Houghton 10th - 13th August 2017
Rave Level 5/5
Family Friendly 2/5
Location : Norfolk
Size : 7500
Vibe : All night music, full on raving, woodland settings, secret locations
What to wear : Something comfortable and a bum bag for all night dancing
Activities : Yoga, hugging the speaker, sitting on the lake, checking out the impressive art installations
The concept of 24hour music at Houghton was blowing my mind. What will happen to me, how can I survive this? I did survive...just.
What was genius about the non stop music was that people would be heading back into the festival and heading to bed all at different times, there was no mass flow because the music just didn't end. I liked this a lot! For me there was something quite comforting about hearing the music still blasting at 7/8am when I decided each morning this would be the most strategic time to sleep and miss the least action.
Houghton is set deep in the beautiful Norfolk countryside and the surroundings were idyllic. There were various woodland stages, lakeside locations and secret spots such as a warehouse and quarry. There was a natural simplicity to the layout, an open area created a central spot with some restaurants and bars but there wasn't any crowding or queueing which was great. Restaurants included the usual mac and cheese, dim sum, pizza etc. Eating didn't seem to be the priority of the day and was more a refueling situation in between dancing.
Stunning art installations littered the grounds for moments when you needed to step away from the speaker. Most notably the immersive collage by Marco Walker (see image below).
The crowd was mixed and a good one. You start to feel a little older with all of these young festival goers popping up but such is life and for a festival in the first year I think they did very well, perhaps this was the link to Gottwood (who produced the festival).
The main pull of Houghton was the music. It was created by Craig Richards, featuring DJs like Nicolas Jaar, Seth Troxler, Floating Points and Ricardo Villalobos. There was certainly lots to experience and a full line up however I found the music a little too 'techy' at times and long sets from DJs often felt like they were self indulgent journeys to show off their skill rather than reading the crowd and creating a vibe - though hardcore tech lovers may want to throttle me for saying that!! I found some of my best moments were away from the big stages and in the smaller hidden gems like The Giant Steps (see top left image) which was the most beautiful yurt I've ever been in and had big warm DJ sets with a mega sound system from the Analogue Foundation, that was my happy place.
Another great touch was a train which picked you up from a certain spot and took you to a secret location which was a small quarry, this added to the sense of escapism and along with the fact there was zero phone signal this was certainly a place to get completely lost.
Boutique was large and affordable and this is where everyone I knew was staying. There were different boutique set ups within the area so it felt like staying in a village. There was a bar and cafe which is always a plus for a boutique area, the only thing I would moan about is that the smart loo's were not included in the price. They were £35 for the weekend and they weren't open 24/7.
I camped in The Woodville Project within Boutique who are also at Glastonbury, Noisily and many more, I'd hugely recommend them. They're friendly and kit you out with whatever you need in your yurt. They have heavenly memory foam mattresses (instead of inflatables) which really makes a difference when you get home on the Monday...
Talking of Monday. I woke up on one of these mattresses outside my bell tent at 1pm having drunk far too much tequila the night before, thinking a guy called Pablo was actually my dog Pablo and wanting to snooze al fresco. My bell tent mate had gone to work, I had a banging head ache, had to pack up the car and I had a 3 hour drive home alone. I cried. That's why I said I survived, just.
It was an incredible a weekend and I can't wait to get back next year. I think the festival will only go from strength to strength, it's amazing to think this was their first year and they got so much so right. Some of the music lacked an element of warmth for me but it was definitely a festival highlight of the summer.
Written by Annabel Simpson
Photography by Jake Davis (fb.com/hungryvisuals)