Last weekend, after days of weather scares and storm rumours, me and some friends headed down to North Devon, the home of newcomer festival to the crowded field – see what I did there? – Somersault Festival. It so happened to also be the hottest weekend of the year so far, we only saw rain for an hour, so it quickly became the sweatiest weekend of the year (at least for me anyway).
As a self-confessed Glastonbury addict (see my post all about that crazy week here), Somersault seemed on paper to be the complete opposite. Glasto draws in 100,000 people, Somersault, a mere 15,000 (including both those hardcore enough to stay for the full weekend, or just the relaxed day-trippers). Glastonbury has over 50 stages, with music over 5 days – Somersault modestly having 6 stages that showcase talent for 3 days. But (and it’s a big but), however ‘small’ Somersault might seem from these stats, it makes up for it in atmosphere, activities and amazement.
During the day, you could pick from a range of activities – from surfing, to yoga, to a huge eating competition (words can’t describe how much I wish I’d been a part of that) – suitable for all ages, abilities and taste. I, along with my food-loving friend Abi, plucked to spend our pennies on one of the Long Table Feasts. You could choose to have lunch or dinner served up by some of the best chefs in the county, Fifteen Cornwall, Nathan Outlaw, Pitt Cue Co. and The Ethicurean.
We didn’t take such a serious decision lightly, discussing the varied menus in length, practically dribbling, before picking a scrumptious fishy lunch provided by Nathan Outlaw on Saturday. I think the photos below speak for themselves, don’t you?
It was wonderful to eat something that wasn’t an energy bar, whilst meeting a host of new people, the murmurs of approval providing the accompanying soundtrack to our food… Needless to say, I would highly recommend the experience for next year.
The site, although looking small from the provided map, actually felt rather roomy. There was a great range of vintage stalls, food stalls, and smaller tents where you could learn a new skill, or just relax and listen to music, or even sign up to help a good cause (the main one for this festival was the wonderful Surfers Against Sewage). When the heat became too much (which, believe me, was often) the river that runs through the centre of the site became full of laughing teens going for a quick paddle. You were never bored or short of things to do.
Although not particularly desperate to see anyone on the line-up, I was surprised to leave the field more in love than ever with a lot of new names, and my iTunes account definitely took a beating after my return home!
Lewis Watson’s stunning songs (from his new album, which I urge you to buy, NOW) on the Jack Wills stage lovingly soothed us into blissful Saturday evening listening to, the ever-flawless, Jack Johnson. Once night fell, and day-trippers departed, Dan Croll fired up the crowd for a raucous night of dancing and drinking on the Communion Stage.
Sunday brought the soulful voice of Shannon Saunders (if you haven’t heard her cover of Kodaline’s “All I Want”, you are missing out) and the oh-so-beautiful Ben Howard, who previewed a new song “End of the Affair”, and simply drove the crowd into a love-sick frenzy.
Somersault’s laid back atmosphere went out of the window once night fell, and the DJ’s began. Our personal favourite was the Communion Stage, which swiftly moved from acoustic bands to a hard-hitting-sing-along-anthem-blasting DJ, who I cannot remember the name of now, probably because the loud beats knocked it out of my (slightly intoxicated) brain. A simply incredible set, that had us dragging ourselves, along with all our new friends, there every night.
Once that stage quietened, the “Forest Raves” (aptly named by Ben Howard), with it’s magical giant glowing tulips and huge glitter ball, provided somewhere to dance until you couldn’t feel your limbs anymore. If you were still alive by this point, the entertainment went on until 4am in some of the surrounding bars.
It’s easy to make friends here, and not feel like you have to hang out with them 100% of the time, as it’s just as easy to run into them later wandering around the site (a welcome relief from the bigger festivals where with one wrong turn, and you’re alone for hours). However, the ratio of people to toilets was way off, as with the few cash machines, with long queues forming regularly.
It was also tough to see signs saying ‘Check in here!’ and ‘Tag us in photos now!’ when there was little to no signal around the site the whole weekend, we probably could’ve done without the reminder. In general, the social media communication was great, however, it all went a bit quiet in the final few weeks, and there was a lot of panic about tickets not showing up (more a fault with TicketMaster than Somersault), and stage times not being given beforehand which probably could’ve been handled better.
But all those worries were quickly forgotten once you stepped foot into the arena, heard the first few chords played on a guitar, and tasted some proper cider. Somersault almost felt like a mini holiday, with its laid back atmosphere (the weather also helped), and I could’ve happily stayed for much longer than the weekend, an impressive response considering this was it’s first year. Is it too early to be counting down till next year’s tickets are released? Probably, but I’ll do it all the same.
Now, I’m off to nurture some serious sunburn, but I’ll see you all at V Festival in August!
Tickets for Somersault were £99.50 for the full weekend. Will you be trying Somersault Festival next year?
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