Festival No.6 2015

Review and Pictures from Festival No.6, Portmeirion, North Wales 3rd - 6th September 2015
Gig review and photography by Ken Harrison

My final festival of the summer neatly marks the change from Summer to Autumn. Back at Portmeirion for the fourth Festival No.6, and my third visit to this wonderfully eclectic festival set in a stunning backdrop.

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Portmeirion, a rich and colourful Italianate village designed by the late Architect, William Clough Ellis and built overlooking the River Dwryryd estuary was home to the 1960’s cult TV show “The Prisoner”, the lead character played by Patrick McGoohan who was the “No.6” that the festival references. Portmeirion was voted as the “Most Unique Venue” of all the UK festival sites and Lonely Planet has also recently included Portmeirion as one of the best 500 places to see on the planet. I for one, can’t argue with that particular accolade.

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The festival is spread over many stages across the “village” and the wider Portmeirion estate. As well as the usual festival style stages held in open fields, almost every nook and cranny in the village and the surrounding woodland was filled with something of interest going on over the weekend with over 1000 artists taking part in the festival. The line up is the biggest yet and further stages have been established to host the acts including the addition of “The Village Green”.

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Before you look at the line up for the bands playing at No.6, there is the mix of performers of all kinds to mention: poets, singers, dancers, DJ’s, comedians, authors reading to gathered audiences, choirs, bubble makers, an immersive 3D ‘Prisoner” show re-enactment, film screenings, Q&A interviews, processions, trapeze, paddle boarding on the estuary and plenty more besides, a kids play area complete with Disco and fun activities, a large Nespresso for a pick-me-up caffeine fix and even a spa to rejuvenate even the most exhausted festival goer. Stage No.6 (The main stage) hosted Rock, Pop, Indie, Punk from well established acts to the new including Stealing Sheep, Slow Club, Years & Years, Mark Ronson, Metronomy, Rae Morris, James Bay, Catfish & The Bottlemen, Belle and Sebastian, James Morrison, Stornaway, Gaz Coombes, Black Grape, James and the wonderful Grace Jones closing the main stage on Sunday evening with fireworks, confetti cannons and Rover balloons into the audience.

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Other stages included performance by Young Fathers, Hookworms, British Sea Power, Everything Everything (who must have earned their main stage place by now), Soak and King Creosote. Out at the “Lost In The Woods” stage Badly Drawn Boy curated a set of performances by The Exceptional Remarkables, Fingermbn, David Gedge and many others.

At The Gatehouse returning from his 2014 appearance with a reading from “Harry’s Last Stand”. Harry Leslie Smith was due to appear with his new work, however illness prevented him from attending. Get well soon Harry ! You were missed. A range of spoken word, movie and Q&A sessions ran in the Gatehouse and down at the Piazza and Estuary stages. Particular highlights include Bernard Sumner (New Order) session with Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting), Steve Coogan interviewing Elaine Constantine and showing clips from the movie “Northern Soul”, and some fantastic poetry curated by Luke Wright and a special performance of No.1 single “Saint Anthony” by Mike Garry dedicated to Tony Wilson (Factory Records) to support cancer charities.

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The festival has grown significantly from its beginnings back in 2012, with crowds of 15,000 attending over the weekend. At times, the sheer volume of people moving through the site made life difficult to get around. This is probably the maximum size Festival No.6 could grow without some radical rethinking on the festival planning, any larger and the unique feel of the festival could diminish, which would be a great pity. Despite this, Festival No.6 was the quickest three days I have ever experienced, with so much to see and experience, the time flew by and was back home before I knew it.

I can’t wait for next year. “Be Seeing You.”

The Prisoner in Immersive 3D

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Steve Coogan interviewing Elaine Constantine

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Stuart Maconie and Maxine Peak

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James Morrison

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Brythoniaid Welsh Choir

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Gaz Coombes

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Ghost Poet

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Black Grape

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Grace Jones

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