REVIEW: Beat-Herder 2016 - the mirth and the mud

The fireworks at Beatherder Festival on Saturday night. Photo by Duke Studios.
The fireworks at Beatherder Festival on Saturday night. Photo by Duke Studios.
Share this article

Ronald McDonald, Rupert The Bear, Roy Chubby Brown, robots, road signs and rubiks cubes all collided in the mud and mirth of Beatherder 2016.

It didn’t take long for the corridors, doorways, snickets, slopes, passageways and arenas of the festival to become quagmires as thousands of wellied feet churned up the ground into a roiling, sucking soup.

In the mud at Trash Manor

In the mud at Trash Manor

There was precious hardstanding to be had, although the less populated campfire field, which is on slightly higher ground, was a safe haven if you had the energy to brave the main route through the site.

People became stranded in the middle, a good 20m from anything solid, reaching out for fellow festival goers to help, undercurrents of alarm and fatigue cracking through the easy smiles and laughter.

Looking down, all you could see was the mud.

But this is England, more specifically The North, in July. So what did we expect?

Tim Booth from James on stage

Tim Booth from James on stage

Looking up however, was a completely different kettle of fish.

In its eleven year history, Beatherder has weathered the storms and the sun in equal measure.

It’s as likely to be baking the ground as it is to be breaking it.

So it was a case of either getting up and getting on with it, or getting out.

The wedding party at Beatherder

The wedding party at Beatherder

Friday saw the heavy rain relent and the clouds lighten enough for things to take on a positive slant.

York’s Grinny Grandad kicked things off for us in the Maison d’etre, one of 16 unique stages dotted across five areas on the site.

The band’s funky basslines, firecracker drumming and soaring vocal parts put us in good stead for a dance.

Next stop was an interview with Jim Glennie and Saul Davies, bassist and guitarist of Manchester rock band James.

Donovan at Beatherder. Photo by Duke Studios.

Donovan at Beatherder. Photo by Duke Studios.

They were holed up in a teepee in the artist area, alongside Hamburg electronic duo Digitalism, who were chilling out outside their yurt after their main stage show.

They offered me some useful travel and culture tips for Germany.

Swedish pop band Miike Snow, who were up next on the main stage, commanded the largest tent.

It was certainly a different world in the artists’ camp, definitely a European feel, but reassuringly no less muddy.

Glennie and Davies were true gents.

My voice recorder conked out at the start, so we ended up having an informal chat about music, travel, family and, of course, James.

Flowerbox line up at Beat-Herder. Copyright 2016 Duke Studios.

Flowerbox line up at Beat-Herder. Copyright 2016 Duke Studios.

Their outlook and demeanour giving an insight into the positivity the band is currently exuding.

One hour later and they appeared on Beatherder’s main stage, for me, the highlight of the weekend, despite them only getting an hour and a quarter to play.

They performed six fast and furious tracks from their new album Girl At The End of The World, and six from the past, although there was no Sit Down or Out To Get You.

A great set leaving pretty much everyone wanting more. They should definitely have played for longer.

Things got interesting in the dark, and as Friday night marched on, so did we.

We spent time in reggae tent the Bushrocker Family Hi-Fi, Toil Trees, Pratty’s Ring, Trash Manor and the ale bar.

We popped in to Hotel California and the Parish Church, finding parties everywhere we looked.

A friend coaxed us into Gay Paris, a disco with a light up dancefloor and veranda, hidden behind a ramshackle old barn in the woods.

We found a relaxed and friendly environment totally off the beaten track where we happily danced the night away.

Saturday began on the main stage for us with the Williams Fairey Brass Band. A full brass ensemble playing electronic music hits.

We enjoyed the beef mo mo combo from the Tibetan food concession and a Bleat Gurgler festival beer courtesy of Clitheroe’s Bowland Brewery.

As the day progressed the annual fancy dress saw all manner of outfits beginning with ‘R’. My personal favourite was a rain cloud, with the road signs instructing people to “stop” and “go” coming a close second.

We even happened upon a joint stag and hen party in the campfire field, and joined the group - who were dressed as bride, groom, bridesmaids and ushers - for cucumber sandwiches and sausage rolls.

Back at the main stage The Easy Star All Stars paid tribute to Pink Floyd and Radiohead with their stunning reggae and dub re-imaginings.

Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan then took to the stage, a nice break to the electronica, and yes, he played Mellow Yellow!

Somehow I ended up with one of his sunflowers!

Bentham’s Donut (formerly known as eating disorder) played a mixture of old and new tracks with their usual exuberance at Trash Manor - a huge whitewashed mansion complete with water fountain at the centre.

The array of visual treats on offer at this festival is astounding.

The colour and energy is something to behold, artistic creation abounds and this is certainly a celebration of the lighter side of life.

We then headed back to the main stage to catch beatboxer Beardyman.

We were flagging at this point, and unfortunately his set did little to lighten the mood.

Talented no doubt, but the set was lacklustre to the point of being boring.

Attempting the slope up to the Toil Trees as the dusk settled once again, we soon realised we’d had enough.

Put it this way, if you go up to the woods at night at Beatherder, you’re sure of a big surprise.

We were home (a friend’s house a couple of miles away) in time to watch the fireworks from a safe distance.

Solid ground and a cup of tea never felt or tasted so good.

Although Dub Pistols, The Lancashire Hotpots, Todd Terje, Chronixx, Mr Scruff, Stanton Warriors and Beans on Toast all featured on Sunday’s line-up among many other treats, we had a date with our two children and left with some excellent memories and very muddy wellies as the sun started to peak out from the clouds.

Local people attending the festival are very proud that Beatherder has successfully put the Ribble Valley, and indeed Lancashire, on the map in terms of culture, music and generally “putting on a good show”.

It’s unique in terms of its offering, style, and friendly vibe, and continues to add value for money to the ticket price every year with new installations and artwork, this year’s new offering included The Illustrious Society and the Sunrise Stage (check out for more details).

The festival injects thousands of pounds into the local economy in terms of services, accommodation, transport and catering, and provides a huge platform for local musicians and artists, caterers, designers and food and drink producers, not to mention the stunning views.

Beat-Herder organisers have dismissed rumours circulating at the festival this year that 2016 would be the last one.

It’s reassuring to know that Beats and Barminess in Lovely Lancashire is set to continue in 2017.