Beautiful Days, established by the alt folk rock band The Levellers has been running for 12 years at Escot Park in Devon. The weekend before the August Bank Holiday weekend each year around 15,000 revellers take the trip to Devon to gather together for a 3 day celebration of folk, punk, ska, reggae and roots music.
Of all the festivals on the UK scene each summer, Beautiful Days is my favourite. It is quirky, laid back, family friendly, a little under the radar and on the fringes. The same can be said of those who attend. It is unquestionably the people who make the festival what it is.
Over the years the festival has won a host of awards alongside its host of fans. It sells out each year despite not advertising or having any sponsorship. News of the festival has spread largely by word of mouth but is the awards it wins that has made it increasingly popular and is slowly changing the profile of the festival. In recent years there has been an increase in the numbers of young adults and middle class families attending and this is bringing the festival more into the mainstream. It can only be hoped that this doesn’t eventually make the festival a victim of its own success.
Escot park lies just off the A30 between Honiton and Exeter, access is fairly easy but it is approached through narrow country lanes, so queues can and do form at peak times. Our arrival was a breeze and we were soon set up on flat ground close to both toilets and showers. It says much about Beautiful Days that we chose this festival to allow my son and his friend to take a tent to one of the general camping areas and camp away from us for the first time at a festival. We knew they would be safe, that they would be looked after by other campers. It was great to let them have some freedom whilst we had peace of mind at the same time.
The Thursday of the festival doesn’t officially have any music but the bars and food outlets are open. This year the evenings proceedings were to be a bit of a treat. Firstly we found our way to meet up with friends Addie and Jane Burns whom I had met at Bearded Theory earlier this year. Addie had cooked a curry for a group of us and we all met for food and a few beers. Superb!! Afterwards we made our way to Dirty Davy’s bar on the festival site.
On facebook there is a very active Beautiful Days chat group with over 200 members. As a result of an ‘in joke’ on the group we had decided to wear fezzes (tommy Cooper style) to the Thursday evening gathering. As we arrived we were greeted by the sight of hundreds of people wearing their fezzes. The effort that people had put into customising and decorating their fezzes was incredible.
As the evening progressed the atmosphere was fantastic as we all met up with friends both new and old. The conviviality was fuelled to a degree by Otter Breweries Beer and Cider which was priced at only £3.50 a pint. I took a shine to the elderflower cider, it went down very easily and at 7.5% alcohol certainly got the party going. During the evening we were treated to a ‘surprise’ busking set by the wonderful “Barsteward Sons of Val Doonican”. If you have not seen these guys you really need to check them out. They are fantastic festival fare.
At around 11.30 we decided to call it a night and so ended the first day of what was to prove an amazing weekend.