Before I started my own business, I thought I worked really hard. I lived in London, I commuted by tube each day, wrote articles, arranged photo shoots, ate lunch at my desk most days and occasionally met friends for drinks after work before starting the daily grind all over again. But largely, my weekends were free, my evenings were mine. A pay slip arrived, the bills were paid. By and large, the good times rolled.
Since leaving all that behind many things have changed, mostly for the better, I hasten to add. But one thing I really miss are days off. Being properly off-duty for two days out of seven. This weekend, we spent a wonderful weekend at the Good Life Experience festival in Flintshire and got a real chance to cut off from everything and get back to nature at this celebration of food, music and the great outdoors. Here’s just a little taster of our festival highlights…
AXE THROWING AND ARCHERY: One of the best things about the Good Life Experience was that almost all the activities on offer were free, so you could try your hand at axe throwing, archery or wood whittling as many times as you liked without breaking the bank. The same went for the vintage fairground rides. This all lent a really nice, relaxed atmosphere to the event, particularly for families.
MUSIC: Co-founder Cerys Matthews had selected the line up to offer variety and a quirky mix, which meant there was something for everyone. My personal highlight of the whole festival was the Cuban band ‘Revolucionarios Cubano’ who had the whole crowd singing and salsa dancing along with them. The audience literally wouldn’t let them off the stage with cries of ‘uno mas, uno mas’ reverberating around the tent.
CRAFT WORKSHOPS: Most of the workshops were on a first come, first served basis with sign-up sheets available from Saturday morning. Although we had a pretty leisurely start to the day, my friend Amy and I managed to take the last two spots on an enamel badge making workshop with Kate Samuels. I had a lovely time making two badges inspired by the festival, one with a campfire and one with a tipi design.
TALKS: You could’ve spent the whole two days listening to fascinating talks if you’d wanted to, from hearing about the hair-raising Atlantic-rowing / crocodile-swimming / North Pole-trekking adventures of Ben Fogle to demonstrations on rabbit skinning and campfire cookery. We also really enjoyed the hilariously off-beat ‘Pop and Nature Quiz’ in the Caught by the River tent which and had us reaching into the depths of our brains for knowledge of everything from bird-related song titles to moth species.
FOOD: Oh, the food to be had! The festival site incorporated the Hawarden Estate Farm Shop which was open and selling all sorts of goodies over the weekend, plus there were other food stalls offering delicious wood-fired pizzas, handmade sausage hot-dogs and crab burgers, to name a few. Local beer was not in short supply either and there was also the cute Tin Cup Whiskey Shack tucked in the woods for those who were that way inclined. Around the campfire there were cookery and butchery demonstrations and big baskets of free apples to help yourself to dotted around the site.
BEING TOGETHER: I loved that the size of the festival meant that our group could easily split up and meet again as we wanted. Everything was close together so you didn’t have to walk far. The fact there were no back stage or VIP areas so the bands, speakers and organisers wandered around freely and we were able to meet Ben Fogle (who is a great supporter of Hearing Dogs) and Cerys Matthews, who our puppy in training, Onyx, was particularly happy to capture on his ‘Poodle Cam’. Most of all, it was the perfect place to enjoy some quality time with family, friends and sisters around the campfire, sleep under the stars, put the world to rights over a beer and dance the night away.
We’ll definitely be back again next year! Click over to the Good Life Experience website to keep an eye on the 2016 festival plans.
[Photographs: all © Decorator’s Notebook. We were kindly invited as guests of organisers, but the brilliant time we had at the festival was all our own!]