I must start this post by saying a huge thank you to Strong Island Co (in particular, Stu) who sorted me tickets to Blissfields festival! I’ve always wanted to go, especially as it’s so close to my hometown of Southampton, but never had the chance until now! So thanks guys!
Lara and I arrived at the Blissfields site just before 10.30am on the Friday. We were both sad we couldn’t have come on the Thursday as some brilliant acts were playing (Electric Swing Circus for one!) so we put in the effort to drive down fast and early from London on the Friday morning to make the most of it! The first thing that struck me was how small the camping field appeared to be! I knew Blissfields was a smaller festival but I honestly didn’t believe everyone would fit in. I was proved wrong though, and Lara and I set up our tent in the roaring sunshine with lots of space to move around. We made sure we donned some glitter and then headed in to the festival to explore.
We quickly noticed the toilets at Blissfields were of the proper flushing variety! Trailers you walk into with separate cubicles, porcelain basins and sinks with hot running water and mirrors! This was all over the site including the arena and campsite! A small luxury but a very welcome one all the same. And throughout the weekend the queues were always manageable even after the headliners on the main stage! My only comment here would be they needed a few more in the Hidden Hedge; the late night area.
On entering the arena our eyes were drawn to the Old Mout Kiwi Camp cider bar – it was a super hot day and after putting up the tent we felt we deserved an ice cold cider! They had a fabulous shaded area with great seats and games like giant jenga; a welcome respite from the sun’s harsh UVA rays for a ginger like me! I started with a Passionfruit & Apple, and Lara with a Kiwi & Lime, each £4 and served in a large glass with ice – heaven! We enjoyed sitting and checking out our surroundings from under the canopy. After a while one of their lovely staff came up and asked us if we wanted any more glitter (a question I could never say no to) and we were led to a fabulous lady who was spreading the glitter love for free! I got more added to my face and a load dusted on my hair too. I was wearing my Festival Unihorn from PartyHatDesigns so I felt very sparkly and fabulous all together!
We then spent some time exploring the beautiful site. Lara tried her hand at a bit of disco yoga (yes that turns out to be a thing!) whilst still holding on to her drink like the hero she is. We went to look at the Hidden Hedge area so we knew where to head later, and also the Angel Gardens which was the kids/craft area. Blissfields seem to put a lot of work into the little things; there was artwork everywhere and the whole place had a slightly old-world feel to it. I decided to get a henna tattoo done by a wonderful lady called Jity of Just Henna as my treat for the weekend. She was fantastic and I loved the design she chose for my left hand.
Soon came the munchies, and we chose to get an incredible vegan dinner from Manjula Catering. I opted for the Thai burrito which had a potato and mushroom curry inside, with rice, homemade slaw and salsa, and huge chunks of avocado. It was absolutely incredible, I’m even still dreaming about it weeks later! Lara went for the Masala curry and had a similar divine experience. If I could make/find food this good every day I would totally eat vegan all the time.
It seemed about time that we should watch our first band of the day, which were Sundara Karma on the Theatre of the Bizarre (main stage). They were perfect in early evening sunshine, an indie pop/rock 4 piece that I’d only heard the name of before but loved their sound! I’ve since added their album to my Apple Music library and have been thoroughly enjoying it. We then strolled over to the Blisscotheque – a DJ booth inside an old red Routemaster bus with a dance area outside and giant disco ball. The music sounded great and we were in the mood for a dance. It was here I spotted someone wearing a Headspace Headdresses “Space Princess” headdress and ran over to say hello. It was only when they turned around I realised it was only Sophie Hannah Richardson! Slightly starstruck, I introduced myself anyway and said I was friends with Loty who runs Headspace and we chatted for a bit. It was nice to meet her, she was lovely and of course looked super sparkly!
