Beat-Herder festival review

Joanna Eckersley takes a trip to one of one of the north's best kept festival secrets, featuring classic acts including Leftfield

Beat-Herder is a pick-and-mix – a big bag of fun, a holiday for everyone. Whether you want to take a nice break away with the kids, or a nice break away from reality, Beat-Herder is the ticket.

Sprawling over the lovely valleys of Lancashire, the three-day festival really went to town this year. In fact, it included its own mini town.

Word of mouth onsite said there were about 6,000 people herding beats this weekend – but word of mouth also had it that a flock of angry chickens were on their way to peck off our knees.

A friendly community of however many people threw their tents up and headed to the arena this year to see a packed-out line-up and sample some really unusual festival additions.

Corporate branding and sponsors are absent at Beat-Herder

Corporate branding and sponsors are absent at Beat-Herder, and this adds something to the dreamlike feel of the festival. On entering punters are greeted by monsters made from scrap metal, including a lizard made from an old plane, and arrive at a ferris wheel that gives you views of the tops of the trees. Crossing a bridge into the lazy meadow they’ll find a stone circle with a night-time fire-pit and day-time children’s play area.

The Yet To Be Named Bit is new to 2011, but looks like it was transported here from another century. The street boasts a tobacconist, barber, bookshop and sweet shop, but it also includes two phone boxes which were portals to the famous Beat-Herder tunnel (don’t turn left or you’ll find yourself behind bars!). Taking a shortcut through a rum joint takes you to the Toil Trees: the heart – and most beautiful part – of the festival.

The Toil Trees is a stage set in tall fir trees, draped with throws and sails, and covered with projections spinning around the trunks of the trees. This year Angie’s Den served drinks from a surreal hip-high bar dug into the ground. Dancing on wood shavings can prove a little tricky but it’s something worth getting the hang of.

Beat-Herder’s reputation has grown exponentially over the years. Classic nineties dance act Leftfield headlined the Saturday night with a light-filled set. The tulip-shaped main stage shone out as tunes like Release the Pressure delighted the crowd.

Horace Andy’s unique voice sent shivers down the spine. The reggae singer, famed for his association with Massive Attack, was a favourite for Psy-Breaks DJ Rory Gordziejko, who came to the festival from Liverpool.
He said: “He is a living god. He’s one of the few original reggae artists still able to maintain his voice and energy. He has such a ridiculous stage presence.”

The festival boasted over 300 acts. Each stage had its own sounds, meaning there was something for everyone. Getting lost in the site, you were bound to stumble on something you liked.

Paul Meehan, who travelled all the way from Northern Ireland, said: “I met loads of great people, which makes you feel at one with the festival. Bring on next year.”

Beat-Herder takes you on many trips – not all of them of the type the lead singer of the Dub Pistols was passionately endorsing on day three. Beat-Herder’s trips are as innocent or as twisted as you want them to be.

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