This festival just gets bigger and better!
Bearded Theory first came to my attention three years ago, when I noticed a truly impressive line up for such a small event. We were lucky enough to win tickets the following year, and loved it. Going back this year, despite the location change I was expecting more of the same, but this was certainly not the case. Now in its eighth year, there was much MUCH more of the same and more so.
The team have nailed it. While it no longer feels like you’ve stumbled upon somebody’s private party, Bearded has by no means lost the feeling of being a friendly, non commercial party promoting friendliness and fun.
One of the best things about Bearded Theory is that they are excellent at responding to feedback. Last year, the toilets were awful and got a lot of complaints, so this year, they used a different company and had possibly the cleanest toilets ever seen at a festival of that size. This year there have been a large number of complaints about the distance from the car parks to the camping sites, and having to negotiate steps with trolleys and buggies, and a big mix up with drop off and pick up points being closed and poorly advertised. Bearded have already stated that this has been noted, so I am sure it will be better next year. I would also hope that they relocate and enlarge disabled camping as it was very cramped and not easily navigable with a wheelchair or scooter. While the access to the main site was great as it was so close, it also meant that it was ever so noisy into the night as the Disco Shed and Magical Sounds played late, into the early morning. It would have been better located in the campervan area, I think.
A huge focal point of Bearded Theory is being family friendly. They have an extensive children’s area, but pretty much the whole site is great for all ages, my own children enjoying making a dreamcatcher, and participating in a drum circle inside the Earth Area. The Children’s village was not hosted by Angel Gardens this year, as I had expected. While I did miss the enormous amount of personality that they fill the area with, and their fire jugglers, this year’s Bearded Children were still exceptionally well catered for. The village had a baby area, a toddler area, a craft tent, a pampering tent and a teen area. There was also a tent which hosted yoga in the mornings, and shows in the afternoon. There was an arena in the Children’s Village which was generally an area for Bearded children to practise their hula hooping and other circus skills. However, we were also lucky enough to enjoy shows put on by Folk Friendzy, who were so good I expect to see a few of them graduating to Lord of the Dance one day. My daughter probably had the most fun in the bracelet making tent. The ladies there were very helpful there and one of them even managed to sneak a photo of my daughter who would only pull silly faces when I had the camera! The kids café was wonderfully welcoming and great value. The teen area offered free DJing and graffiti workshops, although they did often get filled with younger children – my seven year old loved joining a pirate band!
There was a bottle warming facility in the Children’s Village and also up by the woodland stage in the evening.
The varied stages were diverse in their own line-ups including a well balanced mix of old and new. The main stage – The Pallet – attracted big crowds for New Model Army, Back to the Planet, The Mission, The Beat, Buzzcocks, culminating with James and fireworks on the Sunday. We didn’t venture into Gail Something Else’s tents as I assumed there wouldn’t be much in there for little ones. We did sit within listening distance when Fruitbat’s band Abdoujaparov were on though – they were excellent, and delivered what they promised in their 1977 style punk. The Magical Sounds tent boasted an impressive of, among others, Eat Static, Zion Train, Transglobal Underground and Banco de Gaia.
My son isn’t great in noisy tents, but we were fortunate enough to catch a bonus show put on by the deliciously steampunk Drum Machine just outside Magical Sounds, before their main show inside the tent. They were one of the main highlights for my whole family as their unique style and enthusiasm is tough to rival. They are so inventive with the music they produce, I could watch them again and again.
The Woodland Stage was even more eclectic. One of the biggest crowds there must have been for Mr Motivator! He had everybody dancing around and shaking their bottoms with him!
Opposite the Woodland stage, there was a lovely café, even serving roasts on Sunday. The last act in the woods on the Sunday night was Neville Staple, who of course filled the area and then some! I imagine he’ll be on the main stage next time.
Eagerly anticipated were Bearded Theory Festival favourites, The Red Barrows. Wonderfully choreographed, they perform their daring feats of wheelbarrow agility, barrowing in and out of each other, and ‘flying’ through a hoop and over another hoop of fire! Their show ends involving their younger fans, by inviting them to throw water balloons at the Red Barrow pilots. They are a great team – so much fun, and a great find by Bearded. I do hope they keep them for many more years.
For food, we were literally well catered for. Most of the food stalls were located just inside the festival entrance. We were lucky with the weather this year, but if not, there wouldn’t have been far to run back to the tents to eat in relative comfort. There were also outlets around the site near the main stage, also good planning. There was a good range for all tastes, and the vendors were very accommodating. (I fancied falafel with houmous. The Chai tent did falafel but not houmous, but the lovely Toasties and Baguettes stall were happy for me to get some houmous from them to complete my chosen meal.) Most, if not all, of the stalls offered cheaper, smaller portions or had a separate menu for children. It was all reasonably priced. The beer was cheap too, at less than £4 a pint. There were four local ales, the staple lagers, and the cider was Thatcher’s Gold.
The fairground rides were better than the run of the mill ones that you’d find everywhere, and not too pricey with never a big queue (probably due to how much else was on offer for free). There were the expected ferris wheel, boat swings and bouncy slide, but also a massive Sky Ride (scarily high aeroplane swings); a row of rodeo bulls, lulling riders into a false sense of security by starting off slowly, and then amusing onlookers by suddenly throwing most of them off); and a coconut shy.
Bearded also manages to bring out in its attendees, the same level of quirky fun that captures the spirit of what festivals are about. Here you will find the people who really reassure you that you’re in the right place. It is great to see a group of pikachus, and then chase bubbles as you spot a family of gnomes going past being offered free hugs by fluffy rainbow people as your ears filter out three of four sound systems trying to isolate your favourite tune. It’s the something for everyone aspect that makes Bearded Theory such a success.
My daughter wrote her own review:-
By Cerys Prescott (11)
Bearded Theory is a great family festival. There was enjoyable entertainment for both kids and adults. If I’m being honest, the layout of camping wasn’t prefect, as there wasn’t enough space in the disabled campsite. Anyway, I loved the entertainment, especially in the Children’s Village. In here, I enjoyed bracelet making, pampering, live shows and magic shows (all of which were free!) If you bring your kids, they’ll love the red barrows. This event is extremely fun, and who knows?… You might asked to join in!
My family and I enjoyed the bands that played, especially my brother who was happily singing along to Buzzcocks and attempting to sing along to his new favourite band, Back to the Planet.
This festival provided a wide range of food. This was extremely helpful as my brother and I are both fussy eaters! The staff were especially kind at the ‘French Crepes’ and ‘Milkshakes’ (as these stalls were where I spent most of my money!) In my opinion, the crepes were a little overpriced, but were still delicious. The milkshake store offered great flavours like chocolate orange (my favourite), Mint Aero and Oreo.
All in all, this festival was one to remember. We visited two years ago, when it was in a different place and wasn’t as good. Last year everyone was complaining about the toilets. This year they’ve upped their game and made it the best it’s ever been.