Sonisphere far exceeds my expectations

Sonisphere 2010 review

published: Tue 3rd Aug 2010

around the festival site (1)

Friday 30th July to Sunday 1st August 2010
Knebworth House, Hertfordshire, SG1 2AX, England MAP
£157.50 with camping, £40 Fri, £60 Sat/Sun
daily capacity: 60000
last updated: Mon 26th Jul 2010

A long time ago I used to regularly attend one day rock and metal events, they were messy, ugly affairs, and not something I've considered going to for the last decade. Certainly not somewhere I'd consider taking my family to.

around the festival site (1)
Sonisphere turned out to be nothing like I expected. A three day event with two main stages chock full of metal legends, and smaller stages offering a chance to catch up and coming talent. A corwd of characters but no trouble, an upbeat vibe, and a diverse age range with generations enjoying the rock music of their parents.

Okay so the site has nothing aimed at kids but there was nothing that caused me to feel they shouldn't be there, there was nothing to suggest this was a testorone fuelled binge fest, where crowds bottle the acts and beat each other up either.

How times have changed, and for the better I feel. The events I went to never were as bad as The Daily Mail would have had you believe, but they were edgy occasions where you had to be wary, change the music on offer and the swathes of black T-shirts and images from the fields of Sonisphere could be a festival anywhere in the country.

Well, actually, that's not strictly true. Many other events have corporate sponsorship all over their site, I was surprrised to notice Sonisphere had none of that. All the site flags just had Sonisphere emblazoned on them, the beer tents had tiny price lists - half the time I couldn't even read them, and the biggest banner I saw all weekend was for Hobgoblin Ale in the Bohemia bar - a worthy if unlikely sponsor if it was one.

Even the main stage screens were devoid of adverts, offering instead advice like beware of pick pockets, keep flags to the sides of the arena, and the like.

around the festival site (1)
Okay so there was the Cola recycling tent, where armfuls of enpty bottles were swapped for branded goodies. But that was pretty tucked away, and all the stalls and caterers had banners for their own offerings of pretty much the same size.

Bottles of soft drinks are priced at £2 and energy drinks £3. Beers (including ale) are reasonably priced at under £4, with a chance to get 10p back on the cup, provided you can hang onto it once you've finished it. There are profiteers dilligently collecting them all weekend, keeping the site much cleaner. It would be cleaner still if people didn't keep spilling noodles all over the place, there were piles of them all over the site all weekend, like some weird sprouting weed. Food options were as you expect primarily burgers, pizza, and fried stuff, alongside Thai, bagettes, pasties and the aforementioned noodles, reasonably priced too at under £7 (that's a competitive price for festivals this year).

Interestingly, this is another festival that helps support the upkeep of a country house, and one in need of a fair bit of restoration work. In this case of course it's the gothic Knebworth House, the home of famous rock concerts and at one time Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer Lytton who not only wrote occult and sci fi novels but also coined the phrase "the great unwashed", suitable for this festival, although there are showers available on site.

around the festival site (1)
There's no kid's area but the event is fairly suitable to take your kids along to, if they're fans of the music. Babes in arms and toddlers wouldn't be recommended, as queues for the loos are long and the venue has a decent slope for wearing out the arms of pushchair users. All the stages are pretty close together, with disabled customers able to watch both main stages just by turning around on their hillcrest location.

Despite urinals dotted around, even on the walls of the main arena beside the main stage (great idea - as punters are going to go against them anyway), there's long queues for the portaloos at times, particularly between acts. However the trick was to find ones in the less travelled areas of Bohemia. Whilst it is a rock festival, they weren't in too bad a condition to start off, but by the end of the night some were in a state.

The campsites sprawled from the arena and the house, and whilst family camping and campervans were furthest away their residents benefited from a night's sleep after the noise of the arena died away. Anywhere else and those trying to kip were awakened by noisy revellers screaming or falling against their tents all night long.

around the festival site (3)
Three rainfree days meaning you could sit anywhere, or even snooze in the sunshine certainly added to the atmosphere. A wet event would have led to severely restricted seating options (although you could take in fold up chairs) there didn't appear to be any seating or benches available.

There's a load of crazy characters in the crowd but the prize has to go to the guys in black speedos with their balls hangin' out, and perfectly dead pan faces, unnerving and amusing.

There's also a much less obvious police presence than I was expecting, I see the occasional cycling policeman in the arena but mostly both them and security are very low key, something I think helps foster the positive atmosphere.

The best thing about the festival? Has to be the sound quality from the main stages to the three smaller ones, it's all clearly audible and makes the festival experience all the more enjoyable.

around the festival site (1)
review by: Scott Williams

photos by: Karen Williams / Sarah Collie

Friday 30th July to Sunday 1st August 2010
Knebworth House, Hertfordshire, SG1 2AX, England MAP
£157.50 with camping, £40 Fri, £60 Sat/Sun
daily capacity: 60000
last updated: Mon 26th Jul 2010


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