Ahhh Beautiful Days *wistfully looks up and wishing I could turn back the days and do it all over again*.
Beautiful Days is a small (15000 capacity) festival set in the beautiful surroundings of Escot Park, near Ottery St Mary in East Devon. The Levellers have been putting on this festival now for 11 years including this one. When we moved here last year we weren’t aware of it til the actual weekend it was on and only then because a friends band was playing there. Alas too late to go, we had to wait for this year.
I bought our tickets back at the beginning of the year whilst slowly buying camping equipment in order for us to start having a few mini breaks rather than no breaks which is what happened last year. Though to be fair, moving to Devon kind of felt like a holiday in itself compared to London life!
Anyway, back to the festival! We used the Disabled camping facilities and arrived there last Thursday worrying how far the car would have to be parked from our pitch area. I needn’t have worried though as the disabled camping area is pretty small and tis a very short walk to where we decided to pitch our tent (with lovely views of some growing corn as it goes!). As we were camping with friends who also have a littley with special needs, who didn’t need an electric hook up, we opted to camp next to them without a hook up. Decision made due to the fact there was a tent in the campsite with electric points for general use which meant we could charge the feeding pump and blend J’s food down. There were two hot showers available and enough toilets for the area that were cleaned out twice a day which remained remarkably civilised with plentiful supplies of loo paper throughout the festival! All of the festival staff I have to say were really really lovely and the atmosphere in general at Beautiful Days is spot on.
With no corporate sponsorship or advertising, this is what all festivals should be like. Local Otter Brewery supplying the bar area with reasonable prices and plenty of choice food wise. A great children’s area with many activities for toddlers through to teens it is really well thought out. Escot educational area was also there with various crafts to try out and also a couple of fairground rides. J is still too young in his development for most of this but he just revelled in the whole atmosphere of the festival and the amount of lights around the festival meant he really was in sensory heaven.
As he is such a great sleeper anywhere (much like his father) we snuggled him into his buggy each night with feeding pump in back pack so we could enjoy the bands late into the night. It worked beautifully for us and in fact the whole experience was kind of empowering in a way. After years of being limited in what we can do, to be able to go to Beautiful Days and just enjoy it in relative normality was really amazing and for me pretty emotional too.
There were many highlights in the weekend. The rain only really came down badly on Saturday during the day at which point all of us were having a snooze in the tent anyway! The sun shone for the most part and as I said earlier the atmosphere was happy. Lots of children buzzing around of all ages and some awesome retro wagons being pulled about by parents with toddlers in (next year that will be us!).
Music wise there was quite a mix of genres some of which I didn’t like and some of which I did. The same would be true of any festival. Highlights for me were Imelda May who I have loved for a few years now, Moulettes (pictured above) who were new to me and brilliant. Beautiful harmonies and cracking tunes, they are well worth a listen. Heidi Talbot was on after the Moulettes and was up against Steve Harley who was on the main stage. For this reason (I assume) her audience was small in comparison to the Moulettes which was a shame as she is another gem with a warm funny personality to boot. Thea Gilmore was also great and is new to my ears. Sinead O’Connor on Friday night and I wasn’t expecting to like her but must concede that the first few songs were actually really good and her band were pretty kick ass. There were some artists I wanted to see but missed such as The Staves, Viv Albertine and Roy Harper notably, partly due to clashing stage times which is always annoying but what can you do?! Dodgy played on Sunday afternoon and suitably roused the crowd playing their previous hits. There were six stages in all including Theatre and Comedy, both of which I didn’t get round to. There is only so much you can see but there was a good amount of choice.
The biggest highlight for us all was watching Primal Scream from the side of the stage due to Him Outdoors being friends with a couple of the band members. It was a magical experience really having J on that stage and him getting the biggest vibrations he has ever experienced in his life going through the buggy! And plentiful lights! Primal Scream still rock and were awesome. The Levellers closed the festival on sunday as is tradition and were followed by a short and perfectly formed firework display which was a fitting end to a perfect long weekend.
We had a great time and I know this will be on our calendar for many years to come. If you have a child with special needs and are wondering about venturing into festival territory, this is a great place to start.
Roll on next year..