Adventures at Lindisfare Festival
Enticed by an eclectic mix of music and a nature-loving ethos we spent a day at Northumberland's quirky Lindisfarne Festival.
Set on the picturesque causeway leading to the mythical Holy Island on the Northumberland coast, a festival promising an eclectic mix of indie, funk, rock, folk and dance lured us to one final live music adventure in the fields for the summer.
Taking place over 3 days on the first weekend in September this year’s Lindisfarne Festival boasted an over 200 act strong line-up, headed up by legendary Happy Mondays and the Levellers alongside crowd-favourites like Showhawk Duo, Holy Moly & The Crackers, Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5, Detroit Social Club and of course a whole host of emerging artists.
Since its first outing in 2015 the festival has been growing steadily each year while earning great recognition on the small festival circuit. And thanks to the power of crowdfunding the event has bloomed even further to now welcome 5000 music and nature lovers to this one-of-a-kind boutique style festival, offering revellers a chance to unwind and be “immersed in a world full of positivity, happiness & love”.
A mythos that may initially come across a little over the top for some, but fear not – the festival may have a strong hippy feel but its warm welcome comes without any pressure to get naked or eat vegan food. It might however come as a surprise that the festival is exclusive to adults (and dogs!) only – which for me personally only added to the festival's appeal.
As soon as we arrived early on Saturday, having unfortunately being unable to make it down for the Thursday and Friday night shenanigans, the friendly atmosphere was immediately evident with revellers relaxing and cooking up their breakfasts in the campsite – the majority of which appeared to be seasoned festival-goers. Arrival and lugging of our gear was pleasantly easy going compared to the bigger festivals thanks to everything being within short walking distance.
After swiftly pitching up our tent we immediately dashed into the arena for our first stop at the main stage, aptly named Shorefields, for the BBC Introducing takeover.
Giving local emerging acts a chance to play on this vast stage was a confident move however the time of the day had only tempted a small number of early risers into the large tent - but those who did make the effort were sure in for a treat.
We arrived just in time to catch North-East trio Ghost.Signals kick things off to a strong start with their dark indie-rock full of hooking choruses and pounding rhythms.
Despite their gloomy exterior the band exude an engaging charm that make you want to root for them all the way.
Swiftly following in their footsteps were divine twin-pop act Talk Like Tigers whose striking vocal performances elevated their grooving soul sound to wondrous heights. Making use of their multiple talents by switching between keys, guitars, vocals and surprise choreographed dance moves their performance was engaging even without a full band accompanying them.
A little break allowed us time to explore the site which was made up of 9 marquee venues in different shapes and sizes, dispersed around the enticingly named outdoor “Circle of Inclusion” – which unexpectedly was a small rave heaven surrounded by a bass-blocking hay bales that quickly become one of our favourite stop-by places to lay down some unprompted moves.
Dotted in between the stages were a generous selection of high-quality food and drink vendors as well as market stalls, while various DIY-benches created colourful opportunities to sit and relax. Our curiosity first took us to “The Dingle Dell”, the magical home of spoken word, comedy and musical delights before enjoying some creative concoctions at the “Sketchy Beats Jam Tent”.
Our interests were also peaked by the various workshops offered throughout the day including Laughter Yoga, Hula Hooping, Drum Circle, and Contact Juggling, however with so much going on we sadly never got a chance to give any of them a try.
Finding ourselves back at the main stage we dipped our heads into the smaller tent attached to the main stage hosted by Musicians Against Homelessness (MAH) which offered some of the best unsigned acts hailing from Manchester to Scotland a chance to play at this festival including the likes of The Moods and The Pastures, as well as competition winners Social Room who earned a coveted slot on the main stage just ahead of Happy Mondays on the Friday night.
Kicking off the MAH stage in the late Saturday afternoon we caught a glimpse of Tyneside four-piece Wagjammer. Their short 15 min slot was packed with upbeat rock tunes and heavy folk influences that certainly was a perfect fit for the atmosphere at Lindisfarne Festival.
Soon after a packed out Shorefields stage caught our attention and we were pleased to find that Glasgow’s’ wacky funk-pop-disco outfit Colonel Mustard & the Dijon 5 had landed along with their carnival of musical fun & games. With many of the audience boasting Dijon 5 t-shirts it was clear these guys have a huge following and we soon found out why. From a frenzy of inflatables filling the air during a song about “bouncy balls” to one of the Dijon’s equipped with a shiny stunt-helmet surfing the crowd – and even riding an inflatable unicorn at one point across their heads – it was quite a sight to behold.
It was impossible not to get stuck in and sing along and we soon found ourselves among a crowd repeatedly walking from left to right at the band's command. The band's genuine message of happiness and equality just added to their likeability factor culminating in a moment when, amidst a stage invasion, an impromptu proposal occurred between two festival volunteers causing emotions to suddenly overflow with joy and cheer.
Definitely not having shed a tear we took a short break to refuel and try out some of the superb foody delights while also getting up close to some of the festival's nocturnal entertainment on offer – including daring Fire Eaters and a spooky fire-spiting metal-spider...
A cosy camp-fire surrounded by old sofas and wooden seats provided a place to mingle and regain some strength before we returned to the main stage once more for an act I’d been very excited to finally see first-hand.
Bristol's Showhawk Duo have been taking the world by storm with their skilful ability to create “acoustic trance” that has to be seen to be believed. Churning out classic disco and dance mash-ups with just the use of rhythm and lead guitar immediately had the eager crowd singing the well-known words in unison – turning Shorefields into an oversized karaoke bar but without the painful cringe factor.
The duo’s charismatic stage presence and banter added another level of entertainment to their show as tune after tune was twisted up to delightful cheers. Even as someone who prefers a gig venue to a dance club for their night out, I found the rhythms familiar and exhilarating, allowing me to fully get stuck in dancing to to those bass-heavy grooves. A wicked blend of two starkly different genres that truly brought everyone together.
Now suitably in a dancing mood we quickly dashed back over to the MAH stage ready to see one of our favourite Newcastle indie bands deliver a headline set to be truly proud of.
Deep.Sleep radiated confidence mixed with genuine gratefulness and their glistening guitar-driven melodies and themes of youthful endeavours soon had the intimate marquee filled with curious spectators. Coxed by charming frontman Dan, the crowd quickly fell under his spell, singing and dancing along to the upbeat summery sounds as he and his three comrades on guitar, drum and bass provided a thrilling spectacle on stage that sent the happy-feels through the roof.
As a big fan and follower of the band for some time, their set provided the perfect highpoint of the day for me.
But for many the real highlight was yet to come as folk-punk legends The Levellers finally took to the stage in a by now steaming hot tent packed to the rafters. Having only heard about this band from close friends who are die-hard fans, I felt compelled to see what the fuss was about. The 7 piece quickly showed their prowess at creating a booming sound packed with an impressive array of folkish instruments, adding a distinct edge to their melodic rock rhythms. At times more compelled by my surroundings and a crowd fully enjoying the performance, the most memorable part turned out to be a didgeridoo player who made easy work of creative and powerful sounds while at times balancing the enormous wooden instrument above him.
The few familiar tracks in the set got me closer to experience a similar euphoria as those around me as these mighty giants of the past and present brought this magical feel-good festival to an official close.
But even for those not willing to say farewell to this year’s Lindisfarne Festival, plenty more music and entertainment carried on until late into the night at the likes of the Viking Brew house or High Tide Dance Tent. With great memories made at this quirky festival, as well as an intimate feel and positive message, we hope it continues to prosper for years to come.
Photography by the author.