Review: Festival No. 6 – A Reflection

Art & Culture

There were a lot of firsts for me over the course of this weekend; it was the first time I covered a festival as a member of the press; it was the first time I’d been to a festival in Wales; I even learned and spoke some Welsh (sort of) and it was the first time I visited the little town of Portmeirion.

Lesson No.1 – Distance makes the heart grow fonder.

Eight and a half hours. Yes, eight and a half hours we spent driving from Hackney to North-West Wales (so far North-West we’re only 75 miles from Merseyside), followed by walking up a hill before finally pitching a tent in the dark. Bear Grylls lives for this sort of thing. For an urbanised flat-white drinking wannabe journo who thinks camping represents something akin to torture, it sounds like shit. On paper at least.

Driving through Snowdonia was stunning, and I wasn’t even driving. It’s the sort of road where Clarkson would jizz himself while declaring, ‘this is the best road IN THE WORLD’. It is a thing of beauty though. If I can thank Birmingham for one thing, it’s making us sufficiently late that we drove through the mountains just as the sun set:

Lesson No.2 – Food, Glorious Food

Slightly surprisingly for a festival, there was literally NOTHING to do on the Thursday night. I was reduced to eating what I now know was a Tesco Metro ‘Jumbo’ Scotch egg, wrapped in fancy paper, and thus costing £6. I thought it best to wait ‘til morning for better food.

Things did improve but…Oyster and Bloody Mary bars? Champagne and £7 cheese toasties? Festival No.6 makes no bones about being the most middle of middle class festivals, holding nightly banquets prepared by highly trained and skilled chefs but still… 

Reading eat your heart out, literally.

Lesson No.3 – As kids, we went on seaside camping trips…WHY NOT HERE?

After emerging from our tents (and seeing the spectacular view of the estuary), we head on down to Portmeirion village. The first thing I pass is an oh-so-hipster barber’s chair with an equally hip barber. With a slight shrug of the shoulders he tells me he is giving out haircuts, asymmetrical only of course, and fancy beard trims. For free! 

Anyway, we hadn’t made any grand plans, no meticulous schedule to be followed, whether it be in terms of seeing certain artists or going to lectures on the welsh dragon being a symbol of male virility (did they actually happen?). 

So I decided to keep an open mind as to what to do and when to do it, hoping to discover more and thus produce a more interesting story on my return. 

At this point I realised this is a festival more for the eyes than the ears.

Lesson No.4 – If you go down to the Woods today…

Even if you haven’t been, you may well have heard about the Portmeirion woods. At the top of the steep, almost cliff-like hill, lies a dense wood, where a maze of paths leads you…well, I still don’t know where. I know that as I walked, I would stumble into DJ booths carved into the trees, even into small rock crevices. Here there is no real agenda, no big rush to go and see ‘X’ at ‘Y’ stage. A lot of the time we did not know who was playing, nor the name of the stage, while the crowd ranged from 10 to 50 people. And it could be that the crowd was made up of 50 year olds dancing with their 10 year olds. 

Lesson No.5 – Money talks, and Virgin shouts loudest. 

The one not so secret place up there, which we did all know about, was Virgin Trains Village Limits. And like you, the name continues to grate with me. Similar to a lot of the festival, it’s not really about the music here, but the location and the care put in to creating something so special. That is what makes this a stand out area. 

Everyone loves partying on something that floats. People often get that extra bit excited if they get go to raving on a boat, maybe it’s the element of danger. Maybe it’s a throwback to our childhood being able to ‘rock the boat’, so to speak. 

The fact that someone burst out of the woods at speed, somersaulting into the pond managed to produce bigger smiles than were already so prevalent. Also strangely great was the policewoman walking around with a dog she wouldn’t let near anyone, nor would she let anyone near it. Seeing Crazy P here was a big highlight – dance music perfect for a sunny day on a Chinese lily pond. Like those kind of days come around often. 

Lesson No.6 – A picture is worth a thousand words

Back down the hill and into the town and the old adage applies once again: a picture is worth a thousand words. If you’ve Googled Portmeirion, I can tell you that it’s the same in real life, if not better:

‘It’s so vibrant, it’s eclectic, it’s the definition of toy-town, ‘it’s like being in the Mediterranean, it has its own microclimate…’ 

These are just some of the things that people have said to me when eulogising about Portmeirion. 

And being totally honest, I can’t really argue with any of the above.

It’s to my shame that though that I can’t put it differently and as a writer (or to try and show off my lexicon while sounding pretentious), a wordsmith, I feel at a loss. However there’s only so much you can do with words when you’re contending with images like the ones posted in this article. So I’ll leave you with amazing pictures, and just a few encouraging words, from a writer who is lost for them.