Before the summer of 2016 I had never been to a festival. I was convinced that I’d enjoy the experience but something about the mud, the rain, and the overwhelming crowds of people was not quite enough to persuade me to make the effort in previous years. I have since decided that attitude was absurd! I like camping, love music, and can’t get enough of the kind of food you can buy from vans! Besides, I have turquoise wellingtons that match my turquoise coat and this accidental coordination makes me smile with childish glee. Where better than a festival to flaunt such a colourful combination?
I chose to let go of my concerns, embrace the festival spirit (more on their delicious cocktails shortly) and get down and dirty in the great British mud. My boyfriend invited me to join him in a glorious weekend at Barn on the Farm, an award-winning festival over in Gloucester, with a musically-inclined friend and his girlfriend, neither of whom I had met before. We met up on the Friday night and went to a local EP launch for the very talented Woolford Scott to get to know each other better and to listen to some excellent tunes. Then in the morning we started up two cars (the gentlemen were bringing a guitar and we couldn’t fit all our gear in one) and had a sat-nav competition to see which route there was quickest. Our car lost when we had to detour to purchase toothbrushes.
The two fellows in our group had been to this festival twice previously and greeted several of the volunteers they’d met before. My new partner in crime, the only other lady in this foursome, had been to other festivals in her time (though not this one). I was the solitary newbie.
It can feel intimidating doing something new when everyone around you is comfortable and familiar with the situation. But not this time. People were kind and welcoming and there were ostriches to watch and remarkable haggis and sweet chilli pizzas to scoff (don’t question it; you need this in your life). I was made to feel at ease straight away. There’s an instant friendliness about a group like this that is so rarely encountered in day-to-day life. Strangers actually talk to one another, share common interests and collaborate to make the most of the event. Anyone who struggled when putting up their tent found helping hands by their side immediately. The tent next to ours had a big Pride flag over the door and the inhabitants were loud and cheerful and warm. Wherever you looked there were people making new connections and sharing new experiences.
On the Saturday evening we joined a group of off-duty volunteers in the campsite and my musical boyfriend and his musical friend entertained us with clever harmonies. The guitar was passed around and everyone participated with enthusiasm; my particular favourite was a song which included the lines “My ovaries are exploding” and “Eat the whole damn fridge”. Even a member of the security team came over with a flashlight to brighten up the night and not, as we’d feared, to shut down the music.
Speaking of music, they have quite a lot of that at festivals! I have been to very few live performances and they stun me every time. Even though I didn’t know many of the songs the Barn on the Farm artists played the atmosphere was so exciting it didn’t matter. Besides, I can jump up and down to anything. I didn’t get a chance to see everyone but the stand-outs among those I did see were Mahalia, Hudson Taylor and Farm Band! There was so much joyful energy from the artists and their crowds that you couldn’t help but be sucked into it!
The festival had three stages and each was completely unique; one bordered by straw bales, one in the top half of a barn, one totally open to the elements right opposite a field of ostriches and surrounded by food stands! And oh, the food! I adored the food! Because Barn on the Farm is quite a small, independent festival you might think they’d be limited in terms of the food on offer. Nothing could be further from the truth! Honestly, I’d have gone there just to eat. With stone-baked pizzas, gourmet burgers, vegan and vegetarian curries, enormous full English breakfasts, authentic Greek food and unbelievable ice creams (served out of the back half of a vintage-VW-beetle-turned-freezer) no one went hungry. The Two Birds on the Farm cocktail which was served in the main bar was another favourite of mine and it packed the most delicious fruit punch!
To anyone who is hovering on the edge of a new experience but is put off by fears of it not being as good as the hype, I say go for it! It will almost certainly rain, get muddy, be too cold and too hot and push you out of your comfort zone. But if you get past all that (and enjoy a clichéd metaphor) then the sun will come out, the atmosphere will entrance you and people may even surprise you. And as long as there’s good food, you can’t really go wrong!