If a quick scan down the line-up is the best way to get a feel for what a festival is all about, Guilfest is probably giving itself away as an ’80s throwback of a day out for your Mum and Dad that offers a welcome change from the local Harvester or B&Q this weekend. Prepare to be unconvinced as the ‘rents wax lyrical about how Level 42 and Kid Creole And The Coconuts are going to show you what a real band sounds like. It’s like School Disco, held outdoors.
The festival’s line up could, in all honesty, be mistaken at first glance (probably second and third glance, too) for the contents of the Oxfam record box or the playlist of the DJ at your mad uncle’s wedding. There’s Hawkwind, Status Quo, Ali Campbell’s UB40, 10CC and Saturday headliners The Human League for the grown-ups, with N-Dubz and Peppa Pig thrown in for the kids, of whom there are likely to be many – Guilfest is a previous winner of the UK’s best family festival.
It’s not all nostalgia-fest though. Fucked Up (asterixed out on the festival’s homepage so as not to unduly offend the commuter belt masses), Hadouken, Tinie Tempah and The Twang all put in appearances over the weekend, sitting alongside and Dappy & pals on a bill that is eclectic, if nothing else. There’s even Arthur Brown to take things even further back into pop history, fresh from a Glastonbury appearance and, one hopes, still setting his head on fire for the adoring masses. And this being prime squaddie territory, the festival wouldn’t be complete without singing soldiers The Soldiers.
Of course, today’s festival goers expect something a bit more sophisticated than just music, and Guilfest offers a choice between comedy, theatre (each has its own tent), UNISONzone (like Glastonbury’s Leftfield, but with added moaning about public sector cuts by assorted members of The Wonderstuff), plus your chance to forget you’re actually an assistant accountant by joining the Eden People hippie creative/healing collective. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage canteen and cookery workshops offer something for the more gastronomically demanding festival goer than falafel wraps and Square Pies.
If this sounds like something stuck awkwardly halfway between a 21st century festival and a farmer’s market for people who are already further outside the M25 than their comfort zone, you can always run away to Guildford’s Spectrum leisure centre for ice-skating and ten-pin bowling, or the local Lido for a bit of outdoor swimming. Does this really count as part of the festival? Hmmm, maybe not, but it’s nice of them to let us know it’s there.
One of the main advantages of Guilfest of course is its location – five minutes’ walk from the local railway station, slap bang in the middle of the town (note, lightweights, B&Bs are within walking distance and the website’s FAQ section tells you how to contact them), it’s easy to get to, easy to get out of if you fancy a bit of shopping or leisure fun, and easy to get home from. Yes, it’s a rubbish Glastonbury for the London commuter belt but hey, there’s less mud, fewer hippies and Quo. What more do you want?