Somersault Festival achieved many things that larger festivals seem incapable of. From the comfortable atmosphere, the endless amount of seating available, and the half decent toilets, to the child friendly environment, the huge variety of quality food outlets, and the picturesque location, Somersault was a near faultless festival experience.
Friday brought the tragedy of endless traffic and monumental quantities of rain. From the moment I left for work in the morning, to the moment I got in the car to leave for the festival, the rain did not relent. Google Maps suggested our arrival time would be some time after 11pm, which lead to immediate panic due to festival entry closing at 8pm. In what was the luckiest turn of events over the entire weekend, my sister managed to bag us an AirBnB room with free breakfast for the weekend. This meant showers, warmth, and a near mud-less festival experience, which perhaps added to my enjoyment. Missing Friday night meant missing performances from the likes of Laura Marling, Jeremy Loops, and the faultless Lucy Rose, which perhaps added to my traffic rage on the way down.
I awoke on Saturday to sun and clear skies, which only added to my well rested and well breakfasted state. Arriving at the festival ground, I was struck immediately by the magic and beauty of the grounds. Somersault Festival is situated in North Devon, at the Castle Hill estate. As the name suggests, the grounds hold host to many beautiful buildings, including a huge stately home that hosted Jo Whiley’s Tea Party over the weekend. The festival ground was divided in three by a running stream, which many festival goers took great joy in wading their aching feet in.
The entrance was marked by the signature Somersault bunting, welcoming the crowd into a land of fairytale dreams. Many pop up stands lined the field, from Belvoir cordials, to Pukka teas, the endless array of quality food, drink, and clothing stands on offer was a sight to behold, many boasting responsibly sourced goods. The festival was brand aware, and understood the needs of the festival goers. The crowd was dotted with musical acts who were as interested in catching their mates on stage as any of the surrounding crowd. I bumped into the likes of Rae Morris, Lucy Rose, and Jack Steadman of Bombay Bicycle Club. Somersault provides a means to break down the wall between fans and performers, allowing comfortable interaction and endless opportunities for photos. The relaxed atmosphere of the festival meant that simply lying down next to the stream and taking a quick nap was completely acceptable, and as soon as I had lain down I was joined by several other festival goers who reclined nearby, enjoying the warm sun and gently bubbling river.
The first musical act I caught was Cash + David on the main stage. Before I had even glimpsed the people performing onstage, I had a vague inclining as to who was on vocals and my suspicions were confirmed on my trip to the festival toilets (an experience almost heavenly after the likes of Manchester’s Parklife). For Cash + David are comprised of Liz Lawrence (David) (Bombay Bicycle Club’s back up vocalist for when the likes of Lucy Rose and Rae Morris aren’t around) and Tim Ross (Cash). The London based duo brought elevated electro-pop to a folk festival, which may have been badly received, but due to the accepting crowd who were up for a good time with every act, the two-piece quickly seemed at home on the stage.
Rae Morris took the Main Stage by storm, enjoying an incredible reaction from the crowd. Although petite in size, her stage presence is huge, and she politely welcomed herself on stage before stealing the hearts of everyone in the audience. Flawless in almost every way, she both stunned me and had me grooving at the same time. If you ever get the chance to see her live then I advise taking it, for she is really a force of musical talent.
Saturday headliners Bombay Bicycle Club could not have performed better. Their festival set was as musically intricate as their solo gigs, and they worked the adoring crowd with ease. Stating that this would be their last show in ‘a very long time’, the set gained a degree of sentimentality and euphoria. The crowd grew louder and louder, people standing on shoulders and clapping along throughout the entirety of songs. The screams for an encore were nearly deafening, and the atmosphere was electric. The final blast of confetti signalled the bands departure from their fourth album So Long, See You Tomorrow. I await their new material eagerly.
Sunday brought the wonderful combination of both the rain and the cold. My sister and I avoided the festival in the morning, heading to Barnstaple to see the hugely emotional ‘Inside Out’ (I almost exclaimed at the £5.50 cinema tickets). Arriving at the site at around 4pm, we were welcomed by deep mud, light flooding, and even more rain. However, we arrived in time to catch the fabulous Jimmy Cliff, who’s good vibes were not dampened by the weather. He got almost everyone moving and shaking to his well known reggae tunes, and I have to say it was easily one of the most fun sets of the weekend. Next up were Angus & Julia Stone, who were less than impressive. They failed to connect with the crowd, and their humorous comment on the weather was poorly received by the sodden English crowd.
By this point I was cold, damp, and tired. Passenger’s set caught my attention with his humour and quality stage presence, but even his words of encouragement in the face of the cold were not enough to keep me from returning to the car and making a head start on going home.
A truly magical Saturday was defeated by a sodden Sunday. Somersault was perhaps the only festival experience I have fully enjoyed, and I hope the fun-loving atmosphere and family friendly environment never changes. This festival is small, with it only being in its second year, but something is special in its obscurity and I hope that it remains this way. I will be back next year Somersault, mark my works.