I appreciate that most festival-goers will have experienced their first event in their twenties, it just seems to have bypassed me. Which is strange because I love camping, with a few mod-cons thrown in. When the opportunity to visit No.6 Festival came about we jumped at the chance, a little serendipitous given that this was to be the last No.6 for a while. The punch line is that we found a vibrant, creative and inclusive celebration of all the best parts of being human. Now I have the challenge of describing the indescribable.
We had the most beautiful drive to the site, there was something about the scenery that started our unwinding process, helped enormously by Snowdonia National Park. We dumped the cars in a field & geared up for the short coach transit which was fairly uneventful. A warm Welsh welcome awaited us from an Eastern European bearing free Russian vodka drinks. What a great start! We were escorted to our abodes, thankfully having upgraded so our home became a field full of bell tents. For any new festival-goers I would recommend you take in the beauty of any camp site on day one – as it won’t look the same the following day!
It was a short walk to the main event field (a walk which would seem longer on the days to follow) which only gave a small glimpse of what was to come. It was an array of stages, sounds, food trucks, & bars peppered with eclectically dressed folk. We found the vodka bar, ordering another round of the welcome drinks (their welcome marketing worked well), lunches at the crispy duck stall (delicious) & watched the colourful world go by, feeling slightly under dressed. We moved straight onto Portmeirion village, an arty, pastel coloured, Italian style, over the top, scenic village which is a feast for the eyes. There’s incredible attention to detail with little archways here and there framing the estuary it sits beside. If you haven’t been to Portmeirion, then please go. The festival had completely taken over the place & we loved that one shop, which had probably been a small cafe, had become a place that sold only shots and hats. Why not?
We kept on wandering, eventually across a bit of a treat in the form of a sixties disco by the Hotel waterfront, people bopping away looking too ‘kool for skool’. It was infectious, we were drawn in, grinning like Cheshire cats, stealing ourselves at how lucky we were. Who knew somewhere in the world this was happening on a Friday lunchtime? Behind us was a group with Simon Rimmer, of Sunday Brunch and Strictly fame. That’s the best celeb spotting I did that day.
I kept an eye on the time as I wanted to see an artist, Fenne Lily, at the Townhall so we joined a long queue in a total leap of faith on an unknown artist, just a little anxious that we could be disappointed. We just got in, the intimate concert was small, had standing room only and we filed into this ostentatious school like hall with a small orchestra at the front. It felt electric even before she started, and her voice literally had me gasping and in tears. It may have been the raw setting, her talent, the wait;
I don’t know but it felt like a moment. Check her out on Spotify. Thirty minutes later, the concert had finished, which felt far too short, we stumbled out a bit bewildered & into the main area of the village where sounds of the mud flappers; a 1930s dance collective, took over, it couldn’t have been a greater juxtaposition. We took a peak at their performance, enjoying a few cheeky winks, and then strolled on past a hilarious game of human hangman, which was captivating to the point I forgot to take pictures.
By this point we needed a pit stop. Note to all; crepes with salmon and cream cheese is the way forward. This was one of the poshest food trucks of all time. We were chatting away, minding our own business when a man dressed as a warrior with a model horse and Boudicca in a chariot drew up. Whilst Boudicca tried in full character to blag some free scran I couldn’t help myself but talk to the warrior. I shouldn’t have doubted he would be in full character as his first words were ‘had I seen any Romans?’ I asked him the name of his horse (Inca) and where they had been (the seven seas).’ I just love the craziness of this life!
We finished up & headed on to the shopping area for some more food and drink (we pretty much grazed all day) & to take in some rather brightly coloured clothes stalls. After this we parted ways with our pals for an hour as we wanted to catch Trojan Records in the Castle gardens. The setting for this was a huge, clear Wendy-house style tent so you could dance & see the castle in the background, covered from the elements. The DJ set got us straight on the dance floor with a really diverse audience united by a love of reggae, ska etc. This was another highlight for me, with no judgements, no bad behaviour, people only losing it to the music.
After a spell we were re-joined by our gang and headed back to the main field to catch the torchlit procession. Whilst this was the conclusion of the parade, we were bewitched by the amount of people holding large flaming torches and dressed in all sorts of bohemian finery. The festival is full of quirks like this, it makes it a really special place to be. And of course, people were in a great mood, full of friendly revelry.
Today we got a bit damp. Fortune favours the brave (& prepared). The festival was a little less colourful but no less vibrant. One benefit of a rainy morning is the permission to go easy; enjoying the sound of rain on canvas, a beautiful substitution for the 4am squawking we endured from the nearby bell tent. Repeat to yourself that this is a festival after all, they are just youngsters having fun & refrain from telling the person screeching ‘Debbie’ to ‘do one’.
