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Entries in festival no 6 (1)

Thursday
Sep082016

Festival No. 6, Wales 2016 Review

Taking place in the stunning coastal village of Portmeirion, Wales is Festival No. 6, actually named after a character from the cult 1960's television show The Prisoner, filmed in the same location. My first time attending was in 2016. Uh oh, the sixes are aligning - 666!

While we can't really call mother nature the devil, she did wreak some unexpected havoc over the weekend and those in attendance managed to feel the full force of typical Welsh weather. Have you decoded it yet? It rained, it poured and it almost blew our tent right out of the campground! This years instalment of Festival No. 6 was a very muddy one.

But hey, we were there for the music and with the assistance of some wellington boots and cheap ass ponchos we were prepped and ready to see all that was on offer.

FRIDAY

It was a decent London morning when we picked up the hire car and started the long drive to North West Wales - after a couple of highway side pitstops we found ourselves on narrow yet picturesque roads of the Welsh countryside. For a couple of hours it was bumper to bumper traffic and now rolling hills and the odd sheep grazing next to the roadside. About 6 or so hours after setting off (someone's got to do something about that traffic) we arrived. 

Taking pride of place in what would become the 'Park & Swim' we gathered up almost too much camping equipment for two nights and took the shuttle to the main festival site. Thanks to the magic of a pop-up tent we were set up in no time, however the longer than expected drive did mean I only heard Roots Manuva from a distance.

Making our way into the main arena around 9pm, food was pretty high on the agenda so a quick stop by Yaku Mama was first - pork belly and brown rice, chicken tacos, sweet potato and chorizo chips - that was us sorted! With minimal pre-planning we actually didn't know who was coming on next, let alone where all the stages were, so a few bars were visited as we familiarised ourselves with the site. As we wandered we found cool themed bars such as the Real Ale tent and the Kiwi Camp (Old Mout Cider), definitely some effort had gone into the decor of this place! 

We caught the tail end of the Torch Light Parade and got swallowed up in a jelly fish art installation before arriving at the Village Hall. My Stimulate Your Soul radar must have been working as the act who had just taken to the stage was none-other than the Queen of Brazilian Dancehall Lei Di Dai. A short but energetic set. 

Torch Light Parade - Image courtesy of Festival No. 6

All of our wandering so far had been in the 'open field' part of the festival, however I knew from the little pre-search I had done that there were stages in the town itself, by the water and even in the woods. We tried to make our way into these areas but left our run a little late and were directed away. All was not lost when the tent we decided to enter instead contained a large video screen and hip hop video DJ Yoda on the decks. The tent was hot and sweaty, a complete contrast to the forecast for the rest of the weekend.

SATURDAY

This morning it hit me, I'm officially too old for 'general' festival camping - my body was tired and sore which was not helped by the multiple parties taking place throughout the campgrounds overnight. Hopefully the kids next to us went a bit too hard too early and can't back it up again tonight.

Just as the weatherman promised, the rain had already set in and mud was starting to replace the green grass of the festival site and campground. After a much needed bacon roll and coffee stop we decided to check out the Castell (Castle) and use some of the Wi-Fi to obtain the festival app with timetable. At the Castle we met some fellow festival goers who were raving about how cool the woods are! There is even a floating bar. Unfortunately when we went to visit, the woods had been closed due to poor weather. This, sadly was the story for a few of the stages throughout the day. 

The town itself is beautiful, an amazing setting for the event, with colourful houses, gardens and fountains set into a cliff face. We spent a lot of Saturday around the Central Piazza stage. It is a unique stage in a unique setting, with large pillars that artists can hide behind or burst in front of, and kind of a reverse amphitheatre for the crowd with everyone looking up the hill at the stage. It works well though and you had a pretty good vantage point wherever you stood. 

The Mudflappers are a swing dance troupe who specialise in getting the crowd dancing. They quickly won over the township of Portmeirion, getting us all to copy their dance moves to classics like Rappers Delight. 

Next up was the immensely talented Bellatrix. The female beat boxing champion and double bassist showed off her skills in an impressive one-woman show. Using multiple mics and a loop machine to build tracks, she was mesmerising in this incredible venue and definitely an artist to watch for the future.

Bellatrix performing at Festival No. 6, Portmeirion, Wales

An unlikely highlight for me came just after sunset on the Central Piazza stage, with the 60-strong Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir. Something about the lighting, the rain, the historic setting and the power of 60-voices. I haven't seen anything like it before!

Now came a moment that I had actually planned for, the Voices of the Revolution on the Village Hall stage. This all-female line up of musicians and MC's from Ghana, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Colombia, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Venezuela, Egypt and the UK promised to be something special. The small stage was absolutely full with talent and the women on stage loved the vibe they were creating. It was a big jam on stage as the artists collaborated on a range of musical styles from afrobeat to dancehall to hip hop and everything in between.

At the end of the session, the host of the stage very proudly announced the young Zimbabwean MC A.W.A (African Women Arise) would be performing a full set. The 23-year-old had broken through in a predominantly male MC scene in her home country and was thrilled to be performing in the UK. Making the most of the other talent surrounding her, A.W.A invited different guests up for each song, and although only one track contained English lyrics, the rhythm and rhyme delivery captured those present for her set. After 30 minutes she left the stage triumphant.

A.W.A. performing at Festival No.6, Portmeirion, Wales

After such a varied day of music from artists I wouldn't expect, the main act of the evening - Hot Chip were just a tick in a box and after an exhausting day trekking through the mud it was a relief to return to a dry-ish tent. 

SUNDAY

Taking into consideration the lengthy drive home, the fact Monday in the office was looming and a brief dry spell this morning we decided to pack up camp and begin the journey home. Carefully balancing all of our equipment on the now-very-difficult walk through the mud we eventually made it onto a bus and back to the park and ride. As we had feared, the car park had also turned to mud so it was up to a local in a land rover to save the day and pull us through to proper road surfaces before we started the drive back to London.

On the way we couldn't resist stopping at a pub in Bala for a traditional Sunday roast. Although we hadn't yet showered and were caked in mud, this little slice of civilisation was a fitting end to a challenging but unique festival weekend.

Written by Harry Upton.