I’ve been excited about Autumn 2016 for a long time now. For starters, I’ve just moved into a flat by myself; it’s old, creaky and sans roommates (as wonderful as I know they can be). So far, I’ve been walking around in my underwear a lot and bumping into furniture, cardboard boxes and standing on pins; but it’s a huge step up from the mud-caked tent I was living in for four nights at the start of September…
Festival No.6 was supposed to be a ‘festival like no other’, and I can’t tell you how excited I was to travel down to Portmeirion in Wales with my best friend (and ex-flatmate) Erin. I’m going to try my best to share the highlights of this small, quirky music festival – but truth be told, something went very wrong this year.
Kudos to Virgin Express for a genuinely great travel experience from Edinburgh to Bangor! On the train I got complementary cocktails, bubbles, a cookie and my face was all glittered up in time for my arrival to the festival. Good start! Little did I know that Erin had already arrived and was sitting in a drizzly cold field saving us a tent spot…for the tent that was on the train with me two hours behind. Slight bad planning, first massive failure of Festival No. 6 to get their information right.
When I arrived, I headed straight for Erin who had been approached repeatedly by security guards concerned for her ‘welfare’. Sorry guys…I was on the Festival Express…The rain was pouring down by this point, but we got the tent up in record time. Inside, the glitter on my face was everywhere and the glue that had touched my hair now made it stick up like a scruffy crown. Time for a beer.
Day two and things were running slowly – the festival wasn’t quite ready. This gave us a good opportunity to explore the magical Portmeirion village before the thousands of festival-goers arrived. It’s hard not to be in love with this colourful little place; it’s nautical and serene; and has a good balance of woodland, estuary and buildings. You could spend all morning exploring the hideaways and lookouts.
We headed up to the Lost in the Woods stage to see Kelvin Jones and then ventured deeper into the woodland to find the other stages and venues. This was pretty special – a music festival with tree-covered DJ sets and dreamcatchers hanging from ancient branches.
There was a festival headdress-making class happening in the town hall which we wanted to check out, along with other craft classes over the weekend. Sadly, we didn’t realise they could only take fifteen people at a time…in a festival of one-thousand times that many people. We didn’t get to join any of the classes we wanted to.
So, after lunch and a browse through the vintage clothing tent, we sat ourselves down on a stripy deck chair in the Central Piazza to make sure we had a seat for The Showhawk Duo – two incredible musicians playing Ibiza club hits on acoustic guitars. To save these seats, we turned up early and saw all of the spoken word and poets beforehand. I’m not a fan of spoken word, but I was in awe of Hollie McNish – her poetry read from her books was phenomenal.
That evening was cold, and more than a little disappointing. At a small, unusual festival like this, I was looking forward to headline acts that were a little bit off-beat (as they had been in previous years). Instead I had Kaiser Chiefs, Bastille and (save me please) Noel Gallagher to look forward to all weekend. Roll on day three…
It had rained all night. A group of drugged up girls on a birthday weekend pitched over our tent and I was rapidly beginning to hate Festival No.6. I had to listen to one of them talking about how she burst into tears when walking back to the tent in the mudslide. Then I heard her unimpressed neighbour tell her she’d unzipped the wrong tent…
After a shaky sleep, Erin and I woke up to a small disaster scene. We had to trudge our way to the welfare tent where we managed to collect the last two ponchos (for a fare of £1 each…). The mud was oozing from everywhere, and the security guards were telling us all to remain positive. A difficult feat when they had you stopping for festival traffic in the rain to pass by every two minutes.
We spent our Saturday afternoon watching comedy. Thank goodness for Nish Kumar – he was incredible. This was after a powercut saw us kicked out of the comedy tent into the rain for an hour, causing one act to give up and leave and everyone else to get very angry. Nish started by asking if we were all alright – he said arriving at the festival in a shroud of mist was like approaching Mount Doom. He also joked that he would only return to the festival this year under specific conditions: the audience had to be severely pissed off, the security staff must be rude to everyone, there was a biblical flood, and several of the acts needed to not turn up. And so he returned!
The comedy tent delay did mean that we missed an hour of music acts. I brushed this off after a small strop. We couldn’t go into the woods because the weather had made it too dangerous, and the main field was a puddle of mud. We settled for a pizza and a somewhat dry spot at a pop-up wine bar that evening. I got drunk on a bottle of red.
Sunday…I was determined no matter what to make the most of this last full day at Festival No.6. Lots of people were already leaving early, but there was no such luck for those who had arrived by train. I say that, but the park and ride campers went back to a serious situation – cars and floodplains don’t mix, surely festival organisers wouldn’t take such a stupid risk? But they did. And some people were stranded for over eight hours waiting to be towed from the field.
Meanwhile, away from the park and ride drama – I was enjoying bands in the re-opened woods and later saw Milky Chance and the amazing Lucy Rose in the Grand Pavilion. We ended the festival with Will Tramp in Studio No.6, and caught an early night before escaping at 7am the next morning.
I call that an adventure mixed with a substantial amount of first world problems.
Where should I go for my next music festival?