This is the 9th Wychwood festival to take place, which is a tragedy for me as it means I have missed 8 years of this fun filled, family friendly, yet modest event, that gently launches you into the summer festival period. Set in the grounds of Cheltenham race course and overlooked by the Cotswold Hills, this venue is used to horseplay of a four-legged nature, but with neigh a nag in sight, Prestbury Park comes alive with a wide spectrum of characters.
The first days sound track set the pace for what would shape up to be quite the eclectic mix. Early evening The Beat proved how they secured their rightful place high up the Ska tree. With Rankin Roger & Son getting the crowd stomping to the ever popular Ska beats. Toploader followed with their breezy, sing a long songs, that keep the crowd on a high. Friday night headliners Soul II Soul with their blend of R&B, Soul and Electronica, surprised many who thought them a one song band (Back to life). With each song played you couldn’t help regret not paying more attention 25 years ago. But better late than never!! They exit the stage, leaving the crowd craving for more.
Saturday sees the music shift to a broader range. Unfortunately the delectable Kate Nash pulls out poorly. The Wedding Present are a crowd pleaser as they work through some of their phenomenal body of work. A French twist next from festival favourites The Caravan Palace, who’s zany Gypsy Jazz, Electro swing, is a sight and sound to behold, a big band wall of music fronted by the mesmerising stage presence that is Zoé Colotis a must see. The night’s headliners are 80’s Electro New Wave sensation The Human League and with a catalogue of hits, the crowd were on their feet from the opening “Mirror Man” to the ever popular “Don’t You Want Me” ending another great night with “Together in Electric Dreams”. The set and backdrop pay homage to the futuristic approach of the 80’s, that seem just as futuristic and relevant today, Little wonder so many artists since, have voiced this Flamboyant and eccentric group as an influence.
Sunday becomes a field of laughter with the humorous yet skilful take on classical and popular songs by the Ukele Orchestra of Great Britain. Smiles a plenty but with admiration from this musically talented troop. The laughter continues as Bill Bailey and his side splitting comedy take over. Nobody being prepared for the music, jokes and insanity of this middle-aged madman. This massive force could have easily have been the finale for the main stage, but the organisers decided to bring the evening to a close by treating an appreciative crowd to the Dub Powerhouse that is Dreadzone. This reggae tinged set was the perfect end to a fabulous weekend, having the crowd bounce and groove out the evening.
A couple of standout performances on the smaller but no lesser stages included Becky Rose, with her one gal, synth based beats and Craig Charles funk and soul show, where the crowd were whipped up in to a frenzy to match that of the energetic, multi-talented showman.
When the main attractions have finished and the majority of the crowd have turned in for the night, one stage is determined to party on regardless. As I approach the big top tent with strobes escaping from the entrance I can’t help but think that there is something missing? Upon entry I am handed a pair of wireless headphones and as I walk on through to a sea of crazy revellers it is apparent that I have entered a nut house. This is the silent disco, a room full of clubbers and two DJ’s but no music through the loud speakers. I put the headphones on and find myself instantly condemned to the madhouse as I flick between the two DJ’s and adjust my dancing style accordingly.
Music for all genres means that young or old you will at some point find your dancing shoes and at the very least discover new and exciting sounds. There are over 100 workshops to choose from, complimented with cuisine from the four corners of the world.
A lasting memory of the festival will be that of a man releasing another wave of bubbles they glisten like the northern lights as they pass over the light filled stage. Wychwood really captures the essence of what a festival is about with a great energy and atmosphere.