturday event but there is camping and camper van fields adjacent to the site that were well used. Live music, a silent disco, a bar, and food were on offer for the Friday night campers and villagers. There were basic but good quality vegetarian and meat choices to eat on Friday evening, and bacon, sausage and egg rolls and coffee on Saturday and Sunday morning. The bar offered 2 decent ales at £3.50 a pint, 2 ciders, lager and wine at reasonable prices. The children were kept amused on Saturday morning with a variety of organised activities and games for all ages. The camping and campervan / caravan fields had a spectacular backdrop with views across the Bristol Channel and towards Wales.
The festival site situated on the cricket field was large enough and well laid out. There was a bar offering the same choices and prices as the Friday night which was well staffed and waiting times were short. Around the outside of the site were a surprisingly varied and good value range of food including Portuguese mezze, Thai, Mexican, pizza, and vegetarian. There were also some retail opportunities including antiques, clothing, jewellery, and Festival merchandise. The local church was providing teas and cakes for those needing a sit down.
The kid’s area was well attended, a large craft tent with staff was always busy, and the kids had the opportunity to make props to go with the Wild West theme of the day. There was a circus skills set up with a large variety of juggling aids, hula hoops, tightropes and stilts for the kids to try, as well as circus skills displays and other activities in a Big Top tent.
The two side by side main stages were scheduled to see 12 bands, 6 each side with no overlap allowing all acts to run with small gaps. The majority of the crowd were in full picnic mode with chairs, blankets and cool boxes that would rival Henley.
There should have been a seamless transition between bands and stages throughout the day. The first sign of a problem was when the opening band had to quickly switch stages before they could start,the main stage sound appeared to have failed. Jasper in the Company of Others played a good set, followed by Thrill Collins, who the crowd already knew and supported strongly through a set of covers. It was obvious that the technical problems were continuing, the main stage stayed out of action and the third band, Dreaming Spires, continued on the second stage. It had become obvious by the frantic efforts of the sound staff that they were struggling with the fault. Flight Brigade completed their set on the main stage once the sound had been resurrected, followed by Longfellow on the second stage, we thought that maybe the fault was fixed. By The Rivers had the crowd bouncing with a typically ska heavy set on the main stage but after that the technical problems really took effect.
Bare Knuckle Parade never got to play despite setting up. Ward Thomas got their set started, only to be stopped by a failure at the first song. By the time the stage came back up, they were already over time and managed a couple of other songs before having to finish. Land of the Giants and Flyte didn’t even get a chance to set up. The organisers attempted a megaphone announcement from the stage to keep people informed but unless you were within 20 feet it was not heard. The decision to go straight to The Pigeon Detectives was made and eventually they started their set, only for the sound to fail again within a minute. After further failures the announcement was made that live music was no longer possible. Scouting For Girls never played but to their credit, they stayed and signed autographs and hung out with the crowd.
The organisers did manage to get a sound track to play over the PA and it gave the crowd who stayed something to dance to. An impromptu jam also took place in the Big Top tent and an attempt was made to make the best of what there was. Due to the mainly local nature of the crowd, there was a lot of stoicism about the circumstances. People that we talked to were understandably disappointed about the lack of information and having paid for no music if you arrived mid-afternoon onwards. Long periods of silent stages with no idea what was happening characterised the afternoon and early evening.
Despite the events, it was obvious that Nibley has a good offering to make as a single day event where you can sit, socialise and party with friends. As a day out in the sun with good food, good beer and a lovely location, it ticks a lot of boxes.
The technical support however has to improve to ensure that such a major failure is impossible in future. I have never experienced such a comprehensive failure before and I hope that I don’t again. There is sympathy for the volunteer organisers but some serious questions to answer for their technical suppliers as well.
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