Review: Beat Herder festival 2012

Kenn Taylor sees how far the festival in the Ribble Valley has come

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The Beat Herder festival, held on farmland in the Ribble Valley in East Lancashire, has come a long way since someone decided to set up a sound system in some trees and have a party. Seven years on, it’s a fully-fledged mini-festival, with numbers attending now up to 10,000.

With its compact size, artsy feel and refreshing lack of corporate branding, you could describe Beat Herder as ‘boutique’. As we’re in Lancashire though, it’s less overpriced humus and the London Symphony Orchestra and more hearty curries and local folk bands. The festival manages that rare trick of being cutting edge and creative, whilst still being down to earth and fun.

This is a genuinely family friendly festival which welcomes all up for a good, unpretentious time.

More recent editions of Beat Herder have seen a clutch of bigger headliners on the Main Stage. Acts who usually don’t stray too far from the festival’s dance music origins. This year the biggest name is Orbital, who don’t disappoint on Saturday night with a set and a setting that must have reminded the brothers Hartnoll of their initial raves around the M25. Over the course of the weekend the dance-orientated line-up also stretched to include sets from regular attendees U-U-U-Utah Saints and a tight performance from Oldham electro act The Whip.

The flipside to the festival is a mixture of newer talent, such as Liverpool-based Krunk outfit Dogshow, and downright fun acts. The Beat Herder and District Working Men’s Social Club tent was rammed to the roof for a set by Black Lace, that didn’t feature any of the bands original members. On the Sunday afternoon meanwhile, Beat Herder regulars The Lancashire Hotpots, banged out standards like Chippy Tea and He’s Turned Emo, helping to cheer spirits on a day with at least a bit less rain and a bit more sun than the last.

There are a few all day ravers at Beat Herder, especially around the Toil Trees, the copse were the festival began. The majority of attendees, though, are far more chilled and this is a genuinely family friendly festival which welcomes all up for a good, unpretentious time. Even aside from the music, the atmosphere is one of a carnival you can sit and watch go by, especially on fancy dress Saturday. Meanwhile the mixture of curiosities in the trees, ranging from an outdoor cinema, to a phone box teleporter and a parish church which is actually a disco, is not to be missed.

This year’s event was marred a little by the intense mud, but the festival’s compact size and friendly atmosphere means it’s not too hard to get around even if ankle deep, and eventually it becomes part of the fun. Beat Herder has got bigger but so far has lost none of its charm. Like with Glastonbury the heart behind its organisation is clear to see and it might well be the best music festival the North West of England has to offer.

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