Wychwood: 8th to 10th June 2012
Reviewer: Romany (from Festival Kidz)
I hadn’t planned on writing a review for Wychwood, and this isn’t really going to be a full-on review as such because we went to Wychwood last weekend as traders so it’s hard to get a balanced perspective. But I was so pleasantly surprised by the festival that it I had to say something!
We traded at Wychwood in 2011 as well, and if I’m honest I wasn’t terribly impressed back then. I had spent 3 days barely leaving the confines of my dusty stall and the little piece of the festival I saw hadn’t seemed that appealing. After that experience I found it confusing that it has such a loyal fanbase and that so many parents came into the stall raving about what a great time they were having!?… So this year I decided to find out exactly why it’s so popular with families…
Within a few minutes of exploring the site, I discovered a whole area that I hadn’t even realised existed: the kid’s area!! and it was impressive too… Seeing it made a big part of me wish I had brought the kids with me after all. I’d taken the late decision to leave them with my mum for the weekend when the weather turned SO awful on Thursday – the thought of looking after them on my own and trying to set up the huge stall in gale force winds was too daunting. My fellow stall-holder Emma (from Rockabye-Baby) had brought her two little ones, but she also had the luxury of a very helpful husband to look after them. He ended up feeding us both and doing all the washing up and skivvy jobs while we were busy in the stall too – what a star! Thank you Simon, without you I would barely have eaten!
Anyway, I digress… back to the Kid’s Area:
The Waterstones tent had some great authors doing readings, talks and signings (I was under strict instructions to get one of each of my children’s favourite books signed by their respective authors, Elen Caldecott and Shoo Rayner – thankfully I managed it otherwise the disappointment in their faces would have been unbearable).
I also saw huge communal junk weavings, puppet workshops, trapeze workshops, circus skills and loads and loads of very happy kids. The children’s programme was packed and if families wanted even more than the kid’s area offered then there were more creative arts workshops to be found in the Artists and Makers tent near us too. You could even learn to throw a proper clay pot on a proper wheel for £5. There were some Hip Hop workshops too that several families were raving about – turns out they were by Too Many T’s (more about them later).
We had a load of grass in front of our stall, as our pitch was almost opposite the main stage, so we got all our toys out (garden jenga, diabolos, poi, hoops and spinning plates) and every time we emerged from the stall we were greeted by smiles and laughter as kids played happily and parents relaxed nearby in the sun watching the bands. It was great for adults to be able to enjoy the main stage action without their kids getting bored, so our location worked really well in that respect. And yes, I did say ‘sun’ – from the extreme gales on Thursday and Friday which forced some traders to pack up and leave, the weather did a complete u-turn on Saturday and Sunday to the point where people were at risk of sunburn!
Being in front of the main stage, you’d think I might have noticed the music but in reality we were so busy that it just became easy listening background noise. I only really became aware of it when Hawkwind came on (and the sudden surge in customers begging for ear defenders!!!): wrong sound, wrong festival, wrong time of day, just wrong. A few die-hard fans stayed on the grass trying to get into it, but they did a great job of emptying the field and encouraging people to discover the music going on in the other tents! Apparently there was some great talent in the BBC Introducing tent this year but I didn’t get a chance to catch anything in there myself. Apart from vaguely hearing and enjoying the majority of the main stage acts in the background, I had a few notable musical highlights:
On Friday night after closing up, I caught a great but apparently unsigned rap/beat box act in Happy Hookah’s Shisha and Tea Lounge. It appeared to be a sort of open-mic set up and the band were called something like KSH? They drew quite a big crowd as everyone passing stopped to listen. I wish I knew who they were- apparently they are on Facebook but I can’t find them – any ideas anyone? They were brilliant.
I also loved Thrill Collins – great covers and such natural entertainers. They made me laugh out loud and put me in a great mood.
Equally brilliant were The Dhol Foundation closing the main stage on Sunday night. They made packing down the stall difficult because all I wanted to do was dance! We also discovered that their beats were perfect for spinning poi and hooping to… which was a more attractive distraction than the daunting task of packing up…
The biggest highlight for me came much later that Sunday night. The light was failing and so we gave up packing away our stock altogether and decided instead to head to the Silent Disco for a bit of downtime. As we walked in to the half empty Big Top I groaned – most of the punters had already left the festival and of the scant audience left, half were singing along (badly) to Bon Jovi… perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea after all. I’d rather have an early night than dance to that! But, sensing my disappointment, the girl handing out headphones reassured me, “Don’t worry, I’ll put it on Channel B – there’s some live beatboxers on there, they’re awesome…”
How right was she?! Bloody hell, they blew me away! Too Many T’s they were called. They looked about 15, but I later discovered the youngest was 25 and at least one of them has a Masters degree – how old and past it did that make me feel?! But hey, at least I wasn’t one of the Bon Jovi fans totally missing out on this rare budding talent playing live right in front of us 😉 They’d only been together a few months and have just taken the crazy plunge to give up their jobs and go ‘on tour’ – something tells me it might just be the smartest move they’ve ever made. Lovely guys, so smiley and enthusiastic, and definitely big things coming their way… go check them out and give them your support.
And Wychwood? On my list for next year? Most definitely… although it would be nice to ‘do’ the festival proper instead of just working at it. Maybe I’ll even take the weekend off and take the kids up there for a holiday 🙂
Wychwood Festival 2013 will take place on 31st May to 2nd June at Cheltenham Racecourse