Lara and I then headed to catch the end of Shura and wait for the Cinematic Orchestra. Both were great, we drank lots more cider and enjoyed their melodic tones. It was nice to be at a small festival with a perfect-sized main stage; each performance felt intimate, but add in the lights and staging and it still looked epic. Towards the end of Cinematic Orchestra we got a pint from the Hop On Inn just next to the main stage – another red Routemaster bus, this one converted into a pub with a roof terrace, so we went on the roof to watch the rest of the set from above. As you can see we had a great view!
After the headliner we had a mooch about in the Hidden Hedge. By this point we were quite tipsy but also really quite cold, and we couldn’t find the kind of music we were in the mood for. There were some fire performers though who were great, and we explored for a while sampling the different areas – the Bay kept our interest for a while; a sandy beach with a lifeguard hut for a DJ booth and boats to climb on. They were playing some great house music. At about 1.30am we both decided to call it a night and get a hot cup of tea on the way back to the tent.
Day two was always going to be a bit broken up because I had to leave for a few hours in the middle to go to a friend’s baby shower which so happened to be in Winchester. Still, we made the best of it, and Lara and I headed in to the festival site earlyish (11am) on Saturday to get breakfast in the form of a bacon, egg and cheese toastie. Blissfields had a good enough range of food for the size, but I would have liked more than just the one breakfast place on offer. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day after all!
Speaking of breakfast… First on the main stage on Saturday was one of my favourite musicians, Beans on Toast (just FYI, I have an actual hatred of baked beans – the food by contrast!). Beans is an awesome “drunk folk singer” who I first saw years ago when he supported Frank Turner, and have since been to lots of his solo gigs. He’s been playing at Blissfields for 11 years, and for 2017 he was asked to open the main stage and curate the afternoon of the Larch stage. Lara and I got there early and watched from the barrier as Beans played his crowd-pleasing songs in the sunshine to an audience which included his wife and parents, and friends from the Monarch pub in Chalk Farm. Even though he’s getting more famous now, he’ll still always perform like he’s in a local pub – stopping a song midway through to tell a story, swigging a beer and calling out a friend in the crowd to ask them to pick him up another from the bar. It makes for a very fun performance.
I then had to drive off site for a few hours, but I returned in time to see an old friend’s band play in late afternoon – Mad King Ludwig & the Mojo Co on the Larch stage were pure unashamed madness. Self-proclaimed “freak-boppers”, they have tonnes of energy and always get the crowd going! Was great to see them for a second time and give Stef a wave!
We went down to the main stage to catch the end of Lady LeShurr who was surprising great! Everyone holding up toothbrushes for “Brush Your Teeth” (actually called Queen’s Speech 4) and a mosh pit emerged. A little chaos was exactly what we needed as by this time we were merry again after a few more Old Mout ciders. The weather for the whole festival was fabulous, but it reached peak beauty as the sun set on the Saturday night when Metronomy graced the stage with their infectious live show. I was happy that they played lots of older material, not just the whole of Summer 08.
After Metronomy we had a final walk around site, watching the hot air balloon make its final few flights, and again spent a bit of time at the Bay. We had to leave at midnight though as I had work in London on the Sunday. I was very sad that I had to leave and miss out on some more late night Hidden Hedge action, because even though we were only there two days and one night, Blissfields showed me what makes it so special, and that made me so keen for more! They are proud to be a small, independent boutique festival and they’ve somehow managed to remain authentic without attracting the more “rah” crowd (the trust fund-ees, Waitrose shoppers, gap yah) that seem to make up most of the attendees at other similar natured festivals e.g. Wilderness & Latitude. As The Line of Best Fit so accurately put it:
Unlike so many comparable festivals, [Blissfields] is neither rigidly corporate nor pungently trustafarian.
It’s the perfect small festival. Next year they’ll be putting on an “even more intimate and cuddly festival” – their words! Make sure you follow them on Twitter and Instagram to be the first to know about their plans for 2018.
Thanks again Blissfields and Strong Island!
We had a wonderful time! Can’t wait to return to this fabulous small UK festival next year!