Whenever I go camping I feel free. The wanderlust that lives within me is momentarily settled. Throw in a music festival and that feeling of freedom is amplified. It’s a beautiful break from the concrete jungle. It’s an opportunity to re-connect with nature and just break free from the constraints and rules of modern life. The Good Life Experience festival, for me, encapsulated that spirit perfectly. It was filled with good vibes, creativity, raw beauty, the great outdoors and the stripped-back simplicity of the wild. Living in a capitalist society it’s easy to slip into the mindset that the world revolves around money, materialism and climbing that career ladder, no matter what personal sacrifices it takes. The Good Life Experience is a gentle reminder that life doesn’t have to be that way. That life is about having the freedom to explore, love, be rich in emotion, experience and what you are as a person. It isn’t about what you have.
I attended The Good Life Experience after winning a pair of tickets at NW Meet. As I reached for the tickets I was completely unaware of the festival’s existence. Yet I was so deeply intrigued by the unknown that I just grabbed those tickets without even looking at the other prizes available. I just knew that if there was ever a raffle prize made for me, it was this.
For me, happiness doesn’t come in fancy packaging or on a hanger. Well, okay, sometimes it does. But true happiness comes from enriching my life with experiences, nourishing my soul and exploring what the world has to offer.
I arrived at The Good Life Experience with little to no idea of what lay head. As I stepped on the trodden mud paths of the campsite the butterflies within my stomach awoke. I was immediately exhilarated. I felt at home in this field filled with unfamiliar friendly faces. A field that was kept warm with the sound of laughter, twinkle of fairy lights and brightly colored bunting strung between tents.
I hastily pitched up my teepee, threw my belongings inside and dashed off to explore the enchanting festival realms ahead. The festival immediately nodded towards the ‘good old days’ with it’s vintage style fun fair. A fun fair filled with a helter-skelter, swing-boats, coconut shy, flying swings, highstriker and of course fresh cotton candy. A little further afield you could have a shot at some axe throwing and archery. It truly was a reminder of simpler times.
I carried on wandering, past the Tin Cup Whiskey hut that was tucked away between the trees. Camp fires were dotted around the festival. If there’s ever an opportunity to huddle around a camp fire in the evening, I’m there. There were camp-fire singalongs, talks, workshops or just chilling. Children roasting hand picked corn over the open fire. Families toasting marshmallows. Individuals barbecuing homemade chicken skewers. And just a bunch of strangers sitting around a fire, appreciating the simplicity of the present moment, sharing stories and laughter, as the fire gently crackles away.
Throughout the festival, the music tent was graced by a variety of musical talents. Over the weekend DJ78 entertained festival-wanderers with his matching gramophones, blasting out some carefully chosen classics from 20’s dance to 50’s rock ‘n’ roll. Sticking with the vinyl theme, there was also the Vintage Mobile Disco. A back-to-basics disco on wheels that was remnant of school discos with it’s primary coloured disco lights, glitter ball and fog machine. As a sucker for vinyl, these were two acts that I loved for some nostalgic easy listening, with a little bit of toe-tapping.
There was such a musical variety. I just wish it was possible to have seen them all! The Revolucionarios Cubanos got everybody up and swinging to some cuban dance. Cuban vibes ran through the whole festival, with a cuban cocktails tent and the lingering scent of cuban cigars wherever you went.
Big Boss Man were another act I loved. It’s hard to describe their style but it ran through my bones and had me dancing before I even knew. Their sound was an entanglement of pop, soul, funk and R’n’B, it had echoes of Madchester vibes and all-together just lifted spirits. Public Service Broadcasting were the headlining act on the Saturday. The alternative duo that tie old public service broadcasting footage and propaganda with electronics beats and live music. It’s all a bit techy and it sounds like a far-fetched psychological idea, but it works. It works amazingly. The Sunday, before heading off early to embark on my many train journeys home, I caught Catrin Finch. A welsh harpist with hauntingly beautiful sounds. Her harmonious sounds were fitting for the festival wind-down on a lazy sunday.
There was so much more to this festival than just music. There was a variety of talks taking place over the weekend. From butchery demonstrations (that I just couldn’t bring myself to watch), nature talks, blacksmith demonstrations, poetry readings, bicycle-building workshops, a chef’s debate, rope-making and so much more. There was an abundance of activities on offer. There was something for everyone. From rock-climbing to tug-of-war, you’d never be stuck for something to do.
Mornings began with a bowl of heart-warming porridge with mixed nuts and honey. A simple breakfast washed down with a cup of tea. It’s the perfect start to a day really. Eating your breakfast in the William Gladstone tent on a long table filled with like-minded folk, all enjoying the simple, carefree mornings of festival life. From the onset of morning, the festival was alive with the sound of happiness. Families dressed in plaid and tweed with dogs sporting bandannas, all happily enjoying the present moment and creating memories to last. In the mornings, I was content with just sitting back and people-watching. It filled me with a sense of happiness as I appreciated my surroundings.
The festival was humbling. The good vibes it exuded was overwhelming. Everybody here was conntected by their love of the outdoors and appreciation of the simple things in life from a good book to a decent meal. It was a festival built upon discovery and creativity. It was a festival that was held together by love and kindness. It’s a festival that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend. Boutique festivals hold a special place in my heart and The Good Life Experience will reside their too.
The Good Life Experience festival began as four friends on the search for the good life and I think they found just that.
But the Wild Things cried, “Oh please don’t go- we’ll eat you up- we love you so!”