At last! After what seemed to be the longest Winter ever, the UK summer festival season is underway. Those who have read my previous views on this festival will know that Bearded Theory is a real favourite of mine, the dates for next year are already in my diary. That said, there were a few problems at this years festival, so let’s deal with those right away.
Getting onto the site this year was quite simply a nightmare. It took me over four hours to travel the last four miles from the A38 to the site. Not good, not good at all. The queues were dreadful and the situation was exacerbated after arriving on the site and meeting an incredibly rude, aggressive and officious campsite security supervisor who refused to let me park my van in an empty spot and sent me to the overflow crew field instead. This meant a 40-minute walk to the site, no fun when carrying all of my camera equipment. I realise that staff are stressed when things go wrong, but there is no need for aggression towards festival fans.
Sadly, my experience was far from unique. If my festival friends are to believed many shared my experience. However, let’s remember that the huge majority of security staff were helpful, friendly and polite.
The net result was that I missed the entire Thursday lineup with the exception of the last couple of songs by headliners, Reverend and the Makers. It was certainly a disappointing start to the festival. On Friday, we woke to rain and the awful news that tent thieves had been at work overnight, this is fast becoming a trend at UK festivals, especially on the first night when people are carrying the most cash.
That said, if you think this is going to be a review that focuses on what didn’t go well, let me disavow you of that notion.
There are many reasons why Bearded Theory is my favourite festival of the year, and it’s mostly about the people.
The organisers of Bearded Theory were horrified by the traffic problems, and I am certain that they will do everything in their power to ensure that there is no repeat next year.
Of course, it isn’t just the organisers who make a festival run smoothly. They are assisted by a huge team who spend days before and after the festival building and breaking down the site. A special mention must go to the wonderful army of Oxfam stewards. These selfless souls turn up giving their time, often working long shifts, for no more than free entry to the event. They work incredibly hard to keep us all safe and to keep things running smoothly.
Of course, the biggest praise of all should go to those festival fans who turn up intent on having a great weekend. In their thousands, music fans arrive on site to party, make new friends, and to socialise with other revelers. Perhaps the best example of the atmosphere at Bearded Theory was the fans reactions to the Thursday night thefts. Many fans donated to hastily arranged funds collected by the welfare team and by the crew at the Something Else Tea Tent. Thousands of pounds were donated to help ensure that those who lost everything were able to stay on site and enjoy the festival.
You can’t help but be impressed by the selflessness and generosity of the fans at Bearded Theory. Likewise, the attention to detail displayed by the entire team. The festival had campsite helpers who entertained children whilst tents were erected. There were sign language interpreters on all the stages, new paths had been installed to assist those with mobility problems,
My wife and I walked the camping fields on Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening, almost unbelievably, as the photos below will show, there wasn’t a single piece of litter to be seen in the campsites. This was seriously impressive, but it also exemplifies that everyone has a role to play in making a festival and great experience for everyone.
Lastly, one of the reasons that Bearded Theory is frequently awarded accolades for Best Family Festival is the Bearded Theory School. Teachers, volunteers, Special Educational Needs teachers combine to provide a fabulous fun and educational experience for the younger festival fan. This really is the jewel in Bearded Theory’s crown.
To summarise, Bearded Theory had a few issues to deal with over the past weekend, but as they always do, the organisers reacted swiftly, doing everything they possibly could to resolve the problems. I have no doubt that they will do everything in their power to improve again next year.
It is Bearded Theory’s ability to listen and respond to its customers that sets it apart from most festivals. It is the determination to get it right that makes Bearded Theory the best festival of its kind in the UK. Long may it continue!
I will end part 1 of this review here, do watch out for reviews and photographs over the next few days.