Village Pump

Venue: White Horse Country Park
Town: Westbury
Dates: 24-26/7/15

If I was to tell you that I took the family off for a wet weekend in the shadow of a cement factory you'd probably think I was mad, but that is exactly what we did and we had a great time.

The White Horse Country Park at Westbury in Wiltshire is the current home for the Village Pump Folk Festival, which laid down its roots almost 50 years ago at the Lamb Inn in nearby Trowbridge. The park is bounded on one side by the Great Western main line between London and Plymouth and the aforementioned cement works, and the escarpment up to Salisbury Plain on the other. Overlooking the area is the White Horse carved into the side of Bratton Down that gives the park its name.

Hopefully, this review will give you an insight as to what The Village Pump Folk Festival was like to attend and what my partner Siân and our children Gethin and Morgana thought of it.

The Music The Perpective

A first timers view.

After hearing so many good reports about the music and atmosphere of Village Pump Folk Festival I was eager to attend. In particular I wanted experience as much music and workshops as possible. we came as a family of four myself, my partner and two teenage children one of whom has a learning disability. In fact when I mentioned this to a steward he pointed out to me that it wasn't so much a disability just a different ability, which set the atmosphere for the festival and their acceptance of all attendees. Both genuinely enjoy attending with us and have eclectic music tastes. It seemed to be a very cosy and intimate festival and felt very relaxed, however this in no way affected the music on offer with a wide variety from household names in the folk world such as The Oysterband, Show of Hands, Dave Swarbrick and Martin Carthy to lesser known acts and upcoming bands and singers.

One of the things I most love about Folk Festivals is the fact that artists however big a name they are are happy to chat to their fans and support newer artists. The fans in turn never seem to behave rudely and mob the artists but show respect for themselves and their craft coupled with genuine appreciation of their work. In fact we saw a number getting on with work or checking in. We had to restrain our son from enthusiastically naming and pointing at some of the people he recognised.

Our first port of call was to get some food and to get our bearings ready to plan our time. The festival had a lovely relaxed feel to it which in the words of someone I spoke to, was a cross between a village fete and a festival. The stewards were available for support but I saw no trouble during our time there and I was impressed at the ethos of a people's festival and that all the festival goers were a part of the festival experience.

I was chatting to some stewards looking after us and one told me he was one of the founders of the festival and did what he could to help nowadays but felt that the younger element was now stepping up to ensure the continution of the festival. In fact the same gentleman checked on us a few hours into our visit to check how we were enjoying ourselves. The stewards seemed happy in their allocated roles as did the many other volunteers and staff ensuring that the festival was running smoothly. No where seemed too crowded and site facilities were clean and in good order.

There was an interesting variety of stalls and attractions to wander around including a stall selling various bee products including a working section of a hive which proved of great interest to the children and a war gaming demonstration of the Battle of Waterloo succinctly explained by a gentleman wearing antique uniform. We also watched Wolly the Jester who was funny for both the children and adults alike. My partner was even roped into the act. Which caused great mirth amongst our two children. there was also a photo studio where people could adorn themselves in an array of garments and have a photo with a backdrop. Also in the centre of the stalls field there was a photo frame which we made use of to frame our pictures. In fact the picture taken by my daughter is now my partners FB profile pic. Our only real purchases were some badges made out of recycled bottle tops and food. This was not because anything was over priced but largely because due to the variety of things available to do we did not have the opportunity to return for a second look. There were some interesting items made from Lego also which took my daughter's fancy including a working lamp. Other items included festival type chairs, rugs clothing and a plethora of food including Asian, a teashop and local cuisine I was surprised to see a Welsh catering unit even boasting laverbread ( a type of dulse seaweed popular in Wales) on its menu. We decided on locally produced frankfurters which were very tasty on this occasion. We also had the opportunity to eat a tasty meal in the club house/pub on site which was good value for money.

After being suitably fed we wandered off to watch some bands. We saw False Lights which I enjoyed tremendously. My daughter and I took part in a drama workshop which we both enjoyed and I was delighted to find I was not a lone adult. We had a go at speaking in gibberish, and throwing Shakespearean insults in a face off. To top it off we did a potted Shakespearean play the group I was in acted out Hamlet with an Eastenders twist whilst my daughter's group did Romeo and Juliet through the medium of Morris Sides. In fact we took another workshop the following day this time re enacting films. The drama teachers were light hearted and made the whole workshop fun. We did not have time to see any other children's shows or activities but did wonder whether there were any workshops for older children/ teens so they had some time to do their own thing. My son was delighted that not only was there a main line behind the festival site but also a miniature railway nearby.


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