A couple of weeks ago, sipping douglas-fir-rimmed G&Ts, we watched the sun set on yet another festival season.
Pumpkins, apples and mirrorballs adorned the Hawarden Estate. Dogs cocked their heads confusedly at Chris Watson’s dolphin recordings. Stealing Sheep fired confetti cannons into the audience – and the bookshop. (more…)
Luke Turner samples some of the delights on offer at Estuary Festival ’16:
From the cocoon of transport the landscape of the Thames Estuary appears in two dimensions. I recently flew down the twin narrowing shorelines on a flight from Germany. As it descended into Gatwick, mudflats and industrial sites sank into the late summer sun below. Southend Pier was a pin stuck out into the grey brown blue water, in which the wakes of ships had made small white tears. Driving along the A13 towards the Estuary Festival a couple of weeks later, everything still existed in two planes, the flatness of the earth punctuated by power station chimneys and pylons, floodgates, piledrivers, the giant cranes of the docks at Tilbury and new super port a little further east. What at first looked like a gently rising hill turned out to be a landfill site, crawled by trucks.
Yet this is not the way to look at the Thames Estuary, for it’s in the macro that it reveals itself as one of the most compelling landscapes in the south of England. It’s not a picturesque place, but it is easily fetishised, for the dereliction, the alien flight of giant ships, the incongruity of horses grazing on a narrow patch of grass by a road along which container trucks thunder from Tilbury docks, all night and every 30 seconds or so. The blackberries there were full and juicy, on bushes flying banners of plastic. I started shoving them into my gob before noticing the slightly sour tint of hydrocarbons. (more…)
When we chanced upon the lineup for this year’s Estuary Festival, we were impressed to say the least. In lieu of our own attendance – due to a preexisting engagement with The Good Life Experience – we sent some trusted CBTR delegates down to the Thames Estuary and eagerly awaited their feedback. Today’s writeup comes from Ben McCormick; expect further reportage from Luke Turner some time in the near future.
Brackish water carrying the silt of several centuries billows around the boat as we stand around gazing into its murky depths and contemplate our own deaths by drowning. We are barely afloat aboard the Avante, a tiny vessel of questionable seaworthiness, tethered to dry land by a flimsy yellow rope tied to an ancient, dilapidated iron structure that juts out into the river. As the current manoeuvres the little boat according to its whim, we stand almost motionless at the stern, headphones cancelling out most of the sound and instead playing us an extremely precise and well-researched description of what would happen to our bodies if we were to drown. It’s eerily fascinating and horrifying in equal measure. The softly spoken voice enthusiastically reads out the stages of watery decay in what sounds for all the world like a cross between a children’s television announcer and a Bond villain going into typically bloodthirsty detail about the spy’s forthcoming demise (from which he’ll obviously escape). (more…)
Laura Barton’s Radio 4 series Notes From A Musical Island looked at the way that landscape can shape and inspire music and musicians, from instrumentation to rhythm and lyrics. In a live version of the programme taking place on the Caught by the River stage at The Good Life Experience next Saturday Laura has invited local musicians and music experts to help explore the music of North Wales.
Here’s the lowdown on the guests: (more…)
As we come to the end of our run of summer fesivals, we look back once again at days well spent. At laughter, enlightenment, and hangovers from hell. One friend that has been missing from our lives this year, however, has been Chris Watson. Without him there have been no hippos laughing, no volcanoes erupting, no terraces chanting and no hungry vultures picking zebra carcasses clean.
Thankfully, we were able to nab him for our last hurrah of the season – The Good Life Experience – where he’ll be closing our stage on Sunday evening with a brand new 60-minute presentation entitled ‘Swnt Enlli – The Dragon’s Path’.
In Chris’s words, this is what we can expect:
“Imagine rainfall gathering on the hills above Hawarden and starting a journey into the West; tiny rivulets of clear water seeking a way through sphagnum moss, sedge grass and turf which is mashed and trampled under the claws of black grouse as they jump, bubble and hiss in ritualistic displays.
Below, the tree line and a deep, dark wall of conifers hosting an unseen community of needle songs in the canopy high above. The mood changes with the failing light an hour before sunset, when Bran the raven returns with his ancient cousins Huggin and Munnin, Odin’s eyes and ears, their conversations punctuating the stillness long into the night.
The rainfall, now part of the meandering Afon Dyfi, wraps an arm around the oak woodlands of Ynys-hir which features a sparkling chorus the Druids would have recognised. After dark, the coded pulses of ace predators stalk these open forest glades. The estuary, caught by the tide, flows west, curlew and redshank peppering the silt and ooze by the margins.
The rainwater, now seawater, mixes and merges in Cardigan bay carrying the siren voices of grey seals into Swnt Enlli, the Sound of Bardsey. This is their island retreat where the dragon waits to battle the demons which will come out of the West after sunset.
Follow the dragon and go with the flow.”
Chris’s performance takes place at 4pm on Sunday 18 September.