Prove your humanity: 1   +   6   =  

Usually when thinking of a festival you think of music, booze and the great unwashed crowds in a muddy field with very little backdrop. Now Festival No 6 is different – not only does it have the breathtakingly spectacular setting of Portmeirion, and the shadowing fame of The Prisoner hanging down on it, but the feeling of 3 festivals in one!

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Festival No.6

Portmeirion was built by Sir Clough William-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of the Italian Riviera, based on the architecture of Portofino, Italy. For one weekend at the end of the summer this tourist trap becomes home to Festival {No 6} and gets inundated with an eclectic mix of people from families, oldies and teenagers all ready for an intimate boutique festival.

The festival had a park and ride system, where you abandoned your car in a Rugby club a few miles down the road and were syphoned by the coach load down into the magical destination. We were dropped off at the top of the town (where you couldn’t see much) and directed past some food stalls and up into the campsite. Now most people when they go to a festival remember tent pegs, not us. Luckily one of those handy ‘village shop’ stalls was at the bottom of the hill. The guys working at this shop were obviously ready to party and each time we passed them at night you could see them at the next level of partying. With our tent set up, it was time to venture out into the wide world of Festival {No 6}.

central piazza (2)

Bypassing the main arena, we headed into town; walking past all these grand colourful buildings in North Wales was a surreal experience. The town made everything more magical with little venues, amazing buildings, large blue and white deckchairs in the Central Piazza and even a stage right on the estuary next to an open air swimming pool (apparently not for use..). There was also a stage in the woods known as the ‘Lost In The Woods’ stage, our favourite venue. It was draped in bunting and foliage, with an outdoor living room feel. Said stage was run by a different record label each day, which made it even more interesting as you could see big bands on a little stage. We saw Badly Drawn Boy there (known by our campsite neighbours as Badly Worn Hat), who played his repertoire with an air of unease. He also ended his set by shaking hands with a blonde girl who was around 5 and saying “I’ll give you my number, give me a call in 20 years….. I’m a twat aren’t I” and off he went into his last song (where his mobile kept ringing).

lost in the woods

Being in its second year, the festival still had that delightful small, boutique feel providing amazing cocktails, really good street food and a brilliant mix of music and culture (they even had a stage dedicated to Welsh music). The Grand Marnier bar was one of my favourites, selling unique cocktails in little red balls with glowing ice cubes in them and playing anything from the inspector gadget theme tune to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, with a bit of Swing thrown in. Then there was the Belvedere Vodka bar, selling more expensive cocktails and playing dance music until dawn. On the Friday night I spent most of my time in the Hookah bar, revelling in chai tea and raspberry and blueberry shisha.

This year’s line-up was a diverse mixture of genres, with classic bands like Chic, Manic Street Preachers and My Bloody Valentine alongside lesser known bands like Jagwar Ma, Stealing Sheep and Temples. They even had a The Brythonthiaid Male Voice Choir (who added covers of The Manic Street Preachers and Chic to their repertoire). The highlights of the weekend were Jagwar Ma, who put on such an energetic show that it was impossible not to like them. Stealing Sheep played on the estuary stage, another of my highlights – they started in the crowd and then combined to waltz their way onto the stage to give an amazing performance with almost every instrument you could think of. Lianne La Havas and Chic stole the show, with Lianne putting so much emotion into her performance that every member of the crowd could feel exactly what each song was about. Chic got the crowd riled up and dancing to many a Nile Rogers song, which came with a disclosure “I don’t want you thinking we are a cover band, all these songs you are going to hear are written by yours truly, they’re all mine”

chic

There were very few stalls in sight, in fact I think there was only one non-food stall, something uncommon for a festival. The food stalls made up for it, although I would have liked to rifle through some vintage clothes stalls as I perused the festival instead of constantly salivating over some tasty morsel being dangled in front of us. Food also wasn’t that expensive, which made a nice change.

Comedy and performance art played a big role in Festival {No 6}, from comedians such as Sean Walsh (who heckled my friend) and Mark Thomas, who lightened the stage in Castle Court, which was brilliant for rainy moments and if you were feeling a tad hungover! There were also street performers and group performances rambling their way around Portmeirion. The carnival was amazing, a long line of dancing ladies dressed in fancy clothing, puppets and flags all swaying to the carnival drums leading them into the Central Piazza.

dancroll

Now Sunday was a strange day. I awoke to the sound of really heavy rain and extremely strong winds rustling our tent around (lucky we found those tent pegs!). A severe weather warning had been issued, most of the stages were being packed down and there was a long queue for the park and ride, we weren’t even allowed into the main arena. We wouldn’t let that dampen our spirits because there were a few things still open in town, one of which was Musical Bingo in the Tim Peaks Diner. Unfortunately the diner was rammed but we danced along outside in the rain, which I like to think helped cheer other people up too! In the Central Piazza under some large umbrellas were Natural Causes, a trio of men who were making up songs with whoever was there, which they later put on soundcloud. Our song was called The Rain Song and included a flugelhorn, clarinet, guitar and a lot of percussion; it actually sounded ok! By 2pm the rain had cleared and a lot of people had left, meaning it was easier to get to the front of the stage, it also meant that The Staves had cancelled due to the bad weather along with a few other bands. Sunday was by far the best day; all the worry of what was going to happen and then the relief that our tent didn’t blow away, along with the amazing line-up and beautiful cocktails.

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Festival {No 6} is one of the most diverse and truly amazing festivals I have ever been to and I would recommend that everyone makes a trip to this magical, unique boutique festival at least once.

 

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