Never underestimate the positive effect a great festival can have on your mental and physical well-being! I returned from my third Larmer Tree Festival (14-19 July 2015) – celebrating its 25 year anniversary this summer – completely refreshed and energised despite having spent four nights in a tent (hurrah for the quiet camping area). Here are the main ingredients of a relaxing and inspiring festival:
Atmosphere – the pervading tone or mood of a place, situation, or creative work
Creating just the right festival atmosphere can be a tricky and somewhat elusive goal. It requires a lot of planning, but also depends on many other factors, including people’s willingness to spontaneously participate, hard work and lots of dedication to detail by the organisers as well as some favourable weather conditions (luckily the festival was pretty much rain-free between Thursday and Sunday this year). What I really love about Larmer Tree is that you can simply be yourself, be as crazy or shy as you want, dance like a dervish or relax in the sun. Everyone is just happy to be in the moment and have a good time. Just like it should be.
Music – vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion
I often attend festivals specifically for the music line-up, usually of the Americana and folk variety. The Larmer Tree programme always covers a wide range of genres from international headline acts (such as this year’s Rodrigo & Gabriela, Bill Bailey and Jimmy Cliff) down to some great up-and-coming artists (e.g. Megan Henwood, Ciaran Lavery, The Drystones and Jarrod Dickenson). The likes of Police Dog Hogan, Show of Hands, Raghu Dixit from India and various other LT favourites also brought their great energy to the event once again. My favourite festival discovery was Hunter and the Bear this year, Americana with a rocky edge.
Creativity – the use of imagination or original ideas to create something
Every day at Larmer Tree festival is filled with innumerable opportunities to explore your creativity as much (or as little) as you like. From starting your day with a yoga or dance class to taking part in a creative writing session in Lostwood, there are many ways to join in. As I have been volunteering with the workshop team (kids/adults) in the past few years, I cannot recommend the craft tent highly enough. From 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm Friday until Sunday, you can learn a new skill, make something amazing you can take home as a festival keepsake or help build a fantastic festival sculpture. This year it was beautiful clay flowers (later to be found adorning Lostwood) and a pair of peacocks made from recycled plastic bags plus giant decorated paper peacocks, a truly stunning display! And not to forget “dress up Saturday” (silver themed to go with the 25-year-anniversary this year) and the traditional Carnival Procession on Sunday, for which colourful and outrageous costumes were being worked on all weekend.
Food – any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink or that plants absorb in order to maintain life and growth
Never underestimate how much great food contributes to a feeling of well-being and happiness. Once again there was a huge choice, even for vegetarians (and to some extent for vegans). Having tried and tested Tabun Pizza (handmade pizza, quality ingredients, cheerful staff) and The Curry Shed (reliably delicious at a great price) at past festivals, this is where I headed most of the time. There were also enticing options from other cuisines (Mexican, Italian etc.) and lots of great coffee (non-dairy options too) and cake stalls to keep us festival folks going from early morning until late at night.
Smile(s) – a pleased, kind, or amused facial expression
True, Larmer Tree offers an impressive comedy line-up four nights in a row on top of the live music. But the most fun moments are usually the spontaneous ones. The noisy and quirky street theatre performances happening across the festival site every day are always a big hit with children and adults alike (e.g. the singing nun, Musical Ruth). The fact that Larmer Tree is very family-oriented does not mean the fun stops when the little ones go to bed, however. The Social (reliably fantastic programming and atmosphere again) is open until late every night, so even the most energetic revellers can party until even they finally drop. And there is a lot of dancing to be done not just late at night. One of my favourite memories from this year is dancing at the Jimmy Cliff set on Sunday night with a crowd of all ages around me, the stars above us and everyone waving their arms to “Reggae night, we’ll be jamming til the morning light”. Afterwards, we all reluctantly shuffled back to our tents or the bar and the magical world of Larmer Tree closed its doors again for another year – it sure was a beauty!