overview

Sunrise Celebration

published: Mon 11th Jun 2007

Thursday 31st May to Monday 4th June 2007
South Somerset (exact location TBC), England
early bird tickets £65 (later £80), children £22, parking extra
last updated: Fri 18th May 2007

Wow.

What a great little festival. Sunrise Celebration is only in its second year, but has already won an UK award for being the most Socially Responsible Festival in 2006. A ringing endorsement from Michael Eavis was quoted on the Sunrise website, he apparently said that those who missed out on Glastonbury tics this year could do worse than go to Sunrise instead (no pressure!).

I caught the train from London to Yeovil...and after nearly 2 hours of queuing and going back and forth between 2 ticket booths (half an hour walk between them, oi, guys, not everyone has a car!), I finally made it onto the site at about 19.00 on Thursday (31/05). Instead of pitching my tent, I made a beeline for the prettily decorated Waveform stage, drawn in by the seductive sounds of ZubZub, my favourite dance outfit, complete with live instruments. What a way to start, I just dumped my luggage and went in for some dancing, meeting and greeting. Just as well, 'cause whilst I was shaking my wellies some more rain refreshed the already muddy site. It didn't last though, and ended with a beautiful rainbow spanning the whole area - definitely a good omen; this was the last we saw of the rain (apart from some slight drizzle on Sunday afternoon), the sun finally came out to stay and the muddy paths mostly dried out during Friday. There also was a misty full moon, and, most appropriately, a beautiful sunrise to be admired every morning by those who didn't believe in going to bed. The festival site is flat and lacks trees, but offers great views for those who enjoy watching the skies.

around the site (2)

Layout of the site had changed and improved quite a bit from last year, although I found orientation a bit tricky at first (ok, my sense of orientation is so bad that it's the stuff of jokes amongst friends & family, but other people told me they had the same problem). My initial confusion was made worse by a slight mismatch of programme-map and reality; e.g. the “second stage” (according to map) was called the FishSeeksBicycle stage in reality, and, to confuddle me further, had a huge “Sunrise Bar” sign over one entrance ...3 names for one stage? No wonder even the stewards were confused, many of them were not that well briefed and couldn't be of much orientation assistance, no matter how good their intentions. The information booth was fine - if you could find it.

Never mind, by Friday night I’d found my bearings (or maybe just stopped caring). The layout (12 separate themed areas in a large circle) meant that I eventually got back to the beginning, no matter which way I bumbled. The bigger site accommodated more people without feeling crowded and did not have a large empty space in the middle this time, instead the popular ID spiral area was well placed at the “crossroads”, and the centre of the site was brightened up by a colourful wishing tree and a (rather racy) male & female wicker sculpture.

around the site (2)

Sunrise is produced by Family Gathering Ltd, an ethic events company founded in 2005, and the festival is about much more than music and arts; a lot of work and emphasis goes into demonstrating opportunities for best ecological practise. A whole area of the festival was dedicated to “permaculture” systems that try to achieve sustainability and ecological integration. A lot of the food for sale was tasty, healthy, organic – and vegetarian. I felt a bit sorry for committed carnivores (ok, not really!).

I am not so keen on some of the more esoteric aspects and activities and try to avoid them (but my distrust of astrology apparently makes me a typical Aquarian - can't win with some people, eh?). A wide range of workshops catered for these interests.

Fun for kids included: a circus, an arts & crafts area, horse riding on Saturday at the horse drawn camp, ponies & other animals to get acquainted with, and there were lots of families with children about – the organisers had taken some of last year’s comments to heart and made sure the festival fitted in with the school holidays this time (they failed to prove-read some of the programme, though, and still referred to an earlier choice of date in there).

around the site (1)

With a larger site, and a lot more people attending, the festival nearly broke even this time (it made a loss last year), and the potential to cover all costs in future years seems good. Many workers were volunteers, and the crew generally appeared to be a bit overstretched, particularly towards the end (they had to arrive early, and put up with the miserable weather earlier in the week).

