Take a hike out of the quiet Yorkshire town of Skipton and you will soon be knee-deep in rolling moorland. Signs will insist that Beacons festival is just down the road, but green fields and forest are all that meet the eye. Yet, over the first hill, a rainbow of tents and a mass of campervans rise into view, nestled in the curvaceous landscape.
In the first successful year after it’s 2011 debut was rained off, Beacons has been a roaring success. Tickets for the independent festival sold out well before the kickoff on Thursday 16 August, and the lineup punched above it’s weight boasting big names like Wild Beasts, Ghostpoet, Willy Mason, and Roots Manuva, as well as the cream of Yorkshire’s music scene.
In spite of the high profile generated by such big-name acts, the atmosphere in the fields of Funkirk Estate, the new site for 2012, proves disarmingly friendly and personal, and although Beacons has grown considerably from its origins as Moor Fest, the area and numbers are small enough to cultivate a charmingly exclusive feel.
Pulling in great local bands with cult followings, this cosiness and the sense of community it begets runs from the campsite to the stages. There is a real electric euphoria to be had from enjoying the set of a personal favourite with a couple of hundred other fans, rather than being lost in a twenty thousand-strong crowd. And scheduled on the same weekend as V, it was clear that those at Beacons were there for the music.
What was on offer was wide-ranging and unpredictable – alternative and harder rock bands, a smattering of folk and R&B, and a strong dance element spanning chillcore, trance, and rave. It was full of joyous surprises. Gross Magic, just a young guy from Brighton, packed out a tent with his upbeat teenage sound. Kwes offered a set of tinkly electronica playing off tribal drums. York-based Fawn Spots kicked up a fuzzy lofi sound to make hipsters verily foam at the mouth. B>E>A>K, a punchy, horn-orientated instrumental group gave an immaculate performance with a suitably feather-coated aesthetic to match. Future Of The Left made a surprise riotous appearance after a last minute reschedule. Obviously, it wasn’t all good – for one thing I found Ghostpoet underwhelming and uninspiring, but with the main Stoolpigeon stage overflowing with revellers for his set, it looked like he was being thoroughly enjoyed.
Typically for a boutique festival, artistic flair and fancy were given a central role. Installations across the site included huge neon song lyrics by Victoria Lucas and Richard William Wheater, and the festival’s trademark totem-like wooden structures littered the site in quirky fashion. A vibrant array of daytime diversions were on offer in the form of absurdist cabaret, cult classic films such as Dark star, and various workshops including graphic novel writing, knitting, and singing, all of which made it well worth venturing out of the music tents. Another of the many surprises Beacons had up its sleeve was the effort put into family-friendly provisions. Besides the awesomely fun-looking play area, the Guerrilla Rave Rug gave countless kids an instant fix birthday party experience complete with pass-the-parcel and bountiful sweets. In fact, several mobile performances and activities were floating around the site as part of the Guerrilla Theatrics group,
one of the rather special elements that made Beacons so distinctive.
As a priceless weekend at an affordable cost of less than £100, Beacons’ popularity and scope will only increase. I advise you to soak up the experience before this young festival grows out of its wide-eyed naivety – though like a lost boy I hope it never will.