Nearly a week has gone by but I'm still buzzing from my first trip to a weekend-long, stay-onsite-in-a-tent festival - not, to be honest, a wade-through-mud, have your tent knocked over by a drunk, can-you-spot-someone-NOT-on-drugs style music festival but one with, thankfully, a bit more sense of style and taste.
Through OurBookReviews, I was invited down to Hampshire for A Curious Arts Festival, held in the grounds of Pylewell Park - a mix of literary, music, and comedy festivals, with a multitude of other things going on as well, and I had a wonderful, absolutely jam-packed couple of days, starting early with seagulls waking us about 6:30 and not finishing till I drifted off to sleep to the sound of ongoing music sometime in the early hours.
We set off in what we thought was plenty of time on Friday morning ... but google maps had been just a little (or a lot) over-optimistic, and a journey that should have taken about three and a half hours took over five! Sadly this meant I missed the first event I'd wanted to catch - author Deborah Moggach - but as the sun set there was time to grab a fancy cider and head along to the largest tent for the evening's musical entertainment head-lined by Lucy Rose. I didn't stay up till the end as music carried on after midnight and I was ready for some sleep!
Saturday morning we rose early, grabbed breakfast from the fantastically decorated Tea Sympathy tent, had a wander round the site and by lunchtime I'd seen three author events (Meg Rosoff, Andrea Wulf,and Renee Knight), followed by two more in the afternoon (Joanna Cannon and Harry Parker). I then had a bit of a break, before heading to the music events of the evening - Matt Maltese, Skinny Lister and Billy Bragg.
Although it would have been possible to stay another night, we'd decided that we'd head home on Sunday - but not before catching another couple of author events, including literary prize-winner Andrew Miller.
|Renee Knight being interviewed by SJ Watson|
Everything joined together to make a very special weekend, but for me the highlight was definitely Saturday evening. Billy Bragg was without doubt good, mixing political commentary and jokes in between his songs, but Skinny Lister set the night alight with their sea-shanty, folk-punk sound and infectious exuberance which had everyone bouncing and clapping along.
I'd written about this before we went, so did it live up to expectations? Definitely!
|a distant view of the Isle of Wight|
As you might guess, I had a fantastic time. As an introduction to music festivals I think it was rather on the tame side - but at my age I prefer that to something rowdier.
I've been to book festivals before but even those held on a single site - such as Edinburgh and Hay - have people drifting in and out and don't have the same feel of everyone joining in an event together; it wasn't quite a community but after a while faces began to feel familiar. And, an important thing for me, Dylan the dog was welcome everywhere - he went into book events, hung out at the back of the marquee for music on Friday night, sat with us out of the sun in the tea tent and was fussed over by so many people!
The whole festival was quirky and quaint; a mix of garden party, literary salon and gig venue, with a definite family feel to it. I loved the way I could see a couple of author events before lunch, a couple more afterwards, have some down time with the dog and a walk to the sea, but then in the evening head off to the music marquee. And the food was great - everything from fish and chips to sushi and halloumi fries, via Higgidy pies and lamb tagine in a burger style cob, cake from the tea tent, and a choice of four bars, including the Nyetimber bus serving English sparkling wine. Isn't it SO cute? Sadly I didn't think Dylan would like the steps.
|sneaking in to Skinny Lister's sound check|
There were still things that I wished I'd seen - I only briefly caught snatches of the Sonnetathon, didn't get to try the Fever Tree cocktails or the sushi tapas selection, have a good browse round the Waterstones tent, or join the talk about the gardens, but I did get to sneak into the Skinny Lister sound check and chat to vocalist Lorna after the show, meet friends I only know through social media, stroll down to the sea twice and even find a small patch of sand to walk on. If I'd put together my own private festival it could hardly have been better! The only thing I would change another time is to add in a few days in the New Forest itself either before or after.
If you go over to OurBookReviews you'll find more in-depth accounts of the author events, and I'll be blogging here soon about how my first camping trip went.