The first time we went to Beautiful Days in 2011, we knew we’d found a very special event. This was our fifth Beautiful Days, and it is still our favourite place to be.
We had such a lovely welcome as we approached the information tent, the guy that runs it (I can’t believe we don’t know his name yet) called out, “You’re back!”
We were indeed back at Beautiful Days and everything was as it should be.
Camping at Beautiful Days
There are several options at Beautiful Days for camping including four campervan fields. The family area is Redwoods Camping. This was basically a festival in itself with stalls, play areas and activity tents. There is even a little library. We missed the lady with the matt black van that children are invited to decorate with chalks and paints, but maybe we just didn’t find her.
It has its own bar and homes the bandstand. It is ideally located a short walk from the car parks, and is the closest campsite to all the action in the main arena, accessed by a short scenic walk over a bridge crossing the River Tale.
This is where we camped. The application process was a little different this year, as they had to be stricter on group sizes and pitch allocation. As a result the campsite was far less crowded, and much more relaxed.
We drove to our pitch to unload and then parked about a hundred yards away, which was very convenient. We got there early and had a lovely spot overlooking a lake with the festival arena as a backdrop. There were chemical toilets, three of which were the wider accessible ones, and four showers, including one with a ramp and a seat. I only really saw queues at peak time in the morning, which was expected.
There’s electrical hook-up for those who needed it and a fridge for medicines. The area was well staffed and well organised, and only a short distance from the children’s area.
Access Across The Site
Obviously, given that the festival is set in the beautiful fields of the Escot Estate, mobility is weather dependent. Beautiful Days 2018 was FINALLY very lucky with the weather, so getting around was fine.
The two main stages have viewing platforms, with pre-booked passes available for collection from the information tent. We didn’t actually use them this year, choosing instead to sit at the back of the crowd, up the hill from the main stage.
The lady at the bandana workshop said that we had inspired her to adapt and make one of her work stations wheelchair friendly by adding a table with adjustable height.
The theatre tent staff were also brilliant, as they admitted those with access needs first, so we could sit at the front. They also helped to part the crowd for us at the end of the show as everybody bottlenecked at the exit.
All in all, an impressive number of considerations were evident throughout the festival.
While the festival officially begins on Friday, campsites along with most of the traders open on Thursday afternoon. On Thursday night festival goers were encouraged to don a fez and head to Dirty Davey’s bar for music and hijinks. There was also live music at the Gala Tent with a big crowd.
Beautiful Days has a very loyal attendance with many people buying their tickets well before the first wave of acts are announced. This is largely due to the fact that people know what to expect. The layout doesn’t change from year to year and there are generally no unpleasant surprises with the music.
Each year, the main chunk of the music is bookended by sets from the Levellers. Dreadzone, New Model Army, The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican, Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs are just of few of the bands that have performed at many of the sixteen Beautiful Days to date. There was no Ferocious Dog this year, but I think they still managed to win the competition for number of T shirts worn at the festival! The most widely represented genres are folk, punk, folk punk, reggae, alternative rock and ska, with plenty in between and extra.
The music was awesome for the entire weekend – these are some of my highlights…
I love how down to earth the Levellers are. I had a little chuckle to myself when I saw Steve (the didgeridoo player) quite happily show his wristband when he was challenged on the way to the stage. They played a beautiful opening set to an audience which filled the tent and most of the field around it. They culminated with what seemed like most of the festival singing along to One Way. We were sad to note the absence of Jeremy due to illness and wish him a speedy recovery.
Later, on the Friday in the Big Top, Justin Sullivan of New Model Army played a poignant and powerful no frills acoustic set.
It was great to see how massive Dreadzone are now. I went to the front for some photos at the start, and then thought I would find somewhere at the back to chill for the rest of their set. (I love Dreadzone, but I was a bit off colour on the Friday so needed a sit down.) There was no back to the crowd! People were bouncing all the way to the very back of the arena. The stage timings are expertly governed and Dreadzone ran out of time before they got to Captain Dread. I guess that means I’ll have to make sure I see them on tour!
The audience for the Manics was as big as any other I have seen at Beautiful Days. They threw in a couple of new tracks but mostly concentrated on crowd pleasing 90s hits. They opened with Motorcycle Emptiness, and closed with Design for Life. They were a huge Beautiful Days success.
If you’ve been to any festivals over the last decade, chances are you’ll have seen Mr B the Gentleman Rymer. This year his Chap Hop was a big hit at Beautiful Days. My favourite was the Kanye West song – very funny!
I loved seeing the Wildhearts on stage and was blown away by how much energy they had. All of a sudden I was twenty five years younger! It really took me back to choosing their songs from the pub jukebox in the early 90s. I found myself looking into the mosh pit to spot the old pub regulars, and convinced myself I saw a couple!
We were hoping to catch Black Water County over at the Bimble Inn, but they were on too late for our children after a busy day of festival fun. I heard afterwards that they were amazing.
Beautiful Days is basically one big stage for theatrics, so it’s no surprise to find a seated theatre. I enjoy the unusual formality (for a festival) of queuing up to sit down for a full performance.
We only made it to one show this year, but it was one my son certainly wouldn’t let us miss. John Farnworth is one of the co-hosts of Match of the Day Kickabout who holds numerous world records for his keepy uppy skills. He has done a marathon keeping the ball up and even climbed up to Everest’s base camp doing the same. I went to watch his show just to accompany my son, but I loved it. His skills were astonishing, and I was very impressed with how he managed to do them in time to music, and combine them with magic tricks. After the show he was kind enough to come and chat to my son, who was very pleased to meet him.