Generally, staff were very helpful, although a few people encountered rather heavy handed security. Some performances were compromised by the odd technical problem or power cut, at least one got cancelled due to stage license problems, so there is still some organisational work to be done.

Also, more waterpoints are needed. And more toilets, ecological or other; the eternal festival problem - enough said on that subject.

The horse drawn camp is, in principle, a good idea for on site transport, but there are some problems with capacity & charges.

around the site (1)

A festival at this scale cannot (and should not) compromise its finances by booking mega expensive bands; and music is a matter of taste, but I thought the line up was wonderful.

On Friday the main stage line up appeared to be themed around space rock: following a gentle opening by the Avalonian Free State Choir, Dream Machine took over. They should have played a later slot, really, but what an opener to a space rocking evening, excellent musicians in great form with new material to show. The set was great, if too short, but fortunately they played another one to a packed out Galactic Central tent (on Saturday night). Things moved on with Tarantism and Didgeridoos, until it was time for the Ozric Tentacles (now a 4 piece and including the Eat Static team, making them sound tight again) and a separate Eat Static to finish.

Ozric Tentacles

Saturday’s headliners were Alabama 3 and The Egg, the latter, unfortunately, started their set a bit late and got less than an hour play time as the main stage had a 2am curfew - too short! (btw, the programme stated that The Egg had been more or less dormant for years – that’s quite wrong). Ska Cubano did not make it to their Sunday night slot for some reason and were replaced by Planet Man and the Internationalz. Must have been a disappointment to some people, but worked for me. Dreadzone followed in typical form, but I missed part of the set ‘cause I felt drawn to The Bays who were playing at the FishSeeksBicycle stage (tssk, these overlaps!).

Many of the smaller stages had excellent line ups too. I am told that Lou Rhodes packed out the Bimble Inn (everyone’s favourite watering hole), and I very much enjoyed sets by Space Pirates (what if Gong had not split up.), Dan Arborise (the loveliest folk-rock-space guitar around), Transient Dreams & Paul Didge (yes, that did involve a Didgeridoo), Land of Dreams (an atmospheric end to Thursday evening), an unscheduled Champignon set at the Bimble Inn, Peyote for President (some very danceable Latin vibes), Dirty Social (a bit of young straight indie-type rock for a change), Emunah (Russian folk meets Palestinian rap, no kidding) and good old festival stables such as Baka Beyond, Mordekkers, Dragonsfly and Zion Train (who packed the stage full of dancing girls from the audience towards the end of their set). God knows how I managed to miss the 3 Daft Monkeys who were playing around the site, but I did. Better luck next time. Instead, I stumbled over the enchantingly dressed and named Chapatti Tree Pixies and their juggling skills.

3 Daft Monkeys

Some musicians must have had bleeding lips & hands by the end of the festival, considering how many different gigs they played. Several performers had trouble getting their heavy equipment (no jokes, please, I mean amps and keyboards!) or indeed themselves on site – some attendance list were not as up to date as they could have been. On the up side, at least all the people I spoke to got paid this time, and got a promise that outstanding debts from last year would eventually be honoured.

The line up for some smaller stages did not match the information in the programme and there were no proper line up displays for the ID Spiral. I’m glad I made enquiries about a 2nd Eat Static gig at the Spiral stage at 4.00am on Monday morning - they played for nearly 3 hours, with the sun coming up. It was a fitting end to one of the best festivals I've ever been to - didn't get much sleep all weekend and was completely knackered as I got home, but hey, it was really worth it. I didn't speak to a single punter who didn't have a really good time. Can’t wait for next year – bring it on!

Did I forget something? Ah yes, all the friendly people who made it so memorable just by being there, the Thai lanterns going off everywhere, and Saturday night was dressing up night. But I won’t even try to describe what that was like – you’ll have to look at the pictures.

Waveform Dance Stage
review by: Katharina

photos by: Phil Bull

Thursday 31st May to Monday 4th June 2007
South Somerset (exact location TBC), England
early bird tickets £65 (later £80), children £22, parking extra
last updated: Fri 18th May 2007


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