July 18th-20th, 2014
Guildford, UK

by Ella Fitzsimmons

We came off to an inauspicious start, Guilfest and I. It was a Sunday. I’d turned down the first three offers of shots the night before, but then a pint or so later, I’d buckled for the great, drunken self-deception that is the straight vodka shot. (If it doesn’t taste of anything, it won’t make you feel rough. Lies. All lies). Feeling better than I deserved to, but far from well, I got out of bed at noon. By which I mean a few minutes before 1 pm. I Googled when the festival started. 2 pm, or thereabouts. I was going to be late. Guilford is a far cry from my North London home.

I saved time on showering. That’s efficiency, right there. Remaining ladylike and trying to be upstanding member of society, I considered putting on deodorant, but couldn’t find it. These are the sacrifices I, and the people around me, have to make for my flawed logic and commitment to fun. Caffeinated the heck out of myself at home, at Waterloo. Had chocolate and sparkling water, elixirs of life. Read an overrated book on the train. Late. Stressed. With bowels that rudely disagreed with my time-honoured hangover cures. Arrived at Guildford station. A suburban void. The lone taxi driver looked confused when I asked him about Guilfest. He mumbled something about Stoke Park. I went in search of it. There were tents, and stages and fences, but no people.

I was a few hours late.

But a week early.

I should have checked that part of the website.

Despite seeming evidence to the contrary, I do actually learn from my mistakes.When I arrived the week after (on time-ish, on the right day), I was in fine fettle. Or finer fettle, at least. I may be 33, but as a friend of mine says, on good days, I can pass for 29 with a hard life.  Guilfest-Second-Attempt was one of those days.

In great news, the staff were uniformly welcoming. There’s something really lovely about showing up at a gig or a festival and having everyone be helpful and friendly. I went on the last day of the festival, so they’d must have been at it for days, but nobody seemed tired or grumpy. Impressive.

It’s very much a family sort of affair, Guilfest. It’s won awards for being the best Mid-Sized Festival in the UK, and I can see how that would happen. I’d consider bringing the Halloween Special Baby and my faux-nephew Max Power there when they’re a little older, because I am in charge of making sure they are acclimatised to going to gigs and don’t just hover around computers or the chip in their wrist that tells them what the other cyborgs are thinking, or whatever it is that the Spawn of the Future will be into.  I’m old.

Anyway, it’s a nice event. The talent is far from top notch, but occasionally a good time. Plus, there’s something fun about seeing people have a really non-ironically good time to something I wouldn’t otherwise be a part of. Like a Robbie Williams tribute act (I thought of calling him an “impersonator”, but that seems a bit harsh) who calls himself…wait for it…”Blobbie Williams”. Tis too easy to sneer, but the man had the crowd dancing, so power to him. I was gutted to have missed Kool and the Gang the night before, but had fun dancing to Norman Jay’s old school set by the main stage.

I wandered off to get a sense of the rest of the festival site – some pretty nice eateries around the area, especially for those of us who like pretty solid food. The comedy tent was slightly less uplifting, though; mainly really stale material, poorly delivered. I got annoyed when an American comic was being misogynist about his girlfriend and other British women, and left.

Back on the second stage, the Good Time Guide Stage, a pair of sisters called Ward Thomas played a set of country and western tunes that went down really well with the crowd. They’re pretty obviously inspired by Carrie Underwood both in styling and in their musical tastes, but there’s two of them, and they have nice voices. I thought their home counties-inflected banter between the songs cringeworthy, but I have a dark and bitter soul, so I can’t be trusted to review the light-hearted patter of those who are more inherently joyous.

My fave gig, hands down, was the Sugar Hill Gang. They are old, but they still put on a darn good show. It was like a masterclass in old school hip hop, and just a lot of fun. I’d see them anywhere. Even if I have to travel as far as Guildford.

Leave a Reply