Festival Preview: Green Man 2006

Green Man

Green Man

This summer, the calendar is just packed full of festivals attempting to plug into the very lucrative market for people who love live music, but on a decidedly smaller, more civilised scale than the monoliths that are Reading, Leeds and V. We have the Cheltenham Music Festival, the Rhythm Festival in Bedford, the Big Chill, and Wychwood Festival. However, the one that best fills the void left by Glastonbury this year is the Green Man Festival.

Now a comparative veteran in its fourth year, Green Man re-locates to the Glanusk Park Estate by the River Usk in the Sugar Loaf mountain range, having previously been found in a field near Hay-On-Wye.

These new surroundings promise to make the festival the most beautifully situated in the land. This is very appropriate given the Arcadian, Romantic, hippy vibe that permeates the event. Indeed, Green Man out does them all for being a festival celebrating a whole attitude as well as music.

Green Man was originally the baby of new-folk duo Jo and Danny who founded the event in 2003. Despite their moving to London the festival has grown immeasurably in stature and popularity (the ticket price went up almost a third this year to 98), if not size. The capacity this year has been increased to a cosy 3,000, a thousand up on last year.

Green Man isn’t all about music. It is a very intellectual festival.

Not that means the festival is lacking in fun things to do and see. In fact, Green Man is host to such a wide variety of attractions as to put other, bigger festivals to shame. There are three music stages, a DJ tent (playing ‘folktronica’, of course), a literature tent, a science tent, a cinema and a children’s area. To complement all this, there is an endless choice of foods (with a heavy vegetarian bent) and ales – not a pint of Carling in sight.

The Guardian’s erudite young music critic, John Harris, reviewed last year’s festival in sparkling terms: “whereas most festivals now lay on crushingly predictable lists of attractions that can produce moments of sighing disappointments, here it was possible to alight on things of magic and wonder”. Green Man Festival seems like Wales’s own Brigadoon, a domain outside of the humdrum, dull cares of the world – a fantastical, pastoral idyll to feed the imagination and tease the senses.

Harris was also held in awe by the music he witnessed. Last year saw Bonnie Prince Billy, Joanna Newsom, The Earlies and The Incredible String Band headline. This year the bill is topped by Donovan on the Friday, Jose Gonzalez on the Saturday, while Sunday promises to be rather special what with Calexico, Martha Wainwright and Bert Jansch all making sure the festival reaches a fitting climax.

Further down the bill it gets really interesting. King Creosote brings his special brand of Glasgow street-folk to the main stage on Saturday, and Fairport Convention inspired newcomers 18th Day of May play on Sunday. Across on The Folkey Dolkey Stage (its official name) there will be no-doubt intriguing sets from Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys, Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid, James Yorkston and the great John Renbourn (here’s hoping he joins Bert Jansch on stage to rekindle some Pentangle magic).

Green Man isn’t all about music. It is a very intellectual festival, and some very intellectual films will be screened at the on-site cinema. Meanwhile in the literature tent, Joe Boyd, producer of Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, The Incredible String Band and many others, talks about his new book about his experiences at the heart of Britain’s sixties folk boom, White Bicycles.

Tragically, the festival has sold out – unsurprising given its tiny capacity, but I’m guessing the faithful who did get tickets wouldn’t want it any other way. For the desperate, however, there is another way: Oxfam require volunteers to clean up and bar staff are needed across the festival site. It isn’t perfect, but at least you’ll get a chance to experience this otherworldly happening. Precious few do.

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