Whilst travelling through the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside, it was hard to know what to expect from a festival that is still relatively unknown despite its maturity. In its 18th year, organisers of Truck Festival had promised it to be one of their most spectacular events to date, and with it being a sell-out the hype had certainly reached peak level.
The family are all delighted when they learn that we have the chance to review the 19th Truck Festival – a sell out THREE day festival on a farm in Oxfordshire run by the Y-Not Festival team. In recent years Truck has been a two day event, and it’s nice to see that it’s settled enough to return to its former three-day status.
I have to say that we are all really looking forward to our return – we haven’t made it to Truck since 2013. Before we even get on to the farm, it is obvious that the route to the festival has undergone some improvements - we don’t have to queue in the village even though we arrive at what I would consider to be a normally busy time for a festival.
The relaxed start to the weekend continues when we get to the site – the car park and accreditation experiences both run like clockwork, and the family and accessible camping areas are only a short, flat walk from both the car park and the arenas and provide a good supply of loos. My first impressions are that the site itself seems to be more clearly laid out, and it should be easy to get around, even if you have a pushchair with you.
As soon as we can, we get down to the arenas and look around and see what’s on offer. It follows a similar layout as previous years, with a respectable amount of food stalls, bars, and loos wherever you need them.
One of the things I’ve always liked about Truck is that it has a big community and charity vibe with many of the food stalls run by local Rotary clubs and charities. I’m relieved to find that, even though the festival seems to have matured in other ways (with its shiny programme forexample), it has kept its commitment to supporting charitable causes.
There’s a wide range of food available to appeal to all culinary tastes - pizza, fish and chips, burritos, pulled pork rolls are all on offer close to the main arena, and it’s mostly reasonably-priced – we find that we can feed all four of us adequately by sharing two pizzas and two garlic breads for £22. From the bars, local ales and ciders, are available; it wasn’t the cheapest festival beer we have had, but it doesn’t break the bank either. Wine and cocktails can be purchased from independent stall holders and these both seem to be popular too.
The last time we came to the festival there was a food tent that contained several food outlets in one place. The idea has expanded massively since then to the enormous Feel Good Food tent in the third arena. So much choice available from breakfast rolls and porridge, to salad boxes, children’s meals, smoothies, cakes, and macaroni cheese. This food emporium does a great trade all weekend, but the queues are long at peak times, especially at breakfast which wasn’t good considering I had left the bacon and baps in the freezer at home.
Our ten-year old daughter is a bit disappointed to discover that there aren’t many workshops available over the weekend – one of the things she enjoys about going to festivals is the chance to do new stuff. She tries her hand at archery, and we enjoy making jewellery using the free kit we get from the lady at UV Groovy. However, looking at the lack of workshops from a different angle, I feel that the festival has focused on perfecting the things it’s well-known for – namely providing an amazing line-up and enjoyable festival experience, and that it is remaining true to its roots.
The site itself is easy to get round, and although you can walk from one end to the other in a short space of time, the sections work well to separate the venues, even though the bridge between the second and third arenas becomes congested sometimes. If I have any criticism about the layout, it’s that The Nest and the Veterans and Virgins stage seem too close together – when both venues have bands playing, the sounds compete with each other which is a shame – other festivals we have been to that have a similar layout schedule the acts so as not to clash meaning you can enjoy more music.
Little ones are well-catered for by the Angel Gardens team who take care of all your little Truck monsters needs providing a variety of activities for children from babies to teens. It can be hard work taking small children to a festival; feeding and changing can present real challenges away from home, and sometimes you just need some respite from constantly having to move festival hazards from your crawling baby’s path! Angel Gardens take care of that for you, providing somewhere safe, clean and sheltered away from the main bustle of the festival where you can feed or change your baby, and they can play. For your older children, there are craft activities, and a climbing tower, cabaret, circus skills, and lots and lots of fun. There’s even a children-only portaloo!
We did wonder how our 15 year old would fare over the weekend for things to do in a field. Gaming Retro-bution and the Roland music stand were welcome additions to the activities, and Mr. Motivator caught our eye in the programme. We promote his set as being a whole new fitness experience and, as he’s fitness mad, he’s up for it. Clearly Mr M has a huge following – lots of 90’s Lycra-clad groups of people join us who are clearly up for a party! The children have absolutely no idea what to expect and seeing their reaction to a whole field of people “riding the pony” was priceless!
I know it seems a bit of a shame to come to a festival and watch a film, but with two hot, tired children, a couple of hours chilling out on a beanbag is just what we need to recharge our batteries. Clearly the cinema goes down well with lots of other people too – the films are all well-known, and it always looks busy in there!
So, with all these fun things to do, and great music to see, what else can you do with a bunch of people in a field? Give them bags of powder paint to throw at each other, that’s what! A paint fight is obviously a hugely popular thing to do, and many people come dressed for the occasion!
Sunday morning’s wakeup activity is Reggae aerobics – if you see this advertised at another event, I really recommend that you go along – I can’t imagine a more fun way to get fit and enjoy an hour! The tunes are fast (Major Lazer was a particular hit), and the moves are so much fun!
One of the things I’ve always liked about Truck is that it introduces me to music I’ve never heard of before. This year was no exception and as well as its amazing set of headline artists, its lineup contains some great new bands and artists, some of whom had been chosen by festival-goers themselves.
Jurassic 5 welcome us as the first act we "properly" see on the Friday night, and what a welcome they give. Early Friday evening is such a wonderful point in a festival weekend – you’re on site, the tent is up, and all that you have left to do is have a good time. To me, Jurassic 5 hit that spot perfectly.
I count myself as extremely lucky to have been given the opportunity to see the Manic Street Preachers, I still can’t quite believe I’ve actually seen them – their tunes awaken memories of my 90s self with my first job and car – and it’s fabulous to see them perform live at last. Everything Everything are my husband’s must-see and they don't disappoint. His favourite surprise discovery of the weekend is the delightful skanky ska of Junior Bill whose set has a lovely bouncy rhythm and great positive messages that are perfect for the warm day.
However, my absolute all-time favourite musical moment of the weekend was Spector. These guys seem to have a huge following – when they start playing, people are running into The Nest from all directions in a kind of January Sales style. Or, you know when the tune of the moment comes on in a club and everyone rushes for the dance floor? Well, that’s what happened when Spector started their set - one minute the tent was pretty empty, the next it was heaving with people who are all belting out the tunes.
Truck’s 19th birthday was a great weekend, we all really enjoyed ourselves. I feel the festival is going from strength to strength while retaining its core values and focus, and it’s a great recipe for success!
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