Wonderfields Review 2015

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“Fantastic first festival, I'd very much like to come again, lovely atmosphere and great line up.” Chris Rotherham (Chris Rotherham, Captain Flatcap)

Tucked neatly away into the folds of the Devonshire countryside, just outside the quiet little village of Cheriton Bishop lies Great Fulford manor, the surrounding land of which was to play home to one of the most relaxed and deliciously whimsical little festivals I've been to in a long while. Spanning the weekend of the 17th-19th July, the fledgling festival promises to take attendees on ‘a journey of undiscovered sensory delights, feeding imaginations and filling minds with next generation musical talent and new age artistic creations.’ A tall order for any festival’s debut, I was excited to see what this feather-weight festival contender had to offer.

We wound down the single carriage road, pulled into a huge field and proceeded to park the car. After being issued our wrist bands by the friendly, smiling staff members manning the gates we bounced down the dusty path leading to the main site. The track opened up to reveal a spacious site dotted with a number of stalls, food outlets (including ‘Wild Burgers’ and a woodfire pizza place) and two stages, the second of which, situated slightly further down the hill was set against the striking backdrop of the manor house overlooking the site on the hillside across the lake.

The site was peppered with impressive artwork from Mr Sle7en (Luke Sleven) who, together with Bristol based graffiti collective ‘Scribble and Scratch’ https://vimeo.com/108122658, kept the site looking incredible with bits of art popping up all over the place while various vocalists, beatboxers and DJs performed over the top.

Arriving Saturday afternoon, the festival was already in full swing having officially begun at around 4pm on the Friday. Tickets are very reasonably priced at £65 a head (a mere pocket lining of pennies compared to many of its contemporaries) with a line up featuring a range of eclectic talent from all over the UK including Captain Flatcap, Dutty Moonshine, Gypsy Unit, Mad Apple Circus, Mankala and First Degree Burns to name a few. During the day, we wandered around the site taking in the sights and sounds of the festival, which was packed with things to see and do, the children enjoying themselves as much as their parents at the various stalls and workshops available.

A little way to the right of the main stage we spied a whole host of little ones running around in capes, masks and colourful costumes at the ‘Super Hero Academy’. The workshop took place on from 4-6pm Friday then from 10am on Saturday with a super hero award ceremony at the finish. We noticed a group being led by a spritely figure in a yellow crash helmet breaking off and running around the festival. Upon asking where they had gone, we were matter of factly informed that they had ‘gone on a quest’ and that they’d be back shortly, by a glittery lady in a cape and a sequinned peaked cap.

Among the other stalls was an axe-throwing workshop, manned by a couple of Vikings, a hula-hoop workshop as well as a whole section dedicated to wellbeing and relaxation featuring some huge wood fired hot tubs, a sauna and a chill out lounge ran by Kernow Springs. Perfect for a bit of R&R while the kids are at the Super Hero Academy I shouldn’t wonder!

After gloriously frittering away the day suddenly it was dark and up on the hillside a flurry of shapes, swirls and whirls (I believe those are the technical terms) began to circumnavigate the huge wall making up the front of the manor house. Carried out by Rupert Newman, one of the industry leaders within the field (and I mean field in the both the business and the literal sense in this incidence!) with clients ranging from the Prime Minister to Dom Perignon, the bespoke projection mapping had everyone hypnotised with vibrant colours and overlapping crystalline shapes skipping and tripping down the walls fitting perfectly (seemingly) with the music blasting from the main stage.

After floating around the festival just generally enjoying the surroundings and as many of the delectable drinks on offer at the bar as my budget could afford, I was abruptly swept to the main stage where Captain Flatcap were playing. This band never fails to get everyone up on their feet, it seems, with their own brand of flat cap farmer-funk with soaring flute, uplifting guitar, driving rhythms and basslines which seem to swoop down from nowhere, scoop you up and carry you along with them. It’s impossible not to look alive and get as close to the front as you possibly can with this Guildford based collective drawing you to them.

After this, the evening took a turn for the smushy and descended into a mesh of smiling faces and ridiculous chats by the fireside. It wasn’t until around 5am when I realised I had been rolling around in what had become a ring of dust and ash surrounding the now dwindling fire point, bringing me neatly onto my next topic: First Degree Burns. This 7 piece band from Bristol covered all bases from ska, to hip-hop to reggae and gave an energetic performance, with tight vocals, crisp guitar and a scrumptious horn section encapsulating the sound of summer.

Sunday’s faces were happy-tired and slightly bewildered as the sun rose and the day made a real point of getting on with itself. The Wonderfields crew put together a banquet of epic proportions (and indeed epic sized portions) for Wonderfielders to tuck into and enjoy. £15 per head for a two course meal consisting of a glass of wine or beer, rosemary sea salt rubbed lamb Asados or beech smoked mushroom burgers for the vegetable-arians among us, with crusty garlic bread and olive oil on the side. It was very much appreciated at that stage in the game and was thoroughly enjoyed by the some 80 festival goers who sat among the pink cloth covered hay bales, tucking into their food while Circe’s Diner played away angelically in the background to accompany the feast.

All in all, a fantastic first time festival with a great deal of promise for the future, with super early bird tickets already on offer for £45. This year, a donation will be made in support of TEMWA (meaning ‘community love’), an organisation working to support the people of Northern Malawi through various community projects, with plans for greater involvement during the coming years of the festival.

Published on 14 August 2015 by Bella Whately

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