‘Keep your festival, this is a people’s festival’ heckles Patti Smith from the main stage on a sunlit Saturday afternoon. And there you have it, the American punk rock singer-songwriter has summarised the whole event in one breath.
Five years in and Hop Farm is still as fresh as a daisy and continues to gather momentum auspiciously. Vince Power continues to sell tickets on the premise of no sponsorship or branding, no camping or parking costs and more importantly the guarantee of legendary music acts. Marching onto the site, Ray Ban knockoffs, and pop up tent in tow there isn’t even many Hop Farm posters about.
It quickly becomes evident that the whole affair has been stripped down to the essentials, but that doesn’t subtract from it – in fact it’s refreshing. With no VIPs or in your face branding the emphasis shifts to the punters, the music and the collective enjoyment of all involved.
Compared to Reading Festival’s freedom seeking teen demographic Hop Farm see’s everyone catered for, from babies and teenyboppers to the elderly and disabled. Watching Primal Scream, sandwiched, between an elderly couple, and a mother and child wasn’t something I’d come expecting. The diversity and accessibility of the three day endeavour is heartily embraced by all that pass through the festival’s gates, there’s even a children’s area!
This year, Power has clinched the likes of Bob Dylan, Ray Davies, Damien Rice and Suede to headline, a rare treat where many of the bill’s acts are concerned. Dylan, for instance appears on Saturday – in what is his only UK appearance – accompanied on stage by a grand piano and the eyes and ears of most of the event’s 50,000 strong crowd. Power himself can be spotted in the heart of the arena talking with a scribe whilst his patrons cotch and chow down £4 burgers.
Teen? You can go lap up rising twenty somethings such as Lucy Rose, Benjamin Francis Leftwich and King Charles in ‘The Big Tent’ or on the ‘Bread And Rose Stage’ because admittedly had you not been routing through your parent’s record collection or been in the possession of a developed musical palate, you’ll only know the hits of some of the headliners. Think of it as a crash course in musical education and embrace the notion that in a jumbled up world of austerity and David Cameron’s ‘big society’ there still remains the endorphin inducing evergreen British summer and there’s nothing else quite like it. Thankfully the weather even holds up this weekend with only the odd light shower on Sunday.
The only problem with Hop Farm, seems to reside in the fact that, though a variety of genres are displayed across the five stages this weekend, they all seem to have at least one pseudo acoustic guitar wielding Bob Dylan wannabe performing. It’s not that they don’t have the talent but a dance tent wouldn’t go amiss. However it’s difficult to conceive how one would fit in with all that folk verging on easy listening sound. But other than that, there really is no room for complaint, there’s an eclectic array of affordable food joints on offer and the arena’s layout is easily navigable.
The question to ask then, is how will Hop Farm top last year’s effort? Year in and year out as it seems it’s audience can’t find fault with it and if they could Hop Farm make it clear they’d love to hear any feedback, good or bad.
It’s the sort of festival you can bring your folks too, hell bring the whole family, the adults can revisit their youth and the young’uns can go round collecting cups, earning 10p for each one whilst simultaneously giving the rubbish collectors a run for their money. That’s another factor – Hop Farm is by far the cleanest festival I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending, there’s no mud and the ground doesn’t resemble a fledging landfill site, in fact one of the compares masquerading as a fox begs everyone to “turn this place into a shithole, you’re at a festival”.
It suffices to say that The Hop Farm Festival is one for real music fans and those seeking a laid back atmosphere, one in which they don’t have to rush or fight through crowds in order to see their favourite crooners perform in the flesh. One which demonstrates how a festival should be conducted- informally, non commercially and above all enjoyably!
Hop Farm, yeah.
- Abi Pallett