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Beautiful Days Festival

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Music festival in Devon

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      17.12.2010 17:04
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      A great weekend away

      Beautiful Days is an annual music festival which takes place in the grounds of Escot House, Ottery St Mary, East Devon.

      It was initially founded in 2003 by successful folk-band The Levellers - the festivals name is an abbreviation of one of their most famous songs - "What a Beautiful Day". Despite growing in statutory in the proceeding years, it has kept true to its anti-corporate ethos. In particular it manages to comfortably sell out its circa 10,000 tickets well in advance of the event despite not paying for any advertising over and beyond their website - http://www.beautifuldays.org/news.

      It typically takes place around the 3rd weekend in August from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening. You are allowed to arrive on the Friday morning from 9 and need to leave by Monday afternoon. Tickets are most easily bought through the website, where you should also order your parking car sticker at the same time. The tickets will be delivered to you a couple of weeks prior to the festival.

      The tickets cost around £100 + booking fee and £15 for a parking permit.

      In general the main camping area (which surrounds the festival action area) is quite a walk away from the parking but this is to be expected at any festival.

      If not arriving by car, there are frequent coaches put on from Exeter St Davids train station and bus station to the festival site for around £6.

      The festival is very proudly quite 'rootsy' focussing on providing acts from genres such as folk, reggae, punk and subgenres within this.

      The site itself grows in stature and changes slightly every year, but essentially there is a main stage and an undercover 'circus' tent which show most of the live music. Between this is a bandstand which shows theatre, hosts live interviews, poetry and other miscellaneous shows.

      There are a large variety of food stands, which provide reasonably priced food from all manner of cuisines so you are completely spoilt for choice. Bar-wise the main place to buy drinks is in the Otter Ale tent near the main stage which sells real ale at pub prices, largely from local beer manufacturers Otter Breweries. However, one of the best things about the festival is that you are free to bring your own alcohol in as long as it is not in glass containers.

      There are also a variety of stalls selling your typical festival trinkets, clothing, crafts etc. A nice touch is a stall which sells provisions from the local village shop. There is also a staill which sells CDS from bands performing during the weekend.

      There is a children's area which contains open-mic tents and various crafts and entertainment for younger folk.

      Further up the site is a area which offers alternative therapies and a quirky little tea shop. There are also another area which has more stands and stalls and a dance and comedy tent. Walk through this and you come to a great tent called The Bimble Inn which appears to tour many of the summer festival as it sells ale and shows live music under the canvas of a solar powered tent!

      To get a sense of the type of acts that have played there over the years, here is a list of some of them - unsurprisingly the Levellers play two sets a year, one to open and one to close the festival, James, Newton Faulkner, Billy Bragg, Seth Lakeman, Frank Turner, Squeeze, Supergrass, Ross Noble, Bill Bailey, Gogol Bordello. There are especially good at picking acts that have less known stature but are great playing at festivals, which make wandering around and seeing new acts really great in that you just might stumble across someone new, or that you have barely heard of who are really great.

      My verdict

      In my opinion, this is a really great festival. It has a real laidback hippyish vibe to it, but is well organised and set-out. It was larger in size than I initially expected yet it is so laid out that it doesn't take you any longer than 10-15 minutes to get from one extremity of the site to the other.

      There is a really great relaxed atmosphere, but as with all festivals an otherworldlyness to it in that you do really feel that you are entering another world. I did not witness any trouble or aggression despite there being copious amounts of alcohol appearing to be consumed. There is also a really nice non-judgemental anything goes attitude amongst the revellers.

      The facilities are good, the toilets in particular are pretty good both in quantity and in how frequently they are cleaned compared to other festivals. It is quite easy in general to move around the site, the walkways wide enough to get a fair number of people through.

      The fact that it is evergrowing but still manages to keep a level of intimacy is a real testament to the goodwill that goes behind this event. Like all festivals, however, the site does turn into a bit of a quagmire if the rain sets in.

      In conclusion I have had a fantastic time at Beautiful Days - it really does get the balance right between providing an enjoyable experience for punters, whilst staying true to its roots and politics and providing at the core of it - some really great acts and music who largely seem to really enjoy performing there and return year-on-year.

      It provides a wonderful facility for escapism with the security that you are at a happy and well-organised event where you are just left to get on and get the best of the experience that you possibly can. I also think that the £100 ticket price and the fact that you can bring your own alcohol make it one of the most cost-effective festivals out there. Highly recommended!

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