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Festival No6

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By Magenta Edwards

Magenta tells of her visit to the last festival of the season deep in Wales

photo of Magenta
Magenta Edwards

Portmeirion for me has always been one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I have ever had the good fortune to visit; a mystical village that never failed to conjure up deep awe inspiring emotions of dreamy romance and utopian ideals. In the sunshine, you could easily mistake your surroundings to be a hidden nook on a summer’s day on the Almafi Coast.

Nestled amidst rugged mountains, white sands and dense green forest, this grandiose example of neo-classical inspired development has proven to be an ideal host to a superb congregation of festival goers wanting more than the average entertainments laid on by the now hundreds of festivals that take place from May onward.

is a spectacular schedule of musical icons, poetry, woodland raves, theatre, cinema, spontaneous interactive occurrences, intimate readings and diverse discussion set within the most overwhelmingly stylish settlement.

Friday night saw us somehow sans a No6 guide, and therefore a map, so we meandered rather aimlessly through the first suggestion of claggy muds – but as a devotee of being lost in fields, I left it to fate to guide us to Elysium…

We got caught up in the torch-lit procession and did a sherry steered shaky stamp to the Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band on a softly illuminated trail, that then guided us gracefully to the main arena. The Kraken Rum Tent drew us in with well mixed classical hip-hop and groovy disco and a swaggering crowd of grins, glitter and glamour. An overheard conversation between a couple at the bar regarding missing Badly Drawn Boy made my heart sink and propelled me to ask them if they were in possession of a program. They were, and upon inspection I discovered I had missed Everything Everything and Dicky Trisco – but joy of joys! Frankie Knuckles we had not and so we joined forces and hot stepped to a most exhausting but excellent set.

Saturday morning granted glorious streams of sunlight and so after a hot shower, which was clean and easy to find, the mission was to locate the listings, plan the days merriment, and, perhaps have a paddle…

Beach, check. Guidebook, check – which at £10, I thought was perhaps a little pricy as an essential, although upon opening, it was well laid out, informative and contained fabulous shots of where I was at that moment sitting, and grown up woes of the price of things dissolved as I was back on this same shore as 7 year old, nibbling jam butties staring out across the glistening azure horizon desperate to spot one of the marvellous mermaids mum had spoken of on the way…

We listening to poetry on the Estuary Stage, followed by an engaging talk from Andy Weatherall in which he described how he’d sit in his airing cupboard and listen to the mechanical noises that emanated from the boiler; which in turn led to an interesting conversation afterward with two Berliners sitting beside me, about the techno club Tresor as the birthplace of industrial sound; the diverse crowd at No6 makes meeting strangers a very pleasing experience; in fact I didn’t come across any negative attitude the entire weekend.

 

Mistaking Tricky to be playing on the Sunday rather than Saturday was heart breaking, and so a pact was made there and then to see him before the year is out. The Brythonthiad Welsh Male Voice Choir followed an as ever tremendous John Cooper Clarke, who performed Twat, quite possibly my favourite of his creations; and I later shared a tender moment with a beautiful stranger as we held hands and sang along with the choir to Kumbaya below a silvery moon. The evening became ever more enchanting as the stunning luminescent heliosphere hung suspended a spiralling acrobatic figure, which appeared as a weightless ballerina dancing through the air; it was much more spell binding than I had imagined when I read of it.

We then found ourselves caught up by a troupe of glowing drummers called Spark, which created such a powerful beat I felt as though in a trance; they really have to be watched first hand to understand the allurement. The remainder of the night we danced away in the packed Kraken Tent to an eclectic mix, before totally frazzled, purchasing a rather disappointing pizza and collapsing into the tent.

I was awoken at around 6am to an absolute corker of a downpour; howling winds threw the wall of the pop-up into my face and as it continued I imagined us being washed away from the ground and down into the sea. It went on for hours, and when it was time to emerge, Zeus has spoken.

As we searched far and wide for breakfast posters of cancellations and the closure of the woods were being pinned up. We were told the main arena had taken a right battering and wouldn’t be open until further notice. Oh foulness!

We reluctantly took to joining the massive queue in The Café and were disappointed to be informed at the serving passage that the kitchen had to close and all we could purchase was what was left in the oily catering trays… floppy fried eggs and sausages we found too hard to swallow. In agreement we left for Hotel Portmeirion for a liquid brunch of Prosecco.

At around 4pm the clouds parted and blue skies emerged, it was joyful! We strolled up through the Central Piazza, stopping briefly at the champagne bar and watched as a rabble of young pirates danced passed. Children are very well catered for at No6 and it was rather lovely to be surrounded by so many tiny smiles – not a tantrum to be seen or heard!

Johnny Marr was utterly sublime, and singing along with him and the harmonious crowd with one of my favourite Smiths lyrics ever – ‘if a double decker bus crashes into us to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die’ was an absolutely sensational and unforgettable experience.

Chic and Nile Rodgers were completely mesmerising and fabulous and I’d be highly surprised to read of anyone who didn’t enjoy their outstanding performance. Rather teary eyed (happiness tears) I held my very good friend as we jumped and sang Let’s Dance, We Are Family and Le Freak to name just a few as a wonderful stage presence of dazzling outfits, blue lights and brilliant dancers finished with this summer times huge hit Get Lucky to a throng of flailing and delighted arms and contented cheers.

Giles Peterson’s final set finished me off, and I floated across into the dream world as a very happy, very satisfied and very grateful young lady. The perfect end to the festival season. Roll on next year – I feel there’s so much more exploring to do… No6 you did Sir Clough Williams-Ellis proud.

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