Guilfest has no pretentions get the idea that it might have out of the way from the start. It cant compete with Glasto for cool, Reading and Leeds for rocknroll, Bestival for campness or Green Man for folky dokiness, so it doesnt try: instead, its unashamedly the dad-rock of festivals, where commuter-belt London takes the family for the weekend safe in the knowledge that not only is the festival site within spitting distance of a leisure centre thats happy to hire out its showers for a very reasonable fee, theres also a good chance its well within walking distance home for most of its punters.
This does, of course, leave the line-up looking slightly… eclectic, shall we say? Trying to appeal to middle-aged middle-managers (male and female), their teenage emo kids and 11-year-old younger siblings, while also putting on enough entertainment to keep the toddlers under control is no mean feat, but somehow Guilfest manages to pull it off admirably.
So, arrive on Friday evening and not only is Roger Daltrey performing Greatest Hits from The Who and consummate rock opera Tommy in the headline slot on the Main Stage, theres also Adam Ant to tempt you away to the Good Time Guide Stage, Funeral For A Friend in the bizarrely named Big Cheese Cave, where the sickest rock, metal and alternative bands can be found, or Nero in the more obviously does-what-it says-on-the-tin Funky End Dance Tent. Also on offer around the festival are Echo And The Bunnymen, The Rifles, Roxxxan, DJ Naughty and a host of bands in between.
Head into Saturday, and theres even a main stage headliner most festivals would find acceptable in Razorlight, with the added bonus of seeing Johnny Borrell almost certainly be upstaged beforehand by Guilfest regulars N-Dubz, who have a staggering knack of winning over even the most cynical of musos and journalists with their stage antics. This doesnt even win maddest consecutive line-up of the evening though, as the Good Time Guide Stage has the truly bonkers pairing of end-of-the-’70s heroes Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel followed by, um, Peter Andre.
Earlier in the day, theres also the chance to catch Rock Choir who, in case its not obvious, are a choir that cover rock songs. Other highlights on offer include Dinosaur Pile Up, Blitz Kids, a DJ Set from Pendulum and former Special Neville Staple. Over-optimistic punters might hope for a guest appearance from John Lydon if only in the audience – when The Sex Pistols Experience take the stage (Public Image Limited are on the following day), while Bez in the comedy tent seems one of the days more logical choices.
Into Sunday, and its time to keep the mums happy, as James Blunt warbles his way through the closing slot on the main stage, following ’80s dance favourites Erasure and Ziggy Marley. Public Image Limited sign off the Good Time Stage, Gallows headline the Big Cheese Cave, while on the Vive Le Rock stage there are a diverse range of bands sandwiched between UK Subs and Levi Roots. Dont miss the dirty bar-room blues of Two Fingers of Firewater on the Acoustic Stage in the afternoon.
On top of all this, theres Kidzone for the littleuns, tea and scones at the Vintage Fayre, hippy nonsense with the Eden Peoples Guilfest Gallery and Plantation Zone, where the younger generation for whom music really is pass can spend the weekend playing Wii and watching movies, as long as theyre under 18 and happy to be thrown back out to the joys of Roger Daltrey, Razorlight or James Blunt at 10pm.
But honestly, its all far more worthwhile than this makes it sound. There are better line-ups around, there are hippier hippy fields and more mashed dance tents, but this is the festival for commuter belt suburbia. For anyone who needs to fit in a pretty civilised festival between leaving work on Friday evening and starting again on Monday morning, keeping most of the family happy for most of the time, there really is no better option.