We donned many layers & just to be clear I’ve invented the double poncho & will be trademarking it – double-poncho-ing is now a thing. We found a hot cup of something & an overpriced breakfast bap. The rain was not going to play so we ventured on into the village & then the woods. We discovered a floating Chinese disco platform, disco balls & pumping big tunes. On we went finding an unacceptably small lighthouse that wasn’t worth the sore feet to reach. We decided it was time to make a base camp & toddled back to the village wine bar, luckily finding a sheltered table. There we sat for a few hours, reading, chatting, eating (crepe o’clock came & went) & simply watching the world drift by.
Later that afternoon the ladies had a writing “masterclass”, off we went to be educated about ‘writing for woman’. Whilst we gained a few nuggets it was as stereotypical as the title suggests. The best assertion we enjoyed was that all woman apparently love to gossip. I’m not going there today with my thoughts on this, my blogs are long enough already. An hour later we took a slightly disgruntled walk back to the real ale tent to find the boys.
First order of the evening – our beloved food trucks followed by a trip to see Irvine Welsh, of Trainspotter fame, doing his thing on the decks. A bit of a dance later & we headed off for a different adventure, hoping the village was still open to see it lit up. Alas hopes were dashed so we ambled back to the Hendricks bar which we’d spotted a few times & they were playing good tunes with entertaining staff. But a big bonus was covered seating. Whilst the rain had called a cease fire it threatened to return any minute with a vengeance. After being greeted by a man in full tweeds exclaiming ‘good, you are finally here’, we ordered a round defying the bar staff with our refusal to have cucumber in their cucumber infused gin. The damp started to set in & we all got a bit cold & tired. We could’ve easily gone back to the tent at this point but just as we stood to leave our tweeded host tempted us to stay with the prospect of 80s tunes. The music had been okay but too chilled to inspire us to throw any shapes. It didn’t take much to convince us but we knew we had to get up. Back went the chairs & the coir matting became our dance floor. The other patrons got the same memo & suddenly we were grooving, full disco style with G&Ts flowing. Of particular note was the seemingly officious security guard, keeping 100ish well-behaved middle-class ravers in check, walking the perimeter and touching his ear piece like a bodyguard. When he started breaking out into dance moves, we realised he was probably an actor like the tweeded chaps.
Midnight arrived, the music was unceremoniously stopped & we were sent on our way. We sauntered back to our temporary abode, feeling smug that the weather had not rained on our parade.
Our adventure draws to a close. We are by this time a little bit jaded, but thankfully we had the foresight to book a hot tub session & it was just the ticket. The wood fired baths were down by the estuary, so we had a tub with a view to warm our bones. An added bonus was the hair dryers & straighteners.
It felt like a pie day, which was a good Sunday lunch replacement. A pie & a pint later we set our sights on the village to revisit the disco on the estuary (a replay of Friday) & took advantage of dancing off some of those calories. Today’s disco had a more laid-back vibe, causing floaty shaped arm movements. We equally enjoyed the view of the estuary as much as the more immediate visual treat of people’s attire. Wouldn’t you want to dance with a bunch of Red Indians and Sailors? No? Just us then. The bliss didn’t last long as we wanted to get to the piazza to see the Charlatans play with the No.6 orchestra. It was pretty incredible. I’m not particularly familiar with this band but there was something about the mix of the music genre with the orchestra. My favourite moment was Tim Burgess mucking up the vocals & negotiating with the conductor to start again, cool as a cucumber in his fringed woolly hat.
After this we parted ways with our pals. They wanted to see Gaz Coombes and the Charlatans play on the main stage. Hubby & I favoured getting another layer of clothes on & then settling in to see Suggs deliver ‘What a King Cnut’. My word he didn’t disappoint, what a geezer. My hands down favourite moment was his acoustic version of ‘Our House’ with a large dose of audience participation. We left with major grins on our faces.
My take on this festival may seem over the top, but if you know No.6 you would understand. It’s almost a delightful assault on the senses, really arresting when you mix in vibrant people, expressing themselves without fear, being who they want to be, being in the moment and living for today without harm to others. With interesting food, drink and music thrown in. The village just absorbs people & you had some just lounging about, some swimming, people dancing, inhibitions lowered, wafts of something medicinal on the air. But no edginess, no idiots & we felt at home. What could be better than that for my first festival?