Beacons Festival lives up to great reputation

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Beacons Festival, Funkirk Estate, Skipton

Review by Laura Connor

North Yorkshire isn’t exactly blessed with an eclectic mix of music festivals - so it’s a good job we’ve got Beacons.

From indie to electronic music, Local Natives to Bonobo, the second offering of Skipton’s boutique festival catered to all tastes.

And after last year’s inaugural event turned into a dispiriting mud bath (I am sure all those pictures of denim-shorts-clad girls trudging through soggy fields at Glastonbury make mud look fun?!) this year’s somewhat sunnier offering made the Bank Holiday weekend feel like a tipsy country picnic.

Of course, the rolling, melancholy hills encircling Funkirk Estate added to the country picnic vibe, supplemented by food stands selling everything from ‘Notorious P.I.G.’ burritos and halloumi wraps (a personal favourite) to ‘Ghandi’s flip-flop’ curries.

But that’s enough about the food. Back to the music. The weekend couldn’t have kicked off to a better start as Leeds-born Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, dominated the Loud and Quiet stage with his hypnotic trip hop, before the crowd headed to the Resident Advisor stage to catch John Talabot’s euphoric midnight DJ set.

Saturday was bursting with the dreamy Parisian purrs of Melody’s Echo Chamber followed by a much-anticipated but ultimately under-whelming set by LA quartet Local Natives. The Beacons guide said they have the “sonic ambition of Arcade Fire”, but they only achieved the seemingly impossible accolade of sending me to sleep while standing.

Thankfully, I had the psychedelic doom of the Wytches to cheer me up by Sunday afternoon. And to be fair to Local Natives, my sleepiness was probably partially down to how often I visited the superb real ale tent. Housed inside two spacious tipis, the Leeds-based Whitelocks Ale Festival’s tent proves Beacons is as much about the atmosphere and experience as it is about the music.

Some of the stand-out moments of the weekend were in tents somewhat off the beaten musical track, with the Beacons Boutique offering vintage bargains and face-painting, and the neighbouring Marvellous Tea Dance Company serving homemade cakes and hot drinks on quaint crockery and gingham tablecloths.

But the undoubtable highpoint of the weekend for me was the intriguing Into the Woods tent, offering film viewings, political talks, whisky tasting and even morning yoga sessions (yes, I did yoga while hungover and surrounded by sweaty, unwashed bodies in a field - and it was great).

On Friday I caught the second half of The Arbor, a perfectly-pitched, devastatingly-simple docu-film exploring the life of late Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar. But the Into the Woods highlight had to be Sightseers, a black comedy about a loved-up couple on a murderous rampage across Yorkshire - including Ripon’s Fountain’s Abbey and Knaresborough’s Mother Shipton’s Cave. The film showing was followed by a Q&A session with writers and actors Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, who at times seemed just as quirky as their fictional doppelgängers.

And compared to last year’s rain-soaked event, Beacons was notably more organised and seemed to have developed a stronger sense of identity, which will hopefully keep growing year-on year-as will, I trust, the number of Portaloos.

Only an upgrade from my £10 two-man Asda tent to a tipi could have improved my Beacons experience.