Entertainment, Manchester

The Answer to the Corporate Festival …

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By Dan J Broadley

UK summer festivals offer us a weekend of forgetting the real world and dancing away our troubles. They’re also a booming business.

And people are certainly reaping the cash from festival-goers’ pockets. Festival weekend tickets themselves are no less than a hundred quid. So when I got in to Parklife to find it was £4.90 for a pint of pissy Fosters as the cheapest pint, I felt like someone, somewhere, was laughing in my face as they counted the money they’d just mugged me for.

parklife2Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time at Parklife – I saw some great acts and enjoyed the weekend. I just felt a little like we were herded in like cattle and everywhere I turned, there was something that’d charge me for someone else’s profit. Need a dump in a decent loo? Tenner. Need to withdraw cash? Few quid for that please mate. Portion of chips? Four quid. That’s London prices! We’re up North!

I’m not slagging off festivals, but this corporatisation makes me feel like some of the true festival ‘vibe’ is disappearing.

So where can we find an alternative festival experience? Small, local festivals that are set up by real people instead of big business and corporate sponsors. Admittedly, they may never get Fleetwood Mac or Wu Tang Clan, but they certainly offer a friendlier atmosphere.

I caught up with the organisers of the Cloudspotting Music and Arts Festival – which celebrates its 5th birthday this year – after they were mentioned in the Guardian as one of the top ‘boutique’ festival to visit this year.

“A classic combination of music, lovely food and drink, family and arts activities in a stunning location.  It’s good value and regulars applaud its non-commercial feel.” – Guardian

“It is nice to be recognised in the national press for what we are doing though I’m not sure what qualifies for ‘boutique’ as we were in there with festivals 15 times bigger than us!” says co-promoter Matt Evans.

“The UK festival climate has changed immeasurably over the years. People are looking for a different experience in which they and their friends or family are part of the event and can get more involved.”

“Being in the forest is special as it allows us to develop new areas each year.  There is room for the audience to grow a little at Stephen Park, but without losing the intimacy that people cherish.  It’s a special atmosphere.”

The Cloudspotting festival is located deep in the picturesque Forest of Bowland and will this year be hosting just under a thousand like-minded souls for a sizzling line-up of music, arts, outdoor pursuits and mouth watering food and drinks.

Unlike most festivals, Cloudspotting has a lot more to offer than just music (although this is still a huge part of it). Touring theatre, documentary cinema, mountain biking and a wide range of creative projects and workshops are just some of the things that keep punters busy.


“The suitability of the venue for families and the beauty of the environment around us has inspired the growth of the festival into a wider arts event,” says co organiser Helen Ficorilli.

“We have developed some great partnerships with a number of creative people who are delivering some really exciting projects over the weekend.”

Cloudspotting’s music line-up takes place across two outdoor stages and one smaller venue known as ‘The Attic’ which showcases regional singer-songwriters and poetry.

Steeped more in the experimental music of BBC 6Music than the mainstream of Radio One, the festival line-up is shored up by a number of burgeoning acts from across the North.

Manchester’s vast music scene is well represented this year with acts such as Dutch Uncles, Jane Weaver and Sara Lowes all promoting successful recent albums. Saturday’s headliners The Earlies are a sprawling 10-piece amalgam of Manchester, East Lancashire and Texan musicians.  Playing a heady mix of alt country, folk and progressive rock, the Earlies recently reformed and have just released their first new songs since 2007.

“Everyone who loved them will remember some epic festival performances, it’s an exciting proposition for the Saturday night and something that certainly won’t be happening at any other festival.” added Matt.

So, for the alternative festival experience this summer, Cloudspotting looks like the place to be! The festival takes place from Friday 24th July the 26th. Full weekend tickets are available for just £99 and under 16s get in for just a tenner!

Click here for more on ticket prices, line up and just about everything else you need to know!

Anarcho-libertarian, Dan J Broadley, is a creative writing student at MMU and has hopes to become a novelist.

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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