Lost Village Festival 2018
I’m a few days back from Lost Village Festival 2018 and I wanted to share a personal review of it and perhaps spark a bit of a discussion of others’ experiences.
For context of what I’m comparing it against, I’ve been to a few different multi-day UK festivals: Glastonbury, The Big Chill and Secret Garden Party as well as a few of the big one dayers: Creamfields, Love Box and SW4.
Also, it’s worth saying that I stayed in a bell tent in boutique camping (so can’t speak for the experience of the main camp site); paid full price for my ticket (this is not a sponsored review); arrived on Thursday and left on Monday (the full duration).
In summary, I’ve been describing it to friends as a very enjoyable experience, really solid on the basics but with one big issue (security) and A LOT of small frustrations that would need to be ironed out before I’d go again. I’ll do the positives first because there are decent things to say about the place based on my first experience of it:
• Great line up, well put together and not too clashy. A top selection of DJs (both emerging and established) spanning a lot of genres with a really good choice of live acts to break things up and provide variety. Scheduling seemed to be pretty well organised so that the stages were all doing pretty different things (with an expected strong bias towards electronic music) at any given time and avoiding too many really obvious clashes. Wiki, Friendly Fires, Daniel Avery and Goldie were all personal highlights.
• Great music alternatives: the talks and comedy that I saw across Saturday and Sunday were engaging and a nice change of pace (David Trent, Allyson June Smith, Tiffany Stevenson were all fantastic).
• The quality of the food was top notch: really good variety and almost everything I ate was delicious, if a little costly (more on that later).
• The logistics were pretty solid. Shuttles to/from the station were easy enough; queues were reasonable and toilets were fairly well maintained (as festivals go), worth saying that I can’t speak on the showers (bird baths and baby wipes FTW).
• The setting was nice. Visually, the mix of forest, field and lake (which could have been more of a focus) provided a good environment to party in and some of the constructions (Gin Bar and Hells Parlour were nice to look at too).
As I said at the top: really solid basics that made for a generally good festival. However, there were at least as many negative (albeit mostly smaller) points that shaded the overall experience, starting with the big one:
• Security. They seemed to have been briefed with a very interventionist remit. On Saturday, we were sat at the Lake and watched two of them tour every sitting group around the water and shake down anyone who looked like they might be doing drugs. We watched one quite young group be forced to empty all of their bags and pockets under quite intense intimidation with the two security guys taking their whole stash. I also saw two separate people (indisputably under the influence) but seemingly not acting aggressively get forcefully restrained and taken away on different days. Finally, they were just everywhere and in higher proportion to the festival goers than I personally have experienced at any other event. The ones in hi-vis were constantly walking through the crowds in open areas and the smaller stages, which is not in itself a problem but they weren’t exactly the friendly volunteer steward types and I felt it negatively impacted my ability to relax, forget, enjoy and escape. We also spotted some very obvious plain clothes guys (old blokes, bad hats, mountain boots and ear pieces) lurking around the back of the crowds at the smaller stages throughout the afternoons. I heard more bad reports from other festival goers both in person and via Twitter but won’t get in to stuff that isn’t my own direct experience. For balance I would mention that we had plenty of very friendly interactions (particularly at entrances and exits) but overall I felt like they squashed the vibe a bit.
• Sound levels and isolation were a problem. After 11pm the levels at all the stages were pretty low – enough that if you were just 10m back from the front you could hear everyone talking around you (and in some cases, starting chants of ‘turn it up’). Conversely, during the day, the levels at the Junkyard were so loud that the Institute of Curious Minds (where all the talks were happening) was awash with bass. You could still hear 95% of what was being said but it was definitely a distraction to both the speakers and the crowd.
• Music in the big bars was utter shit (Hells Parlour and the big tent next to the Eating House full of hay). The festival has a 2am curfew at all of the official stages which is far from ideal but that was well publicised in advance. However, the festival FAQs also promised after-hours bars and hang outs closing ‘as late as 3:30am’, which is consequently where most people congregated. For a festival with a reputation for such a good music policy it was pretty inexcusable to have a playlist of 80s/90s/00s pop hits with every song playing through in full and fading to a big pause between tracks (the hay tent on Friday night) and for actual adverts to interrupt the music too (Hells Parlour on Saturday night). I’m sure there are hundreds of good, willing DJs who would play those venues for next to nothing (a free ticket?) rather than letting some asshat leave his phone on shuffle. I feel at least one of these places should have been made a proper stage with a proper line up that would have been a good shout for dry dancing when the rain came down on Sunday.
• The app was rubbish. Three quarters of the group I was with didn’t receive push notifications for special messages and secret sets (despite having them turned on); there was no search function (if you wanted to find out where someone was playing, you had to scour the list of every stage on every day) and it crashed or froze pretty much constantly. If you’re not going to print guides and give them out at the gate on the way in for free then you sure as hell should make sure that the alternative does a better job.
• Waste was an issue at the bars: while there were beer taps in some bars, an awful lot had all their beer and cider in cans which they said they had to pour in to plastic cups because of their licensing agreement. Environmentally this seems madness. While there were visible recycling bins in most areas – this still just doubled the waste that was necessary and made the waiting times at the bars pretty long. Other festivals I’ve been to simply open the can (so you can’t stash it or lob it at someone I guess) and then hand it over.
• Pricing. Bar prices were pretty steep (I think £4.60/£4.80) for 330ml of beer and I didn’t see any substantial food items for less than £6. Glastonbury encourages its food vendors to provide a proper meal option (not just chips) for £5 which would have been nice to see.
• The theme/production was a bit lacking. For all of its reputation, promotional hype and the quite laboured mythology narrative that they tried to build before the festival, the actual experience fell down a bit: The Junkyard, The Abandoned Chapel and the Forgotten Cabin all had very similar looks and production whilst the roving actors and small installations/experiences I’d heard so much about were a bit thin on the ground.
This is just my experience and point of view. If any of you have been or know someone who has been this year I’m very curious to hear those accounts. There’s plenty of good comments on social media and I think there’s potential in this festival in the future but I also think it’s got a way to go before I’d recommend it.