Review (2)

Wychwood Music Festival 2005

published: Fri 9th Sep 2005

Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th June 2005
Cheltenham Racecourse, Prestbury Park ,Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 4SH, England MAP
£69 w/e adults, £50 w/e 11-18 yr olds, £5 camping per ticket.
last updated: Thu 12th May 2005

Tea, cake and grass

...........are my memories of this year’s Wychwood festival and a clichéd sum-up of my festival experience. But that was the vibe; smiley fairy-types baking fresh cakes in front of me, and a nice cup of tea on the grass. An ultimately chilled-out time. It was a first-time festival that left fond memories for next year. In this way, Wychwood is on the right track. It seemed to know what its audience wanted, hearty snacks and good, clean fun.

It was a family occasion and a music-lovers festival, for artists who have embraced music and culture from other nations. It aims to promote a strong message of a fantastic, vibrant, peaceful and harmonious music world that is out there to share. Its mission is simple: to enjoy music and help communities who have shared their musical traditions. They do this with the help of Oxfam. Oxfam benefits financially, gaining 10% of the ticket sales they make in 2006 and a proportion of the profits. It also gets the opportunity to raise awareness of global cultural traditions through on-site speakers.

So, the two organisations promote common goals, to overcome poverty and suffering. Wychwood already has good media backing, the BBC were on board this year.

Wychwood calls itself a 'world roots music and arts festival with a strong contemporary crossover'. This meant music was varied and interesting. Funky and bouncing Jaga on the Sunday carried me away happily into the hills. Highlights were Warsaw Village Band and Jim Morrey, English folk with a modern twist, went down well. There was famous folk in form of Steve Earle, he spoke his mind and people liked it. Female Finnish vocal groups, Vartinna, were most entertaining. And Club Wychwood saw a vibrant mood with back-bendingly impressive break dancing and an encouraging crowd.

I found the tone of the festival to be holistic and honest. A solar-powered tea tent offered all different organic teas, the likes of some I'd never heard, rooibush? But what I liked here were the random student-house mugs, return them for your 50p deposit. And then there was a great alternative to Pizza Hut, all wholemeal flour and fresh stuff, your pizza baked on request. You sat on the matting and miniature floor seating, no silly ticket, you were not a number in a line, you awaited your name. And pizza man would call when it was your turn, like he'd known you forever.

And I've mentioned the cakes. Proper cakes, big farmhouse affairs served by the chunk to suit the munchies. As I said, it's important to know your audience.

What I liked particularly was the other stuff going on at the festival. Workshops were free and friendly in getting people involved. I did a poetry workshop. I've never written a poem in my life but, well, I wrote a poem and it turned out quite nicely indeed.

It was relaxing and motivating to be immersed in an environment of positive creativity. And it struck me that it is equally as positive to be immersing children in such an environment. An environment that encourages them to use their minds and bodies, rather than to sit numb and stale, playing computer games or being glued to a TV.

People should be exposed to such things, to stimulate and motivate them. It is what a lot may get wrong, and omit from their lives. Some lack creative positive experience which can lead to new things I think, new thinking. And a new belief in our own potential to be creative and improve in new hobbies.

I say this after my recent and welcome immersion in a world of festivals and being with friends juggling and spinning poi and reading poetry for entertainment. Sitting in the park and playing is enough to keep us amused. It is important to play and to try things out, experiment and learn.

But more encouraging, still, was seeing the rest of the festival goers 'have a go' and get involved with the various arts and crafts. And the children, refreshingly pleasant children, all with new poi, spinning them round and round, learning new tricks. This is beneficial, I believe, an example of a good healthy hobby that promotes determination through sustained practice of a new skill.

This is all in keeping with Wychwood's mission to create an intimate and new experience of something cultural or creative, to encourage customers to experience and not spectate.

And I would hope for next year that Wychwood make more of the healing field and less of the funfair that had no place (as I’m sure they now realise).

I particularly enjoyed the good crowd that weekend, positive through the rainy bits. Is it politically correct to say that the definite no chavs presence was a bonus? But instead there were wonderful hippy families, such as the one I spotted all crashed out on each other on the grass. Aside, I dislike the term hippy, it infers dippiness I think, but 'hippy' is more an open and calm and creative state of mind I would say, in this case. It does not mean monged-out and vacant, but thoughtful indeed. I think this is what some mightn't get. But anyway, there were hippies about at Wychwood, as we'd say. And I got talking to an awesome mother and son combination at one point, the mother a little crazy, yes, and she talked of how they roamed the festivals. She was encouraging her son to give people massages for cash, learn a skill that he can rely on, fend for himself. It was an unconventional relationship and way, certainly, but that boy had so much respect. There was total mutual respect there and it worked.

So, I encountered random fairies, babies in the funkiest hats, old and young, cool and a bit odd. Everyone got on with it, and at the risk of sounding corny, there were lots of silly smiles about. I said I wouldn’t be corny, but a little community formed. And I didn't find any of the usual festival-goer gripes, no litter, no trouble and the port-a-loos had soap, for goodness sake. It is all about the little things. And we just bimbled about, from place to place, it was a nicely manageable size to do so.

Wychwood is heading in the right direction in encouraging a festival experience and not spectation. And it should certainly relish in focusing and developing variety and talent, new skills and play. To positive creative experience I say, and to good, big cakes.

review by Karen Britton

Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th June 2005
Cheltenham Racecourse, Prestbury Park ,Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 4SH, England MAP
£69 w/e adults, £50 w/e 11-18 yr olds, £5 camping per ticket.
last updated: Thu 12th May 2005


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