I have been hiding a shameful secret: I was a 46 year old music festival virgin. I can come clean about this now because I am glad to say that last weekend I remedied this sorry state of affairs by attending Fairport’s Cropredy Convention.
My festival virgin status is perhaps unexpected: I like music and I certainly have no objection to sitting around in a field drinking. I am, after all, a member of Generation X: music festivals should be my thing. I was born in 1966, less than a year before what are generally acknowledged as the first two rock festivals were staged in northern California: the KFRC Fantasy Fair & Magic Mountain Music Festival and the Monterey International Pop Festival.
Okay, so I was a bit young and California was a long way from Gloucester, but from these beginnings the rock festival was born: Glastonbury started in 1970 (then called the Pilton Festival) and Reading in 1971.
Sadly, my parents were spiritually about as far away from flower power hippy festival goers as it was possible to be, so such events didn’t feature in my childhood. Perhaps consequently I came to music fairly late into my teenage years, but this was no excuse because, of course, these events were still going strong once I reached reasonable festival going age myself.
Before I go on any further, perhaps I should qualify my statement about being a festival virgin and, hopefully, claw back some shred of credibility. Of course I have been to music festivals before: only last weekend I was at the Gloucester Rhythm and Blues Festival. If you want something on a bigger scale, I went to Knebworth (Deep Purple) and Donnington Park (ZZ Top) in 1985 and Knebworth again in 1986 (Queen).
However, the reason I call myself a music festival virgin is that all of these festivals have one thing in common: no camping required. Gloucester Blues Festival is a daily commute by bus and the others were all one day festivals that I went to by coach. And as camping is, I think, an important part of the festival experience, they don’t count.
And herein lies the answer to the riddle of why I remained a festival virgin: I am not an enthusiastic camper.
However, despite my reservations about camping, this year, after many years of hearing my friends bang on about how awesome Cropredy is, I finally succumbed.
And they were right; it was brilliant.
This annual festival has been running since 1976 and takes place in the village of Cropredy in Oxfordshire. As the name suggests, the festival is staged by the folk rock band Fairport Convention. Folk isn’t really my thing, so I have used that as an excuse for non-attendance, but it is actually a folk and rock festival, and when I heard that Alice Cooper was headlining this year my excuses were pretty much all used up.
The festival takes place over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so we arranged to meet up with friends in a layby near Severn Springs at a ridiculously early hour on the Thursday morning to travel down in convoy so that we could all get a camping space together. This convoy has been growing year on year and this year consisted of 13 vehicles: a mix of cars, trailers, vans and camper vans.
Cropredy is a great event for the festival virgin: it styles itself as “Britain’s Friendliest Music Festival” and, although I have nothing to compare it with, I can believe this is true. For a start, it is smaller: it attracts around 20,000 people compared with 175,000 at Glastonbury. It is certainly very laid back and attracts an eclectic mix of people. I would put myself as not far off the average age, with ages ranging from young children to people who have probably been going since the festival’s beginnings. In our convoy, the youngest human attendee was 8 years old and there were also three dogs, one of which was just a few months old and proved a big draw to all who saw her.
I wish that I had taken my camera along and had the nerve to take candid people portraits because the place is swarming with ‘characters’. There is a propensity toward outlandish headwear and more onesies than you would normally see per head of population.
All of these wacky and outlandish people rub along quite happily and, to enjoy the music, they turn up with rugs or deckchairs to sit on and many even set up shelters and bivouacs to protect themselves from the elements.
And the music was brilliant: As well as Fairport Convention, who opened and closed the festival, headline acts were Alice Cooper on Thursday and 10cc on Friday. Other bands included the Levellers, Mediaeval Baebes, Martin Barre, Nik Kershaw and lesser-known folk acts like the Peatbog Fairies. There was also comedy from Fake Thackray and Richard Digance, who travelled all the way from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to do his set and, despite being the first act on Saturday, had everyone on their feet making fools of themselves. Jasper Carrott even popped in as a surprise guest and did a short set.
Even the camping wasn’t so bad. We were lucky that the weather was extremely kind: apart from some rain over Thursday night it remained dry and we were glad of the fact it was a little overcast as when the sun came out it was scorching. Camping meant we were right there in the thick of it: able to socialise with friends, engage in banter with strangers and were just a short walk from the festival field.
That is not to say that I wasn’t glad to get home to my own bed, a shower and the ability to use the toilet without a half mile round trip, but all in all a great weekend and I fully expect to be back again next year.
The worrying thing is I have just caught the wife looking at camper vans on eBay…
 I bet you’re thinking Mickey Mouse, but you’d be wrong. Thanks to Richard Digance I know that it is Rupert Bear. He first appeared in 1920, whereas Mickey Mouse didn’t turn up until 1928
 The Shetlands, according to Fairport Convention.