Festival Review: Cloudspotting

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Most festivals profess to be family friendly these days, so it can be difficult to figure out which ones actually are. Some stick a bouncy castle next to the bar so parents can drink in peace, others have brilliant arts and entertainment programmes for little revellers running alongside their musical line-up. Cloudspotting, refreshingly, is one of the latter.

Set in a beautiful forest location in Gisburn last weekend (24-26 July) was the fifth annual event and the third at Stephen Park. The Forest Hub, equipped with café, posh toilet block and B&B accommodation for those who opted for it provided some home comforts but otherwise Cloudspotting offers proper camping and was populated by professional campers and few city folk tripping over guy ropes.

Two stages alternated sets, making for no awkward clashes throughout the weekend, but the majority of the music, by many local musicians and bands as well as some from further afield, provided a backing track to the family-focused arts events for many. Highlights included Lancashire band Ragamuffins, and Lancaster duo The Lovely Eggs. Dutch Uncles headlined the Friday night and played a brilliant set of danceable alt-pop, complete with a surprise cover of Seal’s Kiss From A Rose. Parents of little ones didn’t miss out as they watched from the campsite – conveniently in the same field as the main stage. Those concerned about noise levels were reassured by a midnight finish while those wanting to carry on the party could find a full line-up of DJs in the Bitter Suite dance tent, out of the main field.

The main arts activities kicked off at 10am but for early risers there was no shortage of things to do. Films in The Attic Cinema started at 9am while the more adventurous took advantage of the bike trails or the Cloudspotting Trail – a well signposted ¾ mile walk – in the surrounding forest. At the end of the trail was a tucked away yurt that hosted activities including gong yoga (fusing dru yoga and gong therapy), which looked remarkably tranquil for those who didn’t have children to entertain (and so needed it least).

Kids were encouraged to have quiet time too with the Little Fluffy Cloud baby tent providing a haven of calm. Storyteller Sue Allonby performed stories of various subjects while songs and puppet shows were provided by Ruth Hage from the Acorn Steiner Early Years Group. Both performed on an ad-hoc and even a one-on-one basis.

The neighbouring Cloud Cuckoo Land was, in contrast, a hive of activity provided by the Bureau Centre for the Arts from Blackburn. Crafts included making simple wooden peg superheroes and dream catchers, popular with younger children, and the slightly more complex paper lantern making.

For a small festival these highlights were just a snapshot of an impressively packed programme that only promises to get better as the festival grows in reputation and popularity.

Antonia Charlesworth

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