Read all about it. What was good, bad or indifferent about Solfest 2011

11:22 PM Aug. 20, 2012 - 2272 views - 0 comments
Last year I went to solfest. I helped out with the "Mad Hatter's Tea Party" which was really fun, and for doing a lot of work we got on the festival guest list!

Firstly, the line up was amazing! James, The Saw Doctors, The Stranglers, everyone was just amazing and I loved the music. Also, I really enjoyed shopping at solfest, there was tons!

The food at solfest is great. There is so much choice. My favorite was definitely the crepe stand though, because nutella pancakes are the best!

I was 14 this time last year and I went with my family and best friends family, along with friends of my parents, and their little girl. It was great because we got to do tons, and there were great workshops we could all enjoy. I made so much, including a "Bog in the box", dragonfly, puppets, dream catcher and animal masks. We also made our own smoothies and went to a drumming workshop.

The only downside to Solfest last year was their was quite a lot of rowdy and drunk people at the late hours, usually near the dance tent. We camped quite close to the noisy camping, unlike other years, and didn't enjoy it as much. This year we will be on the quiet camping :)

But all in all, solfest is a great, family friendly festival. If you're like me, who prefers to stay away from trouble, my only advice would be don't go near noisy camping or the dance tent. I have been coming to solfest since its 2nd year every year with my family, and we always look forward to it. Only a few days until solfest 2012 now!

11:31 AM Aug. 30, 2011 - 554 views - 0 comments

This was my third time at Solfest, and my second year as a steward. Stewarding is a great way to be part of the team who help the festival run smoothly, the deal is you work two 7 hour shifts, usually one daytime and one evening, in return you get free admission and a meal voucher per shift. The team are good people and it is a good way to make friends and talk to new people. If you have never tried stewarding before, this is a really good one to start with.

Solfest is one of my favourite festivals, with a really nice atmosphere and lots to see and do. Running from Friday the 26th to Sunday the 28thth of August it gives you the Bank Holiday Monday to recover! This year the festival sold out, so it is definitely a good idea to get your ticket before you set off.

The site at Tarns in West Cumbria is really picturesque and seems to have a microclimate of its own, every morning was bright and sunny, and the evenings had fantastic sunsets to the west; we had some rain on Saturday afternoon, but that was about it, so no complaints there!

The venue is about 30 miles from Junction 41 of the M6, and there are free shuttle buses run from Aspatria Station which is good for the green travellers. The camping is split, with party camping, quiet camping and family camping separate from each other, you are able to park next to the tents or vans, which is much better than having to walk a mile to your pitch. It is best to get there early as latecomers are relegated to camping on the overflow field. Rules are generally pretty easy going compared to some festivals, firepits are allowed, you can take your own booze into the arena, (no glass though) and barbeques are allowed in the camping area, all of which encourages a relaxed and chilled atmosphere at the festival. Bar prices were reasonable at around £3.00 a pint and food was also sensibly priced with a wide choice of options available.

Organisation at the festival was good, but there are a couple of areas for improvement, disabled facilities were limited, and showers were too few. As this was the 8th Solfest it is perhaps time these issues were sorted, but the festival is so friendly it makes up for these minor omissions.

Families are particularly well catered for at this festival, there is an entire mini arena set out for the little ones, with a plethora of activities to do. They must be booked though, so it is important to book in early for the sessions your kids want to do. Activities included model making, Teddy drop where teddy bears are winched up to a huge kite, and then fly down using the parachute the children had made, puppet making, storytelling, whittling, playground, sandpit, the list goes on and on. It was great to see how much the children enjoyed themselves, it made me wish my own, now grown up kids, had had the opportunity to come to something like this when they were little.

The main arena was well planned; there were seven stages, and a couple of other smaller performance areas. The new additions this year included the Love Shack and House of Joy both of which were in a really nice area set out like a village green which included bars and food outlets. This was one of my favourite parts of the arena. House of Joy was the venue for Reggae, Ska and Roots Music, whist the Love Shack specialised in retro disco and one-off character performances.

The Main Stage is set in a natural amphitheatre and the sound was good for the whole weekend, well done to the sound crew on getting the balance right for the wide variety of acts over the weekend.  Highlights for me started on Friday with Pikey Beats making their first appearance on the Main Stage, they played an excellent set and had the crowd dancing and singing along, real showmanship was evident throughout their polished performance. The Saw Doctors played a terrific set to headline Friday night, and rocked, reeled and jigged the audience to a frenzy, a perfect way  to end the first day of the festival. Saturday featured punk legends The Damned headlining the main stage with Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible still sounding as fresh as ever. They played the bar stage last year, but fitted the main stage much better this year with Vanian’s vocals soaring out over the arena whilst the Captain played guitar like a demon. They were followed by the UK Subs in the Bar stage, Charlie Harper and the band filling the stage with energy and attitude, as an old punk I just loved it! Other highlights for me included Alex and the Wander Band, The Ray Summers and The Travelling Band.

The Drystone stage has a strong emphasis on folk and traditional music. My favourite act on this stage was Rory Mcleod, his stage presence and excellent songsmithery made me keen to see him again, whilst the Wierdstring Band had around 200 people learning traditional dances in no time at all and loving every minute of it. Pikey Beats put on their second set of the festival here on Saturday night and again had a fantastic reception by the enthusiastic crowd.

The Dance tent was the place to go for trance, dubstep etc. Plump DJs and Utah Saints headlined here, I must admit this is not really my scene, but the younger element seemed to be loving it, The Dance Tent didn’t finish until 4.00 a.m. every night, with the Chill out tent keeping the music going non stop for the whole of the weekend, great if you have the energy!

I was gutted to miss the Stranglers and Wilko Johnson, but a knee injury effectively restricted Sunday for me and I felt I missed out on some really good music. However, there is always next year, and I’m sure I’ll be back to do it all again!

Cheers, Mark.

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