If you’re looking for your standard British festival of muddy fields, warm cider and pop music, then this probably isn’t going to be your cup of tea.
However, if you are down for a 3-day long outdoors experience with great big campfires and heartwarming music, then get cosy and discover The Good Life Experience with me…
Based in the beautiful estate of Hawarden, The Good Life Experience is a breath of fresh air. I first visited TGLE back in 2015 and when returning again this year, the welcoming atmosphere remained unchanged. It’s almost feels like coming home after being away for a very, very long time.
The Good Life Experience is a gateway to nature; a gateway to the outdoors, simpler times and grand experiences. The idea behind the creation of TGLE was to create a festival unlike any other and I truly think they achieved just that.
EXPERIENCE THE GOOD LIFE
From iron forgery to firewalking to spoon carving to axe throwing and wild swimming, The Good Life Experience is a festival full of adventure. It will pull you away from the chains of the 21st century and throw you into a weekend of wilderness. Something that, until you get there, you might not even realise you need. But boy, do you need it.
Some of the activities are free but it’s worth noting that you do have to pay to experience a lot of the activities. But it’s completely worth it because, without fail, you’ll come away having learnt a new skill. I contemplated taking part in a few of the workshops. From metalwork to woodwork to pottery and foraging, there is something for everyone to get involved in and each and every workshop will leave you with a skill for life.
The main workshop that took my fancy was spoon carving which was £20 for a 2 hour session and you got to keep the spoon you carved! However, I decided to be good and save my pennies (and potentially my fingers…) for another time.
I also eyed up the opportunity to try fire walking by the lake but sadly, I missed the deadline for booking. If you’re more of a water baby, there was also wild swimming at the lake followed by tea and marshmallows around the lakeside campfire.
There’s still plenty of free activities to get stuck into such as axe throwing, archery and slacklining. Having tried archery in Coniston during the summer, I ticked axe throwing and slacklining off my list of things to do whilst at TGLE.
With my lack of coordination, I can’t say I was brilliant at either but I had amazing fun and would love to carry on with slacklining.
LEARNING A NEW SKILL
Because I spontaneously booked to visit TGLE last minute, I hadn’t given myself much time to put some cash aside for activities. As a result, I was pretty frugal during my weekend but that didn’t stop me having fun.
On my first day at The Good Life Experience, I couldn’t help but spot the blacksmith tent. Now, it may have been because it was a fairly big tent, or maybe it was the loud banging noises of metal coming from inside or it could have even been the heat radiating off the coals… No matter what the reason was, I found myself drawn to the Alex Pole Ironwork tent.
We watched in awe as the blacksmiths hammered away making all kinds of metalwork. When that was when we spotted the sign. £5 to make your own nail. At a price like that, there was no doubt that the next day we would be heading back to the tent to make our own iron nails.
So, when Saturday rolled around, we did just that. It was incredibly fun and I think I may have unearthed a new skill as my nail turned out almost perfectly aligned. I instantly wanted to do more iron forging so attending a workshop with Alex Pole Ironwork is definitely something I’ll look to do in the future. For the rest of the day, I proudly clutched at my nail, thinking to myself “I made this!”
DANCING THE NIGHT AWAY
If there’s one way to explain the music at TGLE it’s a mix of ‘feel good Jazz’ that makes you wish you were in midst of the 1920s prohibition era and ‘Dad dancing music’… y’know, the kind of music that’s fun to bop to, especially if the idea of going on a night out is a rare occurrence for you.
You normally wouldn’t ever catch me dancing along to Trevor Nelson. But honestly, it couldn’t be more perfect for a weekend designed to encourage you to be wild and carefree. So, for one weekend, I danced and laughed the night away to the sound of Trevor Nelson DJing.
Without a doubt, I’m much more of a fan of the jazz music that was on offer. In fact, so much so, that I haven’t stopped listening to Kansas Smitty’s House Band since. They’re a new favourite of mine and I’m determined to one day visit London and enjoy a drink in their very own bar off Broadway.
But it’s not all cheesy pop music or swinging jazz, you’ll also find heartwarming acoustic by the likes of Ferris & Sylvester or vibrant music from the exquisite Rajasthan Brass Band. Another artist I loved listening to was Diabel Cissokho; an incredible African musician with uplifting tracks that instantly got you dancing.
ENRICHING TALKS AND WILD DEMONSTRATIONS
If you’re looking for a festival that offers more than just music for your ears, The Good Life Experience also offers an array of talks and demonstrations to feed your soul. As you work your way through the fields of Hawarden estate, there will be pockets of life in every tent or around every campfire that you pass.
For the foodies, you can get cosy at Campfire cooking to watch as different chefs take to the wild campfire to cook up a tasty meal. Whilst at the Speakers Corner, you’ll find an eclectic mix of talks sparking conversation around the festival. Here, Josh Coombes spoke about giving haircuts to the homeless, Edwards Daniels gave a talk on veganism and Claire Potter discussed the problems and positives of plastic.
There really is something for everyone and it’s a perfect opportunity to learn about new topics and feed your brain.
But the weird and wonderful topics don’t stop there. At The Academy, talks included the likes of “Kindess is a competitive advantage: Why The Apprentice is a load of shit” and “Awe, wonder and stargazing”. Both of which are admittedly very different topics of conversation and yet both of which can easily inspire you to look deeper at yourself and the world around you.
On Saturday, I caught the last few moments of Alex Gregory MBE talking all about Dadventures, making the most of every moment with his little ones and encouraging them to explore and get outdoors.
Earlier that day, I also listened as Ben Fogle took to the Main Stage to talk all about his latest adventures and answer a few questions from the crowd.
On the Sunday morning, I headed along to one of the stands to watch a demonstration that may leave some feeling uncomfortable. I watched as a deer was skinned and each of the different cuts of meat carefully cut away. With each cut, came a careful explanation and respect for the animal was shown throughout the demonstration.
Although it may seem inhumane, it became clear that this style of hunting for meat is actually far more humane than any kind of meat you’ll find sitting in the fridges of your local supermarket.
SHOP SMALL, SUPPORT SMALL
If you think wild activities, music you can dance to and enriching talks was enough, we’re not finished yet. There were three large marketplace tents at the festival, giving you the opportunity to shop small and treat yourself (or someone else) to something new.
Many of the items on display were handmade and produced from careful craftsmanship and love-filled labour.
I couldn’t help but go gooey-eyed over the beautiful leather accessories by Hord. I’m still dreaming of buying a leather patch from them. Next to Hord’s stand, was Old Faithful who offer a range of skincare products. Being a fan of bouldering, I treated myself to a small tub of their hand balm to try to keep the skin tears at bay.
There were also several vendors selling clothing, all of which, I had to tear myself away from to stop myself from buying beautiful vintage-inspired workwear. The TGLE merchandise was by far my favourite though. With the boiler suits and work jackets leaving me with major envy of anyone that sported one.
BE WILD AND LIVE THE GOOD LIFE
In 2019, The Good Life Experience vows to be smaller. They’re going against the grain of constantly growing and instead will focus on being a slightly smaller, more intimate festival.
The activities will be just as wild, the talks just as inspiring and the music just as uplifting. There will also be an extra optional day and night being added. It will simply all just be on a little bit of a smaller scale.
If you want to spend a weekend connecting with your inner wild-child or spend your evening stargazing as you sit around an open campfire, then The Good Life Experience is for you.