Bearded Theory’s Spring Gathering
Catton Hall & Park, Walton-on-Trent
Thursday 23rd May – Sunday 26th May 2019
If you wanted to write a tutorial on how to put on the perfect festival then you couldn’t wish for a better case-study than Bearded Theory.
It’s something I think you only fully appreciate when you’ve been to other festivals. Bearded get all the little things, and indeed the big things right.
For example, you can take your own beer into the arena. This not only helps you financially if you’re on a tight budget but also helps the atmosphere of the festival.
One of the things that stuck in my mind from Bestival around 10 years ago was when a security guard at border control told me to put my beer in the bin. I had a tin and the bin he pointed to said “paper only” so I just wanted to make sure it was the right bin, and he went mental! Totally killed the festival vibe and that was one of the reasons I’ve never returned since.
Beacons festival had a great lineup, but had a crazy setup where even if you bought a beer from the official bar (over-priced cans of Red Stripe if I remember rightly) you couldn’t take it between stages!
We took cans with us to Bearded, but still bought a few Titanic Plum Porters from the bars, and each time we had to queue, so it would seem they wouldn’t have sold any more beer had they not allowed beer in, just had longer queues. It’s a win-win for everyone! (The cocktail on tap bar always seemed empty, but I think that was just misjudged, it’s not like everyone brought their own pre-mix with them).
If you come back from a festival talking about the toilets, you haven’t done it right, nevertheless, Bearded’s are the cleanest I’ve seen, with toilet roll and sanitiser 9 times out of 10, queues got long at the main stage as you’d expect, but they moved fairly quickly, and a quick jog to the campsite found shorter queues if you are desperate.
The Bearded Theory School I believe is unique – and a brilliant idea!
It is an Ofsted registered school, so your kids can attend on the Friday and not get fined.
As someone pointed out in one of the discussions, even sitting on a beach in Spain for a week kids pick up a few words of Spanish and learn a little about the culture, and festivals are a great place to learn key life skills such as socialising, and making the best of things when circumstances aren’t ideal, e.g. if it rains.
At the weekend, the Bearded School turns into the kids field with messy play, lego blocks, dancing and even a disco. Best of all for parents, it is right next to the main stage, so you can still listen to the bands.
With 5 stages, there is loads to discover when you are on the wander, close enough that you don’t have to walk far if you’ve got a clash and far enough apart to not suffer from sound bleed.
The first festival I went to, Glastonbury 2005, I had about 60 bands on my “short” list. I spent hours planning the optimal itinerary to catch as many of them as possible – then arrived and realised that some of the stages are 30 mins apart, even without the mud!
Festivals are a learning experience, and the lineup may bring you in, but it’s the festival spirit that brings you back!
With a few festivals under my belt, Bearded has the ideal type of lineup for me personally – 2 or 3 bigger names and/or up and coming artists per day that I want to see, to whet the appetite, plus loads of lesser known artists to discover (though when you have a 5 year old you don’t get a lot of time to wander to be honest!)
When Little Steve was on, there was a rumour that he was going to bring out Bruce Springsteen. It got everyone excited, but it turned out just to be a rumour.
It got me thinking – if they were to book bigger artists like The Cure or The Rolling Stones or indeed Bruce Springsteen – that would be great, but nothing comes for nothing in life – they would either have to hike up capacity, ticket prices or both.
The problem with massive names at festivals is that it not only gets crowded, but people tend to wander between stages for a nosey, so you get constant pushing and shoving – for these kind of artists I’d rather go to their own show where everyone stays put, other than trips to toilet or bar.
There’s no “one size fits all” festival – my 17 year old daughter who we dragged along (I’m not saying she would have had wild parties if we’d left her on her own, but we’ve all been that age!) was bored and complained of “old people’s music”. But then I got day tickets to take them to Leeds which they are excited about – I knew nobody on the lineup, and when I had a listen to some of the acts I thought “Load of s**te!” – which is as it should be – they get excited about Leeds, We get excited about Bearded.
Anyway, that’s enough from me for now! I will continue in Part 2 over at Live Music Pix along with some of my own photos in a day or two.
Fabulous photographer Judie Tingle kindly agreed to take some photos for us. Sadly she was stuck down by a sickness bug on the Friday night so didn’t manage the Saturday or Sunday, but what fabulous photos she took on the Friday!
I think they brilliantly capture the festival!
All photos © Judy Tingle – check out her sports, festival and events work at: