Blissfields festival 2017: tangibly blissful.
Why is it that sometimes, you just get a really good feeling about something? You can’t quite put your finger on what it is, but you just know that you are in a place where you can relax, be happy and that you are going to have a really good time. Maybe it was intuition, hope or wishful thinking but this was how I felt the second we arrived at Blissfields 2017. We were met with smiling, helpful stewards who bent over backwards to get us to our pitch as quickly as they could. One steward cheerily said to follow him to our space and off he trundled in front of the van with a spring in his step. Nothing was too much trouble. “You want electric hook-up? It should be all right from your pitch. If it isn’t, we’ll find a way!” And so they did. In 10 minutes flat, we were settled in, introduced to our new neighbours for the weekend and ready for our first chilled drink. It’s the smooth running of things that can really make or break a festival and you could tell that everyone at Blissfields was determined to make the whole experience a hassle-free and welcoming one. Blissfields festival simply exudes warmth and friendliness.
The good feeling, I am pleased to say, lasted all weekend. I simply could not fault this festival and I am amazed at what was on offer. Throughout our stay I would keep stopping to take in moments, knowing that I was living experiences that would be permanently etched on my memory. We went with our six year old twins and we felt that the organisers had some sort of sixth sense into exactly what we want from a festival. We want them to have a good time and be entertained, of course; however, WE also want to let our hair down and relax and the whole festival arena seems to have been borne out of this desire. From the clean, proper flushing toilet cabins (which we never had to queue for), to the thoughtfully placed benches, bales of hay and numerous shady spots around the site, this was the epitome of a hassle-free festival. The food and drink was really reasonably priced, so that you didn’t have that irritated feeling that you’re being ripped off and if you wanted some quiet time and space away from the crowds, there were plenty of areas for this. With only a couple of minutes’ walk from the camping area to the main arena, you don’t have to worry about carrying everything around with you all day and if your kids get tired (or, indeed, if the adults do) you can easily pop back to your tent or van to recharge and refresh. We were blessed with glorious weather all weekend, but intense sunshine can be equally as tricky as downpours and Blissfields coped perfectly well with providing shade for afternoon-snoozing adults and overheated children, alike. There is a large shaded area just to the side of the main stage, with handy games for children dotted around. I am certain that Blissfields would have coped equally as well with rain. The only bit of mud we saw was next to the water tanks and this was hastily covered with straw and people were re-routed for a while.
When the sun got a little too intense, the kids’ area, The Angel Gardens, welcomed us into one of its capacious bell tents for a couple of hours of midday hobby-dragon making. The kids cooled down and calmed down for a while and my husband and I took turns to have some “me” time. I sneaked off for a heavenly reflexology session and then he went off to explore the ale tent he had spotted earlier. The Angel Garden helpers or “Angels”, as they called themselves, could not have been kinder or more caring. They were so patient with our children and spent so much time with them that we almost felt like it was a personal crèche. The craft area was another ideal space to head to with children. There was lots for adults to try, too, and I’m sure that even without having the kids with us, we would have been tempted by a blacksmith taster session or with making our own wares from wood, willow or greenery. Our children both did a pottery craft session, which cost £5 each. It was well worth it as they had one-to-one help for around 30 minutes and thoroughly enjoyed it. We also popped in to a mobile museum where an extremely attentive and knowledgeable man explained the history behind many of the artefacts and was keen to let our children hold and examine many of them close-up. As, I have said, it was a weekend full of memorable little moments.
The music at Blissfields is the beating heart of the festival. As you wander around, you encounter the uplifting and energising sounds of the different stages. So, actually, you can’t really wander at all. You end up tapping, bouncing, strutting, clapping, singing your way around the festival site. As well as building a site that is mindful of the needs of all its different types of festival-goer, Blissfields also effortlessly manages to cater for a vast range of music tastes. The main stage the “Theatre of the Bizarre” saw the likes of Metronomy, Lady Leshurr, Pumarosa and the Dub Pistols. A particular favourite of ours was Sundara Karma’s early Friday evening slot. This emerging indie four-piece group blasted out some great modern indie and the fantastically upbeat “She Said” was performed at an opportunely bright and glimmering early evening moment. The Larch, a smaller, tented stage, certainly rivalled the Main Stage for atmosphere and variety. Earlier slots were more acoustic sounding and when we popped in later, we partied to some downright funky tunes. If we had left the kids with relatives, I am sure we would have been ensnared in this tent until much later than we should have. The Blissotheque is one of the first areas you meet when entering the arena. It’s undoubtedly situated here on purpose as its party atmosphere is infectious. A party alongside a double- decker DJ bus with a cocktail bar on the side, this was unsurprisingly a huge hit with young festival-goers and ensured that anyone passing was immediately drenched in the festival spirit. Area 51 was a psychedelically-lit secret clearing in the woods, with DJs and other-worldly installations and sculptures. We took a wander in here early Saturday evening and it was a real spectacle. Some teenagers had already claimed a sofa area, the calm before a night of partying, I suspected. So, perhaps not an area for us with the kids, but you definitely got a sense that this was going to be an electrifying night for many, hidden amongst the trees. A definite favourite for us was The Bay. A man-made beach area with DJs stationed in a look-out post, a shell of a boat and inflatable toys for the kids. We spent a couple of hours here on Friday and Saturday evening. We got to dance and have a couple of drinks while the children played in the sand and, occasionally, joined us for some dancing too. This area was a microcosm of what the whole festival had achieved: friendly, happy people of all ages, side-by-side, having a fantastic time.
Vicarage Farm, the home of Blissfields, will be given some recuperation time in 2018 and founders Melanie and Paul Bliss are offering an even more intimate and personal party for previous Blissfields attendees in its place. I’ll certainly be heading back to the full festival in 2019 for some more memorable moments at what is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most phenomenal festivals we have ever been to. A festival that manages to blend so many polar opposites: polished yet grass-roots, urban yet rural, child-friendly yet crammed with naughty adults. Well done me…. my early instinct about this festival was spot-on, Blissfields is tangibly blissful.