Jesters Cider Festival – The Gold Card Challenge


The day finally arrived where I would hand myself over to the vomit stained floors/walls/ceilings of Jesters; The Palace of Dreams, the place we all know and love. I never thought I would see the day where hundreds of people would voluntarily give up at least 12 hours of their lives to stay in Jesters, all day, just to gain the prestigious Gold Card. The task was not an easy one to say the least.

Arriving at least an hour before the doors opened, my friend and I were first in the queue (which inevitably stretched as far as the Hobbit by the time 12 noon approached). The anticipation was torturous as we waited for the doors of Clowns to be opened. We were already feeling the pressure and the twelve hours hadn’t even begun. So, we stepped through the doors and gained our ticket for the Cider Festival which outlined the rules and regulations of the challenge ahead. A 30 minute food break and a 20 min ATM break were all we were allowed between the hours of 1:15pm-1:15am. We set up camp in the far corner of the outside area deciding this would be the place of optimum comfort for the hours to come. Positioned right next to the bar and with an awesome view of the live music, we couldn’t have asked for a better spot. I was very impressed by the amount of cider available – over 100 types in fact! – and despite seeing Jesters in all its glory in the daylight, I was pretty impressed by how good the place looked. Bails of hay added to the festival feel and the make-shift bar outside worked really well. To keep entertained I decided to keep an hour by hour account of the event and here are some of the highlights.

The challenge began. People were already cracking and chowing down on their supplies of food bought in haste from the Portswood Tesco Express. Definitely enough to feed the 5000. This was set to be a VERY long day. As people filtered in and every possible seating area was taken up by bodies, the live music began. In my opinion it really lifted the mood, especially towards the end of the challenge where people were getting tired and irritable. First on was a young lady called Sarah Houston who sat at a keyboard and played some lovely acoustic versions of chart songs. She opened with a beautiful rendition of David Guetta‘s ‘Titanium’ which worked really well and was a nice touch to a current club favourite. She went on to play a variety of songs such as Snow Patrol‘s ‘Signal Fire’ and Damien Rice‘s ‘The Blower’s Daughter’. A particular favourite from her set was her version of Nicki Minaj‘s ‘Starships’. A guy on guitar joined her and it was interesting to see how such a club based, highly produced track could be transformed and stripped back.

A few more acoustic acts played including two guys with guitars who played some indie classics such as ‘Mardy Bum’ by The Arctic Monkeys, which inevitably led to many a sing-along. My personal favourite had to be the jazz pianist that played at around 4pm. A beautiful rendition of ‘The Baywatch Theme’ – suited perfectly for Jesters – was followed by Queen‘s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ which led to such a heart-warming moment. Literally everyone in the club sang along and it was amazing! By this time we were into the fourth hour so a good hearty sing-along really lifted the spirits of everyone in the place. We had turned to playing card games by this point. You’d be amazed at how much time can pass when you’re playing an intense game of Slam.

The live music front also had it’s downsides however. An Irish guy named Shaun declared he would sing about ‘love, sex and death’ but this actually led him to recite some poetry /speak softly which was more annoying than anything. After him came a very Karaoke-esque female singer. Sounding very much like a multitude of X-Factor auditions she sung plenty a chart song. By the end of the day we must have heard Rihanna and Calvin Harris‘ ‘We Found Love’ about five times! The final act were a three piece band and they were fantastic. By this time it was the eigth hour and their set was just what everybody needed. Playing an array of sing-along classics, the female lead singer really got the crowd going despite the insane tiredness everyone was feeling. A particular highlight of their set was Tenacious D‘s classic, ‘Tribute’. Everyone screamed for an encore after their set, which led to three more songs including Kings of Leon‘s ‘Sex on Fire’ which was charmingly introduced as a song about STI’s. Delightful.

As the day turned into night and the Jesters regulars came in pumped and buzzed for their night out, my friends and I were feeling physically, emotionally and mentally drained. But still, we powered through and partied way into the “am”. Countless bottles of cider, slight cabin fever and 50 games of Slam later we finally retrieved our well earned Gold Cards. The wave of relief that came over me holding that golden piece of plastic was immense. A celebratory Jesticle was a must! The Gold Card now has a prime position in my purse and I look forward to spending yet more countless hours in the Palace of Dreams, but now feeling slightly more important. However, if the experience has taught me anything, maybe I’ll have a week away from the place, as 14+ hours in Jesters really does take it toll.


About Author


I’m Megan Downing, an English Literature graduate from University of Southampton. I am the Music, Arts and Culture Editor for The National Student. I am the Membership and Communications Officer for the Student Publication Association, I write about music for 7BitArcade, and contribute regularly to The Culture Trip. I have a passion for live music and this is where I began in student journalism. Reviewing a gig or festival is still where my heart lies four years on. I will be starting at MTV as a News Intern in June 2015. One thing you should know about me is that I have an unhealthy obsession with Kevin Spacey.


  1. avatar

    I know they advertised 100 types of cider but there were nowhere near that many- and they ran out of Henry Westons within about 4 hours!

    Good review of the day, but the idea that chatting with friends in the sun with food and booze and a live band for a day is such an infamous challenge is bizarre.

  2. avatar

    “An Irish guy named Shaun declared he would sing about ‘love, sex and death’ but this actually led him to recite some poetry /speak softly which was more annoying than anything.”

    Firstly, Shaun is an excellent songwriter who often has the crowd riveted with his poetry and well crafted folk rants; that’s a far greater achievement than that of mediocre cover acts who pander to the crowd by playing the Baywatch theme or whatnot.

    Secondly, you seriously can’t you tell the difference between Brummy and Irish?

    • avatar
      Matt Timmiss on

      If you’re going to play a gig to Jesters full of students who have been sat down for hours on end, you need to play music. At that early stage in the day it was a background noise, he was by no means the main event. He talked so quietly it was like a wasp in your ear. We were a large group of english students and the bits we did hear weren’t that good…

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