Port Eliot 27th-30th July 2017
Rave Level 4/5
Family Friendly 5/5
Location: St Germans, Cornwall
Vibe: variety of eclectic musi, some dance music, inspiring talks, seafood and other, walks, gardens, church bells
What to wear: your mum’s vintage clothes by day, catsuits and leather jackets by night as it can get pig cold
Activities: Yoga, gong baths, swimming in the estuary, dancing, potting, painting and other creative pursuits, tea
I am reluctant to write a review of this particular festival; once you go you will understand the desire to keep it quiet, very quiet, almost silent. There is something so magical about it, like the hidden staircase in those Brambly Hedge books, you can't quite believe you have found it yourself, you can't believe the rest of the world doesn't know about it, and you innately and instinctively fear its discovery and demise.... But this is selfish I know and hardly the festival spirit, and also Port Eliot somehow gives off a smoke screen that deters too many punters from making the schlep to the very bottom of our island - so here we go.
Nestled happily around a beautiful Grade 1 listed house, this weekend has a strong home vibe as if friends and family have flung up a tent and might well pop into the main house for tea - in fact the house is open to festivalgoers, no area being off bounds or VIP, thank god. After alighting from the train at a tiny station to be barked at by a small boy with a speakerphone, who is a train enthusiast we are informed, you pootle a convenient four minutes down the road to a doorway through which you enter and arrive in the secret garden I am now spoiling.
There are two elements that make this festival so special - the size and the children, the two of which are mutually interdependent. It is so small you are always close to your temporary abode and so manageable that young children can run around like tribes through the woods, play and wallow in the luxurious mud of the estuary and basically lead the circus of events with their capacity to wonder, to see without thinking, to enjoy and play and dance and create, and contact reality without the anxious nagging mind interfering. The rest of us are there to try and get back to such innocence and freedom and this enchanted place is the best opportunity to do so I assure you.
The sheer beauty of this place never fails to astound me - sunrises reflected in the estuary, scenes of children throwing earth at each other across its banks in a primal conversation, colourfully clad groups gathering and dispersing, dancing under the full moon or casting long shadows across the wildly windswept land are somehow otherworldly and timeless. But the rambling gardens and walled gardens retain an old English charm and sophistication - you can have an exotic tea and an orange and polenta cupcake in a conservatory and feel content.
The food is phenomenal - deluxe cheese toasties fried in butter, burritos the weight of sleeping puppies, crepes and waffles or my personal favourite the Dosa Deli curry served by the happiest girls on earth. There are also two seafood restaurants where you can enjoy scallops and chorIzo skewers or a whole Lobster, while your friend's six children quaff back oysters around you. SIpsmith by the water is the perfect place to regroup from a wander and enjoy a civilised cocktail, though I have to say the Gooseberry Gin Spritz I found somewhere else is arguably the best drink on earth. Keep hold of your cups and take them to the next bar for £1 off in an enterprising twist, encouraging mindfulness I reckon
There are the usual camping options if you don’t want to pitch your own, Tangerine Fields even supply regular tents so you can just pop in, without the hassle of popping up and down. There are luxury yurts and simple bell-tents complete with Bouffantery for those who manage to wash their hair over the weekend and want to dry it, stunning silver airstreams and tipis that you can have furnished with handwoven rugs, sheepskins, wooden tables and lanterns. Vintents are the best option, however, if you are up for a retro twist; these 70s classic structures start from only £250 for a two man and are tall enough to stand up in and swing a catsuit around, which is quite a blessing.
I spent Sunday alone, indulging in everything I always want to do at a festival but never do as I am too busy with the beats and my birds. Summoned by the bells I found myself at the baptism of Esme Rose in the magnificent church; I did some shopping, thrilled with an incredible embroidered 1930s dress for just £20 and an extra large suede jacket that dwarfs me; I had a Weleda massage and a gong bath in Lark’s Haven and my palm read by Lawrence Rook, palmist extraordinaire; I had a nap and a stream of elderflower cocktails and snacks; I listened to the hilarious Mik Artistik and danced alone when he sang; I wandered aimlessly yet full of wonder; I met inspiring people like a music therapist who works with children with dementia; I felt expanded. 'Oh not another festival' I often hear, but this is not just another festival this is life unfettered and free, this is truth. This weekend has been the pinnacle of my Summer for the last two years, a weekend that lingers with me long after it is over. Obviously this is personal and you may hate it so definitely don't bother coming next year, at least not too many of you….seriously. Good old Osho says: ‘life should be a continual celebration, a festival of lights the whole year round. Only then can you grow up, can you blossom’ and I agree. Why can’t we arrange ourselves and our energy to be sharing and dancing and feasting off this beautiful world of ours? We certainly shouldn’t have to pay for a wristband for the privilege, how bizarre.
For a small festival the music is varied and wonderful. I stumbled across Haitian masters Chouk Bwa LIbete in a tent that looked dead-end and marquee-like, whose music seemed to summon the very wind over the backs of slaves of which they sang. This was real music played by real people that somehow changes you and creates a natural standing ovation from people who didn't think they cared. There was Beth Orton and much hair-flicking and euphoria from the Japanese psychedelic rock band Bo Ningen, while the Black Cow Saloon hosts a number of exciting new bands like The Sleeze and some deep-voiced guy called Ray I think, I can never remember the names. Techno punk legend Andrew Weatherall returned for the second year running for the a night sweat-off, but it is the random beauty you stumble across such as a choir seated and singing by the river, or a lutist summoning heaven with his strings, that really stoke the fires. There is also fashion, creative pursuits like potting, a Hullabaloo area for the kids and fascinating talks on everything from Alice and Wonderland and Psychedelics to Dawn French to a man discussing anxiety affective disorder under a tree.
Festibel Contributor: Connie Alfrey
For Tickets: www.porteliotfestival.com