Two festivals in a week – I wasn’t joking in my last post when I said that festival season was upon us! Keeping it local again, we headed to the Cheltenham Racecourse for music, food and other activities at the festival that Time Out calls “an excellent hybrid of the Big Chill, WOMAD and The Cambridge Folk Festival.” Celebrating its 15th year, here is what you can expect from a weekend at Wychwood Festival…
Location: Cheltenham Racecourse
Located in the beautiful Cotswolds and boasting stunning views of Cleeve Hill, Wychwood Festival happens every year on the last Bank Holiday weekend of May. Even though it was my first time, I’m very aware of the festival’s popularity. Visitors of all ages return each year for the brilliant bands and variety of activities to suit the whole family, as well as newbies like myself. Whether you are planning on taking your kids, attending with a group of friends, or simply wish to go by yourself, this ‘family festival’ offers something for all.
For those that know me, they’ll say that I’m not into camping and I over-pack for every occasion (what do you mean, I don’t need hair straighteners, an extra three pairs of pants and a totally inappropriate pair of shoes – “just in case”?!)
And they wouldn’t be wrong, which is why opting for a local festival where you can come and go without swapping your warm bed for a cold sleeping bag is perfect!
Previous acts have included: Feeder, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Bill Bailey, The Waterboys, Boney M, Newton Faulkner, Toploader, Kate Nash and Billy Bragg.
Not a shabby line-up for a local festival…
Headlining this year were Scouting for Girls, ABC and The Stranglers, with the likes of Toyah Wilcox, Bez from The Happy Mondays, Ibibio Sound Machine and Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band also taking to the stage.
By the time we made it down to the festival on Saturday afternoon, the sun had come out and everyone was in good spirits. As we sat with the jam-packed programme in hand, making a mental checklist of all the things we wanted to see and do, we ended up people-watching (in a non-creepy way of course).
There were adults dressed head to toe in glitter (albeit questionable) fancy dress, children running around with painted faces and older couples sporting their best festival attire (most of them sat down in their foldable waterproof chairs).
There were food stalls tempting you with a variety of tasty treats….
It’s all about the Halloumi fries.
And Churros. I’ve noticed Churros are a very popular choice at festivals.
There was a big red bus which doubled up as a tea room – could it get any more British?
… there were fashion stalls and tents for henna tattoos and glitter….
… there was even an area set up for wellbeing.
There is literally something for everyone to enjoy, day and night (headphone disco, anyone?)
The main stage is outdoors, so when the weather does turn (and let’s face it, it will) there are three other music tents to run into.
You can find out all the important bits of information over on the Wychwood Festival site here.
Let’s talk about the performances…
Kicking it off for us on Saturday afternoon was London-based Grupo Lokito, who had everyone up on their feet dancing with their colourful Cuban-inspired performances.
It started off with a foot tap, then the legs started to move, and before I knew it, my whole body was moving to the beat!
Also, if you have a Fitbit, festivals are a fun way to top up your step count (and also make you feel okay for consuming all the ‘so good, but so naughty’ food and drink).
One of the best parts of going to a festival is discovering new music. Music you may have never come across or would never think of listening to, but suddenly can’t imagine going home and not adding it to your Spotify playlist.
After a bit of dancing, we came over feeling a little thirsty so we headed straight to the bar for a cider. You pay $1 for a reusable cup, which seems to be a common thing now at festivals, which you can use throughout your time at the festival and then keep as a souvenir.
Ciders in hand, we wandered around the site to find out what else there was to see and do.
There were plenty of stalls to browse in but we had other ideas.
Finding somewhere to sit took a bit of patience and luck, as everyone seemed very settled in their seats – with the majority sat on the chairs they brought with them. We asked a couple if we could sit on the end of their bench, which they kindly agreed to, and then Dan had the task of making sure nobody sat in our place whilst I went to fetch the cheesy chips which were devoured too quickly for a photo.
The next act was about to come on so we ordered another drink and sat down on the grass near the stage.
Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band were next on stage, entertaining the crowd with some soulful catchy numbers.
They were a popular soul band in the late mid to late 1960’s, and they even had an album in the UK charts for 48 weeks out of 52! No wonder the crowds started gathering quickly, Geno clearly has quite the fanbase.
Despite not knowing who he was, I seemed to recognise most of the songs he was singing.
After a quick detour to the bar for another cider, we found our way back to the front of the stage.
Ibibio Sound Machine were up next, and after seeing them at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in recent years, I knew they would give an incredible and energetic performance.
Singing songs from their album Doko Mien, the English electronic afro-funk band’s lead vocalist Eno Williams put on an incredible show.
The positive energy and good vibes just radiate off her – what a superstar!
Watch the video below and see how long it takes before you get up off your seat and start dancing…
We stayed to listen to the whole set, as the sun began to set behind us.
After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we decided to call it a day before ABC took to the stage.
One thing that I’ve learnt over the years is that you can’t do everything and see everyone. It’s okay to ‘miss out’ if it means you won’t miss something you want to do the next day.
The next day was wet. Very, very wet.
Typical British weather!
Us Brits, however, are made of stern stuff so we braved the heavy rain to support local singer-songwriter Demi Marriner.
Not only can she pour out her heart in sweet country ballads, she’s also capable of kicking down the saloon doors with her incredible backing band.
Her set included songs from her new EP as well as some old favourites.
It’s a testament to her talent that so many people braved the rain to stand and listen to her sing.
If you like country music, Demi is your gal.
Some returning acts this year included Craig Charles. He performed at Mello Festival the week before but I only caught the last 30 seconds of his performance, so I was determined to not miss out at Wychwood.
The heavens had opened so the tent was full of bodies trying to keep dry, but somehow we made our way to the front.
What a cool cat. No wonder he’s so popular, he was oozing charm and charisma behind his DJ decks – and at one point (literally) he made Dan’s day!
Everyone was dancing and singing along, you almost forgot it was the middle of the day!
Apparently Craig Charles is one of the most requested artists to attend the festival, and I can see why – he smashed it!
Sharing some of his favourite tracks, which included a lot of Stevie Wonder…
We’re going to play Stevie again, because you can’t go wrong with Stevie.
…and also showed off his extensive knowledge of Funk and Soul music. He had the crowd in the palm of his hands, and just seemed like the friendliest chap.
There were so many events that we wanted to see but didn’t have time for unfortunately, like the comedy acts in the Hobgoblin tent and the relaxing treatments in the Healing Garden (Massage, anyone?). There are also performances going on around the tents , band signings and even a children’s book shop.
One of the perks of camping at the festival is being on site at all times, so you’re unlikely to miss out. It does, however, give us a good excuse to come back next year and prioritise what we didn’t do. The programme also has a map and event list that you can tear out and pop in your bag so you really have no excuse on missing out…
So, now that I’ve told you all about the festival and hopefully tempted you to come next year, let’s talk tickets.
You can book your earlybird passes now and save some money – either by paying in full or staggered over a few months. A weekend ticket for adults cost £106 and for consessions £80 – both prices include camping. If you’re booking for the family, 10-15 year olds pay £45 and under 10’s go free!
Overall, I’m very impressed with what the festival has to offer – rain and shine.
How lucky are we to have this on our doorstep?
A big thank you to Andy and the team at Wychwood for inviting us, and letting us experience this brilliant festival to share with you all.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the festival, please visit their website here.
Will I see you at Wychwood next year?