The good, the bad and the muddy…

On a pos­i­tive note, Fes­ti­val Num­ber 6 yet again had its moments of music, mag­ic  and dis­cov­ery.  The loca­tion is Port­meiri­on, the beau­ti­ful and quirky Ital­ian vil­lage in north Wales. And it was com­mend­able to note just how many of the artists appear­ing on Fes­ti­val No 6’s var­i­ous stages were from Wales and the north west. But there were some neg­a­tive points this year due to the week­end’s bib­li­cal rain­fall, which result­ed in a quag­mire at the fes­ti­val site (to be fair, that is a fair­ly stan­dard state of affairs at UK fes­ti­vals when it rains). What went dis­as­trous­ly wrong was the park n ride, sit­u­at­ed on a known flood plain. With this year’s seis­mic rain­fall, the car park fields flood­ed, lead­ing to hun­dreds of cars get­ting stuck in the estu­ar­ine sludge, with some car own­ers put up overnight in a local leisure cen­tre, and many vehi­cles writ­ten off.

There were cer­tain­ly some high­lights over the week­end. Miran­da Sawyer gave an amus­ing and engag­ing talk about how she land­ed her career in the music busi­ness, and also talked about the ‘new mid­dle age’ which, look­ing around the Gate­house tent, was some­thing affect­ing a good 80 per­cent of the crowd. She’s cov­ered the sub­ject in her lat­est book Out of Time.


Sean Ryder was next in the hot seat and he was quizzed about his appear­ances on Come Dine with Me and Celebri­ty Big Broth­er (where he devel­oped an admi­ra­tion for Gillian McK­ei­th for her rise up the fame lad­der and poo-analysing tal­ents, despite a lack of qual­i­fi­ca­tions). We learnt, some­what with relief, that he isn’t plan­ning on appear­ing on Strict­ly Come Danc­ing.

Once Sat­ur­day’s del­uge appeared to have passed over, we ven­tured over to the Vil­lage Green where Mr Wilson’s Sec­ond Lin­ers popped up to enter­tain crowds with their New Orleans-style ren­di­tions of Firestarter, plus oth­er unex­pect­ed tunes. At the Vil­lage Hall Gor­we­lion stage which fea­tures new Welsh artists, we dis­cov­ered the fan­tas­tic Sea­zoo  who played an engag­ing, uplift­ing and quirky set. I hope to see this band again.

Mr Wilson's Second Liners

Stock­port indie boys Blos­soms have, well, blos­somed, and looked quite at home up on the main stage for their ear­ly evening set. Lat­er, Roisin Mur­phy valiant­ly per­formed hold­ing an umbrel­la as pro­tec­tion against yet anoth­er squall.


Eas­ing gen­tly into Sun­day at the Lost at Sea Band­stand, we lis­tened to Lucy and Vir­ginia, a Man­ches­ter duo with beau­ti­ful dreamy har­monies. Dur­ing the after­noon, post­poned from Sat­ur­day’s rain, the car­ni­val pro­ces­sion took place, wind­ing its way through Port­meiri­on’s streets.

Lost at Sea Bandstand, Portmeirion
Lost at Sea Band­stand, Portmeirion
Lucy and Virginia at Portmeirion
Lucy and Virginia

Tele­man, who I had­n’t seen since they were sup­port to Suede in 2013, played a rous­ing set which includ­ed the catchy Dus­sel­dorf, plus Glo­ry Hal­lelu­jah and Not in Con­trol - and the sun briefly made its only appear­ance of the day.

Bowie-relat­ed events these days tend to sound a warn­ing bell in my head – just how overblown or just plain daft will it be? How­ev­er the Bowie Reimag­ined main stage per­for­mance on Sun­day was a joy in its sim­plic­i­ty, qual­i­ty of musi­cian­ship and respect to the artist. The Man­ches­ter Cam­er­a­ta orches­tra lead by Joe Dud­dell accom­pa­nied the four female vocal­ists, who each took turns to sing a cou­ple of Bowie num­bers. Jacqui Abbott sang Changes, fol­lowed by Jane Weaver who was the per­fect choice for Moon­age Day­dream. Nadine Shah’s deep, soul­ful voice (whose solo set I unfor­tu­nate­ly missed) was heart-stop­ping for Lazarus. Char­lotte Church took over for Star­man. The last num­ber was Heroes, with all four tak­ing part. This was an emo­tion­al and beau­ti­ful finale and pos­si­bly my high­light of the festival.

Festival No 6 Bowie reimagined

I allowed 15 min­utes to get to the main tent for Echo and the Bun­ny­men but it was already rammed to the rafters. What a shame they could­n’t have played on the main stage. I did man­age to squeeze in and got rea­son­ably up close to Mr McCul­loch, still a brood­ing pres­ence just ooz­ing charis­ma. The strength and pow­er of their mate­r­i­al remains undimmed.

There was much that I missed over the week­end, part­ly through events being can­celled (the Woods area was shut for part of Sat­ur­day), and because the trudge through the site became more dif­fi­cult as the ter­rain became more mud­dy. We did catch Wolf Peo­ple who I found utter­ly mes­meris­ing, and I was sor­ry to miss Nadine Shah solo, Pumarosa and John Bramwell.

Portmeirion procession
Port­meiri­on procession



Fes­ti­val Num­ber 6 was con­ceived five years ago as a ’bou­tique’ event, but that began to change in 2015 when it mor­phed into a big­ger, brash­er and cer­tain­ly more crowd­ed affair. More stages, more bars, more of every­thing in fact.

There were signs before the fes­ti­val took place this year that organ­i­sa­tion­al plan­ning and direc­tion was los­ing its way. Bou­tique camp­ing, hot tubs, ban­quets, spas, week­end tick­ets, day tick­ets… the sheer amount on offer was start­ing to sound like a logis­ti­cal night­mare. Where was the calm, the vision, the sim­plic­i­ty of a thought­ful and well-curat­ed event?

For next year, Fes­ti­val Num­ber 6 needs to go ‘back to basics’ and re-estab­lish what the fes­ti­val is all about, and who its tar­get audi­ence is. In cater­ing for as wide an audi­ence as pos­si­ble, it has cer­tain­ly sold itself short instead of hav­ing the con­fi­dence to pur­sue a more stream­lined event. The organ­is­ers first­ly need to address the park­ing issue, and find an alter­na­tive to the flood-plain site used for the past five years.

Bar offer­ings and pric­ing also need to be over­hauled: a plas­tic cup half filled with watery rose should not have cost £8. I sug­gest the F6 bar man­age­ment team look to Green Man, the Welsh fes­ti­val I attend­ed two weeks before F6, for good bar plan­ning, both in terms of pric­ing and their excel­lent cup recy­cling system.

There were some fine moments this year, and many peo­ple cer­tain­ly enjoyed the fes­ti­val and will return, but let’s hope there’s a new and clear­er vision for 2017.

Fes­ti­val Num­ber 6, Port­meiri­on, North Wales


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