For me, the festival season is a truly personal experience. Though it may be the headline acts or the rare appearances that tempt me into spending my hard-earned cash on certain festivals, this is rarely the case with Blissfields. 2013 was a prime example of that: as I drove to Vicarage Farm this year, I was only familiar with (at most) five of the acts playing. Despite this fact, I would like to go on record as saying that this may well have been the greatest Blissfields to date and though the music is a huge part of that, there is far more to it than the names in the programme. So yes – maybe, I have become a bit of a fan boy since I first went in 2010; and, yes – I probably do say this every year but it is intended as a genuine testament to the wonderful show that Paul and Mel put on.
So, wherein does the secret to this little festival’s success lie? There may be no definitive answer to this question but my friend Jonny has tried his best to sum it all up in one quote:
“As a newcomer, I loved how they managed to condense so much into such a small area and at no point did it feel ‘thrown together’… It was a proper little community and had a really good atmosphere throughout. I found it refreshing to go to a festival that clearly hadn’t lost touch with its audience in the name of profit.”
It has always seemed to me that Blissfield’s intimacy is key to the unique style of this festival. While on the one hand, the smaller crowds perhaps make it difficult for the event to attract big headline acts or a wealth of familiar names (though, Bastille and Mystery Jets this year were an impressive combination) and at the same time keep ticket prices to less than £100, it is exactly this that generates the buzz of excitement around the campsite. I spent my entire weekend being advised on bands I should go and see and then passing this on to other attendees. Of course, this is common at festivals, but at Blissfields it’s almost the whole reason you’re there.
That said, every year I am shocked by how immersed I find myself with everything that’s going on, or for that matter, with doing absolutely nothing at all. It’s easy to spend hours with your feet up under a tree somewhere listening to one of the stages from a distance, sipping on an ice cold drink (or, perhaps a cup of tea as the evening draws on). Due to it’s size, Blissfields is imitate enough that no matter how far away you are, you’re still close enough to the action to feel involved. If we compare this with the likes of the Isle of Wight Festival or Glastonbury where the sites are so vast that getting food, – or as one unprepared year forced to me to purchase – blankets and dry clothes, takes a twenty or thirty minute detour from the stage you’re wanting to visit. And God forbid you leave something back at the tent!
Blissfields strength lies in its small size and limited numbers. It stands to reason that the bigger the crowd you’re going to have, the bigger the site and the bigger the complications that may arise and the more wankers you might potentially have in attendance. Blissfields is able to navigate around these problems with great ease and is the primary reason I go back every year. So, maybe losing your friends, seeing huge bands and being ripped off for food and drink is part of the festival experience but I would much rather explore new music, share my experience with new people and feel part of a genuine community each year. I said it was a personal experience for me – in my eyes, Blissfields isn’t a festival. It’s a holiday.