REVIEW: Cloudspotting Music Festival 2016

Henge at Cloudspotting 2016.
Henge at Cloudspotting 2016.
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Deep inside the woods in the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Lancashire, something was afoot.

Darkness had fallen a couple of hours earlier, and it was now approaching midnight.

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods

As I made my way along a gravel track, illuminated intermittently by gently glowing cloth lanterns, I squinted ahead through the gloom to see if the couple ahead were still...well, up ahead.

With a breath of relief, I saw they were.

Ten minutes had passed since I left the main Cloudspotting Festival site, following the signs for the Cabin In The Woods through the tall trees of Gisburn Forest.

Just when I thought I must have taken a Wrong Turn, like the one in the film, I saw light up ahead, and movement, and then the unmistakable bass from a sound system.

I had arrived at Cloudspotting’s late night venue, and it was well worth the effort.

The cabin was in fact a stone barn.

Entry via a large opening at the back, and inside a stage - lights, colourful decor, totem poles, big wooden mushrooms, and people dancing!

I spent an hour drinking in the sights and sounds, as well as the dizzying array of Ribble Valley Cider - blueberry, strawberry, apple and rhubarb were all on the bar alongside Bowland Brewery ale.

The walk back to camp was hazy, but I got chatting to a friendly festival steward who was clocking off for the night and I returned to camp with a contented smile and great memories of a unique festival experience.

Rewind back to Friday afternoon, July 29, as we made our way into the Cloudspotting site for the first time.

The location is stunning, and the car park a five minute walk to the campsite, via the main arena, Gisburn Forest cafe and play park.

It’s a pleasant place, with plenty of hardstanding, run by the Forrestry Commission, with cycling one of the key attractions at the wider site.

Most importantly the sun was shining, and it continued to do so for the rest of the weekend.

Minimal security checks and an open relaxed policy (as long as you have a wrist band) ensures easy movement through the site, and we were unpacked, camped up and ready to “go in” within an hour and a half.

The festival site consists of two main stages, one on a field with huge logs to sit on or lounge around, and the other, the lawn stage, with picnic tables, and a kids play park at the back.

The undercover bar was inbetween, with lots of seating, and food stalls selling exceptionally good food at exceptionally low prices for a festival.

Perfect for families, our eight-year-old son was soon off playing with minimal supervision and we felt comfortable enough with him doing so.

On Friday afternoon we caught The Drink and Good Foxy, who both had strong followings and unique sounds.

But it was Henge that came up trumps for me on Friday.

Mad as a box of frogs but cool with it, totally off-planet with down to earth sensibilities, this band had its audience in the palm of its alien hand from the off.

Electronica and beats combined with rock, funk and psychedelia, dancers wearing silver all-in-ones and giant mushrooms on their heads, aliens in cloaks, and what looked like the emperor of some far and distant planet on vocals with some kind of luminescent light emitting sphere on his head.

Great stuff. What more could you want at a music festival? My four-year-old daughter Zoe had a ball!

At the end of their set they led a merry dance to the main stage for Manchester’s Honeyfeet who kept the positive party vibes going until midnight.

Saturday promised another eclectic musical line-up, as well as plenty of things to do for the kids.

Blackburn’s The Bureau Centre for the Arts offered kids activities all day, there were games and toys to play with across the site, forest activities organised by the Forestry Commission, and storytelling in a yurt in the woods.

We attended a story telling session of old Lancashire tales, a mesmerising experience for kids and adults alike.

We enjoyed Laura J Martin, Blanty, Neil C Young, and the inimitable Gideon Conn in the afternoon, before Manchester reggae/rock outfit Jeremiah Ferrari set the tone for an evening of roots/ska/reggae and funk enjoyed by all, with Resonators and Bossy Love highlighting the two stages.

The alternating sets across the two stages ensured you got to see everything on offer at the festival, of course via the bar tent which was in high spirits on Saturday night.

Another trip to the Cabin in the Woods later and it was over and out for me.

We were leaving Sunday to head up to Scotland for a holiday, but before we did we took the time to relax, have a bacon sandwich and a coffee from the Gisburn Forest Hub, and managed to catch a fantastic set from Clitheroe/Liverpool based The Ragamuffins, who weren’t on the original bill.

Frontman David Jaggs however did a fantastic job compering the music stage over the weekend.

Their Prince cover was a sight and sound to behold too.

We left the site with ease - it literally took two minutes - having made lots of new friends, many through others we know in Lancashire who attended the festival who share a love of live music, celebration and relaxation in our beautiful countryside.

Cloudspotting was a unique experience in a unique location, and a refreshing change from some of the larger festivals.

Lots of freedom for the kids in a safe and colourful environment with friendly faces everywhere, although the “word on the street” was that it was a lot quieter in terms of attendance than previous ones.

For those that weren’t there you missed an absolute treat. Maybe next year?

Photos by Matt Collinge.