Galtres Great Music, Great Site, Great People – Galtres is unique!

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Three days of relaxing in the picturesque Duncombe Park, Galtres is a place where you’re surrounded by genuinely lovely people and everyone accepts each other, but in a very ordinary and (as much as love them), non-hippy way.

Galtres had 100 artists across 7 stages and the line-up reflected the crowd perfectly. Headline sets came from The Stranglers, The Undertones, Reef and Maximo Park. But the variety of the programme was very impressive. Right up til the 2am curfew you could hear music, poetry and theatre everywhere you went. From a big pirate ship by the campfire nestled in between the trees to the spacious main stage! 

The Main Stage seemed far away from the rest of the festival. This meant soundbleed was minimal and there was room for everyone. But on the downside I found that some of the time there weren’t many people chancing it and going to see a band they’d never heard of. There was a missed opportunity for some festival fun in between the main stage and the rest of the stages - maybe take some of the dance demos out there or something a bit wild for adults and kids alike. There were some great choices of bands though, brilliant indie-pop band Frankie & The Heartstrings who sadly faded from the thick of the music scene a few years ago, gave us a class performance reminding us of their cracking tunes, which could have easily been hits.

The Arts Barge provided a diverse programme, of comedy, poetry, music, workshops. Every time you walked past the comfy venue you’d see lots of people joining in – dancing, playing, singing-a-long, everybody was getting involved. The venue looked like a living room, but not only did they have sofas, but beds, and bath-tubs!! I have to mention Deliciousness, the tiny caravan next to the Arts Barge selling afternoon tea – it was irresistible.

I enjoyed Lloyd Cole playing a set to a packed Black Howl marquee but with an intimate feel – what an opportunity! But Galtres is not all about well-known names. It was my first time here but to me the soul of Galtres is how it promotes unsigned and largely local acts. This year Hull invaded The Oxman stage, The Firkin Stage (for an evening), and many bands from the area popped up! There were so many good bands I couldn’t quite believe they all came from the same place – I might consider moving!

Aside from the booked acts, The Firkin (beer tent) gave loads of opportunity for anybody to get up and play a few songs, young or old with hours of open mic sessions every day. Karl was a fantastic compere and the sound was great. I stumbled in there one afternoon to catch The Quicksilver Kings. The lead singer, Keith, had an unusual but mesmerising tone blending with guitarist Jamie’s voice brilliantly. 

The kids’ area was pirate themed and the little ones were treated to the most impressive stage I’ve seen: a mock pirate ship (although some cover or a plan B from the Stage Manager would have meant my set could have gone ahead in some form when it rained, rather than me trying to entertain a crowd with no sound or any stage management). The area was still part of the festival (pet hate is when festivals separate the kids’ stuff from the rest of the festival essentially closing off the kids experience and holding the parents hostage) with a variety of acts including loads of family theatre.

The Little Top again gave us plenty of variety.  Chris Helme played a stripped down acoustic set in the early hours of the morning; everyone was bopping to the Bollywood dance demo, and a stand up from Bethany Black went down really well. Great stage management from Andy and spot on sound from Mike Wilkinson was more than a match for this diverse programming. 

The festival is a cashless site. This did take some getting used to and the initial queue to top up and buy the G card was a bit of a task. You needed to keep a track of what you were spending and once you got used to it, it all came quite naturally. The traders liked it too and from what I understood it meant the festival could charge them according to what they made on the weekend rather than an upfront fee. This means that smaller and local traders can afford to be there – what other festival of this size does that I wonder??

Over the weekend the rain finally gave up and moved on, allowing us to enjoy the stunning views with a great soundtrack from Maia on the Oxman stage. The Stranglers and The Undertones were brilliant choices for a double bill on the final night – it matched the audience’s mood perfectly. I would say Galtres is unique. It is quite a feat to have a small-fest welcoming feel twinned with a great diverse line up. As long as Galtres stays true to this it will remain one of the most respected festivals on the scene.

Published on 28 August 2013 by Ned Mansfield

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