Set in fields down a quiet country lane amidst the rolling green hills of North Dartmoor in the south-west of England, Whiddon Down is a beautiful location for the Chagstock music festival. It started in 2003 as a private get together for only a few hundred people and has grown to a 5000 capacity sold out event that supports the Devon Air Ambulance Trust and WaterAid.
A regular campsite and a quieter family campsite were offered and water taps and clean flushing toilets were available throughout the venue. Inside the festival, two stages took it in turns to host the main acts meaning there was no big gap between performances as some festivals have. There was also a tent with a smaller stage and seating for weary legs. Stall holders sold clothing, jewellery, hats, bags, ornaments and other knick knacks and at the back of the field was a big selection of food vendors as well as a play area for the kids. The bar sold beers and some great local ciders, and if you wanted to really chill out, qualified practitioners offered a number of holistic healing options.
I had bought a ticket purely to see the headline acts on both nights, Levellers and New Model Army, who I’d been a fan of for well over twenty years, but I was really impressed by the quality of the other bands that played. There was a strong bias towards energetic folk music but it was complimented really well with other styles like the ska sounds of Neville Staple (formerly of The Specials), funky reggae from Backbeat Sound System and electro-swing from the sassy Electric Swing Circus.
Stand out acts for me also included Rusty Shackle, a young indie folk six piece band from Wales, who gave their all and had the crowd jumping during their powerful and energetic set. The Eskies from Ireland were making their debut UK festival performance and didn’t disappoint. They went down a storm with what’s been described as a folk noir/gypsy jazz/sea shanty style of music but however you describe it they clearly just wanted to get everyone dancing, and they succeeded. The infectious tunes of Mad Dog McCrea, the talented singer-songwriter Gaz Brookfield and beautiful voice and heartfelt music of Martha Tilston also stood out.
It was amazing to see headliners New Model Army and Levellers from my front row centre spot that I managed to grab during the second last act, something that could never be achieved at a bigger festival unless you stand there all day. Both bands have been around a long time and their sets were nothing short of phenomenal. NMA finished their set with the beautiful and evocative Green and Grey, which I was really hoping for. Levellers killed it with a set that included a lot of their older songs and the energy was incredible. It’s been a long time since I jumped so much in one weekend and I think my legs are still recovering!
Despite going alone to Chagstock as I was just travelling through and don’t know anyone in that area, I met a lot of great people over the weekend and I’d go back again in a heartbeat.1Need at least 3 ratings