A first time trip to Y Not Festival led us to drive to the Peak District on 30 July. We arrived before gates at 1400, set up and wandered across to the site around 1500. There were sizeable queues that were well organised with a snaking system leading to a proper old school bag search with sniffer dogs. Everybody was treated to the search and once my small day sack with camera had been squeezed, rummaged through, and discounted, we walked into the site to find a bar.
We had early entry, £14 extra, that let us in on Thursday with 4 bands to entertain us. There were a good percentage of the punters making up the Thursday crowd, and they probably could have sold more judging by the queues on Friday for the general opening at 0900. The attendees were on the younger side, loving everything and showing huge enthusiasm for all. They were going to have a good time with humour and a smile.
The site is laid out with camping and campervans surrounding the two arena areas. The main area contained the Big Gin stage, the smaller Allotment stage, some clothing outlets and food stalls. The second arena was made up of three distinct areas. The Sgt Peppers Meadows had The Giant Squid stage, the Saloon Bar stage, a fairground complete with roller disco and dodgems, a large bar tent and some food and retail stalls. Revolution Green had the Quarry stage, the Hog and Barrel stage and cider bar, and a few food and drink stalls. The Octopuses’ Garden had smaller stages, Bassweight, Xanadu, The Octopuses’ Garden, Castle Bravo and the Tippling House. There were also a good range of things for children to do during the day, and some fantastic cakes for sale.
The bar in Sgt Peppers Meadows had a beer festival going on, lots of choice of beers ranging from a 3.6 percent session bitter to an over 6 percent heavyweight that was very good, all at £4.50 or under. There were some ciders, but only sweet and medium, no dry.The main bar and a mini Hobgoblin trailer bar, offered a more limited range of beers, lager, and surprisingly Hooch, all for £4.00 a pint.
The food choice throughout was slightly limited for people like me that normally stick to veggie options at festivals, no danger of starving to death but it could be more varied for my liking although that is a personal view. The beer calories more than made up for it though, as did the brilliant chocolate cake.
The four acts for Thursday gave the crowd a great start to the weekend. Bloxed beats, Asylums, Beans on Toast, and Ash played great sets. Beans climbing the rigging ensured that it was all covered up for the rest of the weekend to stop any other miscreants attempting the climb.
The music offering from the two bigger stages was nicely varied. The Friday main stage line up included Honeyblood, The Lancashire Hotpots who seemed to be compulsory, Slaves who had a huge crowd, and Reverend And The Makers who has an equally large and enthusiastic crowd. Snoop Dogg headlined with a typically slick set and a large audience. The exit from the main arena after the headliner set was restricted by the way security had set their barriers and it took 15 minutes to get out, far too difficult for that size crowd and risking a crush if it hadn’t been for the sensible attitude of the punters.
Saturday showcased a great variety of acts ranging from Saint Raymond to Basement Jaxx via Ocean Colour Scene. The exit from the arena after the headliner was better than Friday with a less restrictive exit but I had walked back to my van and been there for 10 minutes and I could still hear the guy with the megaphone asking people to keep moving. Something to be improved on in my opinion.
Sunday had great sets from The Strypes, Rhodes, and King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys, before Johnny Marr made me very happy just by doing There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. The rest of the set was fantastic as well. Primal Scream headlined but I admit a strong personal dislike of them so went elsewhere .
The Quarry stage had three acts at the start of each day from BBC Introducing, each differing and getting a deserved break. Patawawa opened the stage and impressed with an accomplished 30 minutes, Tyler Nugent, and Crosa Rosa followed, three very individual acts from the North. The stage later in the day showed us Rag n Bone Man, Public Service Broadcasting, and Less Than Jake as headliners. Saturday had We Are Scientists headlining with a belting set, but also one of the BBC Introducing acts, Martin Luke Brown, impressing early. Rae Morris, Summer Camp, and Man Made also showed the variety on offer. Sunday highlights for me were Kim Churchill, Solemn Sun and the mightily impressive The Bohicas. Headliner Nick Mulveywas reported to have been excellent.
The Giant Squid stage was not as varied as the two main, and I admit I loved the essentially loud guitar based stage. It is not to everyone’s taste but Y Not know what their people want, and they got this stage spot on. Pulled Apart By Horses were excellent headliners for Friday, earlier bands such as Get Inuit, and Woahnows making me grin. Audience participation at all times was fully immersive. Saturday saw a superb and extraordinary set from Bo Ningen, mass bouncing from Hacktivist and Don Broco at the top of the bill. Allusondrugs early doors also showed how volume is done. Sunday had two bands that I have never managed to see, Nine Black Alps didn’t disappoint but Rolo Tomassi were mind blowing. Watching the diminutive smiley blond figure of Eva go from soprano girly voice to screaming banshee thrashing about the stage is a sight to behold. Unique and one of the highlights of this year for me.
The other small venues carried a range of acts, DJs, open mic sessions and what looked like a bunch of art students at one stage trying to do improv, unfortunately badly. All areas were well populated and after the main stages ended at night, the population increased markedly and the party continued. Mr Meerkat in the Bassweight tent played an excellent set late at night.
Y Not is a tidy festival in its tenth year. They have a loyal crowd, we talked to a number of returnees that consider it “their festival” having grown up as the event has grown. One couple on their 5th visit, Mark Leeming and Nikki Eagleton, got engaged at the top of the Helter Skelteron Sunday. They both considered it to be the right place as they met at the festival 5 years ago. That seemed fairly typical of the crowd loyalty and enthusiasm for all things Y Not. The young demographic is well catered for, and although that seems to be the main audience it is not exclusively all about them. All ages are catered for and it works well.
There was an organised paint fight on Sunday which involved a lot of people and some that never intended to be a part of it but just happened to be in the grid square. The children’s areas were all busy and well controlled, there was a campfire as a focal point for the night time, shisha tent if you wanted, open mic for those that could do something entertaining, and mass participation fancy dress on Saturday.
There are many good things about this festival that far outweigh my minor niggles, it is certainly a good value offering that can compete well against similar sized events.
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