Portmeirion, North Wales
7-10 September 2017
Festival No.6 recently celebrated its sixth birthday and Paul Grace joined the revelry on the beautiful Welsh coast.
“Will we need our wellies?”, my partner asks as we’re about to leave London for Festival No.6 in North Wales.
“Maybe we should. Just in case?”, I reply optimistically…
Festival No.6 is billed as a boutique arts and music festival which takes place in the remote village of Portmeirion in North Wales.
I’d been to Portmeirion as a kid and remembered it was a peculiar place. An Italianate pastiche village nestled on a hillside where tiny streets lined with pastel coloured houses wind down to a vast and beautiful estuary. This makes for a magical and truly unique festival location.
We arrived late afternoon just as it started to piss it down. The park and ride system was efficient and although the campsite was already quite full we still managed to shoehorn our tent onto a 45 degree slope beneath a stream of bright festoon lights. Nobody sleeps at festivals anyway, right?
With an exhaustive schedule of live music, there was also spoken word, cabaret, woodland walks, well-being, water-sports and I was up for experiencing as much as possible.
On Friday night the heaven’s dramatically opened during the Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir’s stirring performance during which the choir master comically advised “we’re the oldest boy band here!”. The choir sung a heartwarming selection of traditional Welsh songs and also performed a tear-jerking cover of Elbow’s One Day Like This. Gorgeous.
A winding torchlit procession led us to the Grand Pavilion in the main field where Kate Tempest delivered a trademark hurricane blast, while Friday night’s main stage headliners were Mogwai whose swirling wall of sound was impressive but I felt was not quite big enough to fill the vast corners of the main field. Comedy and cabaret were well located in the intimate Meirion Rouge tent while the House of Rum was rocking to the sounds of Homoelectric; a fabulous queer rave tent full of saucer-eyed glitter-encrusted revellers. It was getting very muddy and I was glad we brought our wellies.
The woodland walks around Portmeirion were not only beautiful but they also contained some wonderful surprises. The Dugout was an absolute gem of a find; an old school sound system full of colourful characters partying hard beneath a leafy canopy. By contrast, the woodcutters stage was a more subdued area where acoustic artists performed with a beautiful backdrop of trees and cut timber. Lost In The Woods was another forest enclave featuring an eclectic mix of electronica, acoustic, rock and indie and many of whom were Welsh.
A stroll down to the banks of the estuary revealed more activities and areas plus an incredible view. There was paddle boarding, a heated swimming pool, and an à la carte restaurant. The stone boat held a fab party area with DJ’s layering Ibiza style grooves and where the gathered crowd gave an almighty cheer when the sun finally made an appearance. Yay! Heading back towards the main area Irvine Welsh was in conversation at the Central Piazza in front of a large crowd.
Jagwar Ma ripped a whole in the Grand Pavilion with a rave-tastic set reminiscent of early Underworld while indie-rockers The Wild Beasts set the main stage up nicely for Saturday’s headliners Bloc Party. It was a rocky start for Bloc Party who seemed to be suffering audio issues but the four piece quickly rose to conquer with an almighty set that featured all the hits plus a retina burning light show.
Foodies were well catered for throughout the festival site with various vans, huts and air-streamers offering delicious gourmet goodies and there was even a fine dining option with a top chef hosting each night.
Yes it rained a lot (did I mention I was glad we brought our wellies?) but the weather didn’t dampen the fun. Portmeirion is a truly magical location for Festival No.6 and those who wandered beyond the main areas were rewarded with some beautiful experiences. Will I be back? Absolutely.