This was our first visit to Valley Fest and having heard from the festival’s music programmer, John Blakeley earlier in the year about the festival’s rebrand, we were excited to see what was on offer. Blakeley told us to expect music later into the evenings, with some more mainstream offerings to complement their usual eclectic programme, and staying true to its roots – food on offer to rival any festival in the South West. 

we were delighted to be greeted by a tractor-powered trailer

As we did the obligatory and always agonising trudge from the car park to the festival gates with all our gear, we were pleasantly surprised. Not only had Valley Fest managed to tackle the queue problem, leaving just a handful of people waiting at the gates, we were delighted to be greeted by a tractor-powered trailer to pick us and all stuff up and drop us at the gates. Valley Fest had really thought about how to make this as smooth as possible, and so far, it was looking good.

As we picked a spot to camp, it wouldn’t be fair not to mention the location. Sat atop a hill overlooking Chew Valley lake and among some of the most beautiful farmland in the South West, Valley Fest has some serious views to contend with.

As we were marginally later getting there than planned, we had little time to stare at the views. We got our tents pitched and headed out to see Cut Capers at the Lake stage. Cut Capers’ brilliant fusion of hip hop, jazz and swing was the perfect introduction to the evening after which we danced the Lake Stage to a close with Basement Jaxx, whose mixture of nostalgic and forward-looking DJ sets never go amiss.

we danced the Lake Stage to a close with Basement Jaxx

After that it was over to the 2nd Stage to see Afon Sistema who knew exactly how to get crowd going. Their incredible energy as they play Maracatau found in Northeastern Brazil, was wonderfully fused with its own Bristol style. Their impressive dancers had everyone in the crowd joining in to have a go at their impressive dance style as they descended off the stage to teach us all some moves. Once we had all recovered enough to get back on our feet, Bristol Brothers ICARUS and then Leftfield took us through an epic blast of house, techno and experimental electronic before the night was suddenly at an end. 

an epic blast of house, techno and experimental electronic

If you were a large portion of the festival (young children and their parents), you would probably have risen to enjoy the many daytime activities on offer including morning zumba, family yoga, a bee and wildlife walk, and far too many more to consider listing here. As it was, we rose at a time we considered more suitable and made our way out to enjoy the surroundings.

READ MORE >> ‘WE’VE FOUND OUR GROOVE’: BRISTOL BROTHERS ICARUS ON THEIR NEW EP

On Saturday, we were able to take in the lake side views more vigorously and wandered around the festival to the sounds of The Magic Numbers and This Is the Kit’s Rozi Plain wafting across the site. On the Saturday night, discovering that the 2nd Stage was where it was at, we stuck with it. 

Afrikan Boy’s Nigerian roots-infused MC style brought a surge of energy

First we saw Afrikan Boy whose Nigerian roots-infused MC style brought a surge of energy, followed by Nubiyan Twist and ONIPA – who share members – who delivered a deeply satisfying blend of jazz, hip hop, afrobeat, latin and reggae. Finally, Too Many T’s brought their high energy rap and hip hop to close the night – with shouts from the crowd for more. 

Sunday called for a well-deserved trip to the food stalls which offered a mouth-watering array of options making it hard to choose. Exciting first tries like vegan fish and chips and battered sausage had us excited and did not disappoint. 

guitar and singer-flautist duo The Breath breezed us into the evening

Stunning sets from vocalist Steph Grace and guitar and singer-flautist duo The Breath breezed us into the evening, after which we accepted our fate was to return home ready for work in the morning, though not before stopping into The Ultimate Elton and The Rocket Band on the main stage to hear a few classics including Rocket Man. The Elton John tribute appeared to be one of the festival’s big draws for the Sunday crowd, with giant novelty glasses scattered all through the festival, and a few more dedicated fancy-dressers to be spotted too. 

It was a great weekend that had thought of every way to make festival going as comfortable and pleasant as possible – perhaps a leap to say the festival has moved away from being a family festival, the amount on offer was certainly not be sniffed at. With decent toilets and showers, the best food options we’ve encountered and Prosecco and cocktails sold at bars, Valley fest offers a more upmarket festival experience – with opportunities to get down and dirty with late night DJs and dancing for those who want it.

This has proved a popular formula for many and early bird tickets for Valley Fest 2020 are already sold out, though tier 1 tickets and instalment plans are available now via the Valley Fest website.

Photos by Valley Fest & Ania Shrimpton

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