The Big Chill

Eastnor Castle, 2008

by Isla MC

The Big Chill was the first festival I ever went to, back when it was held at Larmer Tree Gardens in Dorset. This was 10 years ago, and we chose it because our parents wouldn’t let us go to Glastonbury and the Big Chill gave you tickets for 15 quid if you were under 16.

It was an eventful weekend back in the day. We accidentally brought a one-man tent instead of a six-man and had to sleep with one eye open in a music arena. Laura was offered GHB by an unwashed devil (and nearly accepted – she was crazy back then). Suzi and I bonded over beedies (remember them?) while watching a vast, tie-dye-clad woman gurning to the sounds of some dreadful panpipe music or similar. The place was a hippie’s paradise.

And this was always the point of the Big Chill. Alongside the outrageously corporate V and O2 Wireless festivals, the Big Chill had always kept it real. But this weekend made me wonder if this is still the case. Most of the acts on the bill are still relatively obscure, but the line-up certainly didn’t display the same diversity as it used to, and seemed to lack direction. And the organisers aren’t shy of sponsorship these days – you couldn’t move for Rizla logos. What exactly does the Big Chill stand for now?

Fortunately, flying the flag for crusties everywhere were pilgrims to the Sunrise Celebration – a proper old-fashioned festival which had to set up camp on part of the Chill site after being cancelled. This little corner had a really lovely, peace-and-love kind of vibe – something which was missing elsewhere.

That’s not to say I didn’t have a nice time. The site is really beautiful, on the grounds of Eastnor Castle in a valley among the hills of Herefordshire. And there were some stand-out acts, like Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab, bonkers French singer Camille, Icelandic virtuosos Múm and the wonderful Leonard Cohen (my mum was so jealous). Also, if you havent seen the Sigur Rós film Heima, check it out.

Maybe it’s just that I’m jaded after a decade (!) of festival-going, but the Big Chill felt a bit faceless, when it used to be something special. Perhaps it should take a tip from Sunrise, and go back to its roots.

Sidenote: What was up with the Mighty Boosh’s performance at about 7pm on the Saturday? Singing of Rape, Murder, How we’re all going to die a horrible death, Rapebot, Paedophilia comments… all in front of all the kiddies in the audience!!?? Was this the Boosh’s way of saying FUCK OFF to the middle class? Or were they genuinely out of their depth? And WHAT was with all the technical difficulties… Thought improv comics were supposed to be capable of thinking on their feet!?

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