Festival No.6, Portmeirion, North Wales 5th - 7th September 2014

As another Summer turns towards yet another Autumn, and with warm days soon to be replaced by shorter cooler days, I find myself in North Wales, (or more precisely) in Portmeirion, for my second visit to “Festival No.6” now in its third year of being.

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.

The festival is spread over many stages across the “village” and the wider Portmeirion estate. A 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 some 300 acts taking part.

Everywhere you looked within the village, in and around the magnificent scenery were street performers of all kinds; singers, dancers, DJ’s, ukelele bands, comedians, authors reading to gathered audiences, choirs, bubble makers, weird and wonderful bicycles with wind-up gramophones attached, or converted to submarines and aeroplanes and including some ‘Prisoner” show re-enactments, film screenings, Q&A interviews, processions and carnivals and plenty more besides. And once you've taken all that in, the festival goers had dress up for the occasion and then of course, there were the bands.

There was only one problem with this coastal idyll and the events going on all around me… apart from the sensory overload that overwhelms festival goers here, I was spoilt for choice as to what to see and do and of course what I ultimately needed to photograph. Sadly I couldn't see and experience it all….even if I were to split myself into 6, never mind 2!

Stage No.6 (The main stage) saw the likes of Rock, Pop, Indie, Motown, Punk from well established acts to the new including London Grammar, Bonobo, Neneh Cherry, Beck, Tom Odell, Temples, Peter Hook & The Light, Tom Hickox, The Undertones, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott, Kelis and Pet Shop Boys with a special appearance by Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir (Festival No.6 staples) for “Go West”, the song to close the festival… who quite literally blew The Pet Shop Boys off stage.

Other stages included performance by Steve Mason, Spector, Jon Hopkins, Alexis Taylor, Tune-Yards and Tom Vek. DJ sets from Laurent Garnier, Bodhi, Todd Terje and Julio Bashmore. Local boys Dexys screened “Nowhere Is Home” at The Gatehouse followed by a Q&A with Kevin Rowland and Big Jim Patterson.

The Gatehouse also played host to an eloquent and emotional reading by Harry Leslie Smith, who at 91 has published a book entitled “Harry’s Last Stand”. Harry’s book takes you through his life from the hunger and destitution of his childhood in Barnsley to his time in the RAF during World War Two through the rebuilding of Great Britain during the Post-War years right up to the current day, sharing his experiences, the lessons his life has shown him and his hopes and fears for the future as all that his generation built through their sacrifice is now being eroded by the way we live now.

Harry points his finger at successive governments, bankers and many others who by their greed or inaction have changed Britain into something more akin to the 1930’s and his childhood years. There was not a dry eye in the house as Harry, faltering at times as his emotions were awoken again by reliving his childhood experiences and sharing them with the audience. For me, Harry’s talk was one of the highlights of the festival.

To top off the rich diversity offered by No.6, almost three days of sunny weather gently warmed the crowds. If you've been to North Wales, a little (or a lot) of rain is no surprise, but this year the sun shone on the righteous.

“Festival No.6 (according to The Guardian) could rival Montreaux as the Most Sophisticated (festival) in Europe”. Festival No.6 has impressed me again this year with the extent and depth of entertainment put on for us to enjoy, and to quote a fellow (seasoned festival) photographer visiting for the first time “It's official, Festival No. 6 is my favourite festival ever.”

At the risk of repeating myself, Festival No.6 in 2015 We’ll “Be Seeing You”


Festival No.6;
Twitter: @festivalnumber6