Galtres Parklands Festival
Duncombe Park, Helmsley, August 22 to 24 2014
When the McDougall family visited the 2011 Galtres Festival, it rained so hard Noah would have stressed.
The kids had to be rescued from drowning by their grandparents and we sank long before The Levellers headlined the Sunday night stage.
This time, the Brighton-based rockers basked in the late summer sunshine on the opening night of what was forecast to be a drier Bank Holiday weekend.
Pitching up after work, we were directed quickly and efficiently to the Parklands Family Camping field. Ideally placed, we were close enough to the all important toilets, but far enough away from the action to stand a chance of sleep.
It was also large enough to leave families room to barbecue anything edible whilst enjoying the stunning views across Baron Feversham’s ancestral seat – Duncombe Park – towards the market town of Helmsley.
Jumping straight into the festival, a G card was required to buy anything – from drinks to rides or festival trinkets. They cost £1 each (reasonable) but the £2 charge to add credit felt a bit steep if you were putting much less than £20 on the kids cards.
After getting our bearings and filling our festival glasses with two of the many local craft beers and ciders, we headed to the main stage.
Described by the Independent as “surely the best live act in the country, with the exception of The Who” the magnificent music machine that is Bellowhead gave a truly explosive performance from The Duke Stage.
Sheer brilliance is what this 11 piece English folk band delivered as the crowd whooped, stomped and leapt to their feet.
Brash, vibrant and engaging it was impossible not to be seduced by their lively repertoire of breakneck sea shanties and Balkan infused folk songs – resounding joie de vivre all around. We loved them. Think “hoe-down on speed!”
After a break during which the temperature dropped quite sharply, the Levellers rocked up. Following on with the string theme but underwriting it with a heavier edge, Mark Chadwick belted out some of their greatest hits including One Way Of Life and What A Beautiful Day amongst others.
In the best festival tradition, the audience joined in the chorus and bounced along. Somewhere along the way, our 12-year-old daughter had a live music epiphany. Dancing on a hay bale and singing along to Fifteen Years Imogen declared “The Levellers are amazing – I love them!”
Pre-teen daughter despatched with her friends to enjoy the rides, we headed up to the Galleon Stage in Tall Trees Island.
This part of the festival was fantastic for kids, especially the under 10s. Face painting, hula-hooping, theatre, story telling and a fish-finger sandwich stall – what more can you ask for?
We spoke to a family from Alne with three young children who were full of praise for the variety of children’s entertainment.
Down to the Black Howl stage we had great pleasure listening to emerging talent – singer and guitarist Billie Marten.
Currently championed by Radio 1’s Fearne Cotton and fresh from the Leeds Festival, she is 15, from Ripon and definitely one to watch. She captured a depth of emotion and soul that belied her young years – especially with the hauntingly beautiful Ribbon.
Over in the Little Top, films provided a welcome festival pause for flagging kids every evening at 7pm. The first episode of the new Doctor Who season provided the perfect Saturday night viewing.
New to us, but with 18 years together, folk-rock band Morcheeba’s Galtres debut delivered a style all of its own. Lead singer Skye Edwards looked every inch a glamorous Fifties movie star and wooed the audience with her broad smile and silky smooth vocals. Similar in some ways to Sadé, but with more presence and a throughly modern backing.
Talk about rough following smooth. Alternative hip-hop (trip-hop?) act Tricky proved to be just that.
Part of the job of a reviewer is to take photos. It didn’t start well as he sloped onto the stage in near total darkness, turned his back to the audience and lit a fag.
Perhaps our expectations were wrong, but this genre usually lays down a strong rhythm and adds witty and/or profound lyrics over the top. His female co-singer (whose name even Google appears unable to shine light on) had a bright voice and added real melody to the tunes.
The drum and bass lines were strong and our eight-year son old threw energetic shapes on top of the hay bales. However, Tricky’s contribution appeared to be somewhat limited to repeating “Can ya ’ear me? Can ya ’ear me now?” Sadly, yes we could.
The kids wanted to spend more time on the many great rides, as well as enjoying theatre back at the Galleon. We chilled out in the sun, flitting from stage to stage enjoying more musical treats than you could shake a stick at.
Full of musical nourishment, we looked to refuel from some of the many food stalls. Spoilt for choice and reasonably priced, we went for Singapore noodles, a sweet crêpe, vegetarian curry and a halloumi burger. The latter was more like a warm cheese sandwich but the other dishes were excellent.
Back at Black Howl stage again, another young talent, local lass Beth McCarthy charmed the audience with her medley of musical stories. Down to earth, witty and confident, we were wooed by her everyday life commentary. Singing about a busker she fancied in Penny Drop, it was engaging stuff.
Hailing from South London, Public Service Broadcasting were easily
Mrs McD’s personal standout festival performance.
J Willgoose Esq and Wrigglesworth are the wacky, eccentric duo capable of tingling your neurones. With their clever synthesized broadcasts, this was grand scale creativity indeed.
Taking samples from old public information films, archive footage and propaganda material, they teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future.
A feast for eyes and ears and reminiscent of Paul Hardcastle’s 19, they hit just the right balance of nostalgia with alluring geekiness. Niche? Absolutely! Were we entertained? Most definitely.
Judging by the chatter from other festival goers, the final headliners, The Human League, were the most anticipated band of the weekend.
With an impressive video backdrop, Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall set up Mirror Man, as Phil Oakey strolled out in a Matrix-style long black coat to the still fresh techno beat.
It’s easy to forget how many of their tunes were the backdrop to our Eighties youth, and the years have clearly done nothing to dull the on-stage chemistry of the trio.
Newer songs from more recent albums found a little less favour with the audience, but these were interjected with the classics: Sound of the Crowd, Fascination, Love Action, Tell Me When…
We had been holding out for Don’t You Want Me, but the McJuniors were flagging. Three days of fun had taken their toll and we had to enjoy their biggest anthem whilst trekking back to the car.
Returning home tired and probably smelly, everyone wore a daft grin. Galtres was a perfect event for families with kids of all ages, including pre-teens looking to break their festival duck.