Beard­ed The­o­ry fes­ti­val 2013: it’s the fes­ti­val of Beards, Bands and DJs, and that just about sums it up. Now in its sixth year, Beard­ed The­o­ry is set in pic­turesque Kedle­ston Hall, Der­byshire. With some­thing like around 8,000 rev­ellers it’s a nice size, and man­ages to feel like one big party.

Beard­ed The­o­ry’s line-up leans towards punk, ska and folk while the Mag­i­cal Sounds Dance Tent is heavy on the psy­trance and psy­beats. And there’s plen­ty of local-ish tal­ent fea­tured. Enter­ing the are­na, we get our­selves into par­ty mood with some danc­ing to Sheffield’s break­beat DJ, Kick­flip. Mag­i­cal Sounds is a great lit­tle danc­ing spot – the visu­als, the giant pup­pets wan­der­ing around and danc­ing with you, and the fan­tas­tic hairy guy with angel wings danc­ing on stage.


Lat­er on we head over to the main stage for New Mod­el Army where I imag­ine I’ll be hav­ing a bit of a nos­tal­gia fest. I had neglect­ed to keep my fin­ger on the pulse with NMA, and it’s great to dis­cov­er that they are still exper­i­ment­ing, still work­ing on new mate­r­i­al, and they they sound fresh and vibrant. It helps that there’s an excel­lent sound sys­tem at the main stage. Espe­cial­ly rock­ing are No Rest and High with Sullivan’s voice sound­ing extra grow­ly. NMA have a new album, and a tour, head­ing our way soon.

We look for the Fire Show but nev­er find it, so head back to Mag­i­cal Sounds for Sicknote’s enter­tain­ing and ener­getic set. The younger mem­bers of our par­ty inform me next day that Sub­giant was the best thing of the day.

On day two it’s freez­ing cold but luck­i­ly no rain. There’s plen­ty for kids to do in the Angel Gar­dens area, which is busy with kids draw­ing, paint­ing and hav­ing races. There’s a fun­fair area in the cen­tre with a stun­ning Hel­ter Skel­ter and Big Wheel, both at only £1.50 a go. On the Main Stage, it’s the turn of ris­ing folk­sters ahab. Despite being bun­dled up in coats, they deliv­er a rock­ing set, just as good or if not bet­ter than when I saw them at King’s Place.

I’m look­ing for­ward most of all to see­ing Seth Lake­man and he pre­dictably draws a huge crowd to the main stage. He plays a mix of old num­bers and ones from his new album Tales from the Bar­rel House. Watch­ing him sing and play the fid­dle is extra­or­di­nary, as is his ver­sa­til­i­ty as he moves from one instru­ment to anoth­er. The only down­side of his set is that’s it is too short, it’s not the hour long we were expect­ing, and it leaves every­one a bit in limbo.

A while lat­er Asian Dub Foun­da­tion enter­tain the crowds with a pow­er­ful and mus­cu­lar set which gets bet­ter and bet­ter as the band and the audi­ence warm up, and as its hyp­not­ic rhythms draw you in.

seth lakeman towersey festival

Sun­day is hot and sun­ny and helps cre­ate a fab­u­lous mood for the final day. This years fan­cy dress theme is Aus­tralia, and this com­bined with the beards com­pe­ti­tion adds up to some bizarre and won­der­ful cre­ations – there are even beards made out of corks and flip flops. An amus­ing set from the Lan­cashire Hot­pots sets the right tone, and their Ikea song has a par­tic­u­lar res­o­nance: “I fear Ikea, I don’t want to go there again, I don’t want a book­case called Bil­ly, Or a table called Sven.”

Fancy Dress Bearded Theory

Bird beard

A folk-fest awaits as Celtic fusion band Shooglenifty set the scene, fol­lowed by the mighty Peat­bog Faeries. Wor­thy of a main stage appear­ance, they are shoe­horned into the Mag­i­cal Sounds tent, but no matter.

Peatbog Faeries

It’s a blind­er of a set, uplift­ing and pas­sion­ate, and every­one is going crazy. Lat­er on The Lev­ellers close the main stage with a fit­ting­ly rous­ing set played to a huge and appre­cia­tive audi­ence. Over at the dance tent comes the time for the clos­ing DJ set, Mag­i­clantern, with Leeds DJ Stephen McK­e­own. The hairy fairy is there, twirling an octo­pus umbrel­la, and as the music reach­es its clos­ing notes, he thanks us for com­ing to Beard­ed The­o­ry and tells us it’s all over for anoth­er year.

Beers at Bearded Theory

Bar  A great selec­tion of Thorn­bridge Brew­ery beers, includ­ing a Fes­ti­val Spe­cial Ale which is light, refresh­ing and sim­i­lar to a wheat beer. Nice selec­tion of ciders, includ­ing a guest one each day. Prices £3.50 a pint aver­age. Knowl­edge­able and friend­ly bar staff, very lit­tle queueing.
Loos  Por­taloos gen­er­al­ly very clean, with toi­let rolls put out even on the  Mon­day morn­ing. Per­haps there could have been a few por­taloos down at the far end of the camp­ing field. Hard­ly any queueing.
Secu­ri­ty  Very friend­ly at all times, beard­ed or otherwise.
Age range  A real­ly great mix, from babies to peo­ple in their 60s and per­haps old­er. Some teens but not over­whelm­ing­ly so.
Stages  Main Stage, Mag­i­cal Sounds Dance Tent, Tor­na­do Town and Lock Inn.
Food  A small­ish but ade­quate range of food stalls. Ghandi’s flip-flop veg­e­tar­i­an food, their Thali at £7.50 well recommended.
Neg­a­tives?  Although the site was well main­tained, it would have been nice if we could have been a bit more ‘eco’ with our rub­bish and sort­ed it for recycling.

Over­all, Beard­ed The­o­ry is a fan­tas­tic fes­ti­val, it’s friend­ly, unpre­ten­tious and gets the bal­ance of good music and fun just right. Every­one appeared to be enjoy­ing it. Our own par­ty from 22–50s enjoyed it all equally. 

Beard­ed The­o­ry tick­ets: adult £79 plus charges.

3 thoughts on “Review: Letting our hair down at Bearded Theory 2013

  1. All the rub­bish from Beard­ed The­o­ry is mechan­i­cal­ly sort­ed off site, for recy­cling. Last year we improved recy­cling by 25% by using this method over on site sort­ing. Thanks for your review 🙂

  2. Sounds like it was a great fes­ti­val, con­sid­ered going and now wish I had

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