They really have thought of everything! What I have always adored about Beautiful Days is how well for a mainstream festival it caters for the whole family. The children’s entertainment is superbly put together by Helen of Majical Youth. No age group is forgotten, from babies up to teens.
There are two theatre tents, craft tents, circus skills, soft play, Lego building, chill zones and more. It should be easier to list what they haven’t thought of, but I think the list would be empty.
The Teen Tent
I was very proud of my daughter for going off to investigate the teen tent, which obviously took a lot of courage to do on her own, not knowing anyone. I needn’t have worried as the staff were excellent and really made all the teenagers feel completely relaxed.
The Mayflower Project have worked with Beautiful Days, and a number of other festivals, for the last 7 years providing entertainment for teens.
There was free hair braiding, face painting, spray on tattoos, and henna tattoos. They even got to have a go using the henna on each other. There was also a free pool table. My daughter spent large chunks of the weekend in there, and was able to make new like-minded friends. They could even charge their phones for free. Apart from staff, if was very strictly an adult free zone.
I mentioned to Helen of Majical Youth that my daughter was going there and she was eager to hear her feedback. They are clearly always keen to reflect and improve to make it perfect for the kids.
Find out more about the Mayflower Project on their facebook page or website.
This year we finally made it down to Fiery Jack’s Medieval Games area. Fiery Jack has been entertaining at Beautiful Days for over a decade, and this is the fourth year that he has brought his games.
The area is run by jesters, and we were greeted on arrival by a lady with a dragon on her back. We played on a range of original and handmade reproduction medieval games. The quality of craftsmanship was astounding. We played bar skittles (devil among the tailors), snakes and ladders, bagatelle, toad in the hole and many more. We all loved it and would have happily spent much more time there. There was just so much to do!
One of our favourite parts of Beautiful Days is the traditional skills and bushcraft area at the top of the hill. Alan Bruford runs Wildwood Escot within the estate throughout the year, and brings his team for an exclusive festival experience at Beautiful Days. Our children enjoyed forging, bread making, pendant making and tile glazing. We didn’t do any of the woodcraft/whittling crafts this year, but there were plenty of options of items to make.
We first met the Bandana Lady at Beautiful Days 2015, and were delighted to see that she had returned with her workshop this year. She is such a remarkable free spirited, friendly lady. I was so impressed that she even remembered us, as hundreds of children must visit her at every festival. She remembered the design that my son had used three years ago!
When we first turned up, my son was adamant that he wasn’t going to be making one. As a testament to her wonderful winning personality, the Bandana Lady soon won him around. At the Bandana Workshop, we could either print triangular bandanas for free, or a square one for just four pounds. We chose the square ones. My son decorated his with sharks and other sea creatures, whilst my daughter kindly used the rose stamps to make one to match my dress. (I still wear the one that she made me three years ago.) Thank you Bandana Lady – it was lovely to meet you again. My children have the best time with you!
Beautiful Days is one of the very best at filling the area with the weird and wonderful. If you stand in a single spot and do a full circle, you will lose count of the amount of spectacular sights that enter your vision.
I managed to watch Passion 4 Laughter – a clown spinning a pint of Guinness in a triangle on a string, whilst also taking in a magic show by Jez Mansfield. Turning round again, there were stilt walkers and puppets, as a pirate ship on wheels went by. It truly is a feast for all the senses!
This was the first time, since my son developed a huge passion for football, that he’s managed to take part in the annual Levellers versus Beautiful Days Kids football match that takes place at 2pm on the Sunday. This year the band had got the time wrong, so we paraded around the kids’ field with drummers and stilt walkers in the procession while we waited for them.
John (fiddle) and Matt (keyboards) formed the Levellers team along with several members of staff. There were well over forty Beautiful Days children eager to play and everyone got a turn. It began as a reasonably civilised affair and gradually descended into mayhem with a massive water fight at then end. The kids absolutely loved it! John and Matt hung around for a chat, signing autographs afterwards. We’re already looking forward to next year’s match.
Elsewhere, there were drumming workshops and so much more entertainment. Trick Swap were teaching circus skills. Children were even invited to join in with the fire display every evening. We simply didn’t have time to fit it all in this year. My daughter has joined in with the fire in previous years though, and it really was an unforgettable experience. We did get to see the evening display, and they certainly put on a fantastic show.
Beautiful Days is brilliant for food – there is just so much choice, with dishes from all around the world. My two children always look forward to finding the Bloomberry Juice Company at festivals, as they get to mix their smoothies with pedal power. They are always at Beautiful Days and I hope they always will be.
I loved the pizza place up by the Theatre Tent as they have basil plants for us to help ourselves to the freshest possible basil, which I can’t have pizza without! My husband loved the pork rolls from the hog roast stall. There was plenty of choice for everyone.
The bars are all run by Otter Brewery, and served delicious ales and ciders. The exception is the Bimble Inn, which is separate, but equally as good, and the staff always seem to be really enjoying themselves.
No complaints here. The toilets were well maintained by Andyloos, and there were enough around the site.
Recycling was heavily encouraged with separate bins for compostables, plastics and cans. The litter pickers did a perfect job keeping the arena looking lovely. I think it helped that Beautiful Days attendees are very respectful of the festival that we all love, and proud to keep it clean by clearing up after ourselves.
As always Beautiful Days went out with several bangs with a magnificent firework display as we were played out by a final set from the Levellers. The arena was particularly packed out this year (the first with no mud), as we listened and watched and wished it wouldn’t end.
Beautiful Days is a perfect family weekend, and a wonderful escape from the mundane. I hope it stays as it is and runs for many, many years to come.
Find out more For fact sheet here.