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REVIEW: Festival No 6

Photography and Review by Ken Harrison.

As Autumn arrives, and with the blazing summer a rapidly distant memory, replaced by shorter, cooler and very much wetter days, I find myself in North Wales, (or more precisely) in Portmeirion, for my sixth visit to Festival No.6 now in its seventh (and sadly final) year of being.Portmeirion, a rich and colourful Italianate village designed by the late Architect, William Clough Ellis and built overlooking the River Dwryryd estuary was home to the 1960’s cult TV show “The Prisoner”, the lead character played by Patrick McGoohan who was the “No.6” that the festival references.

The festival is spread over many stages across the “village” and the wider Portmeirion estate. A well as the usual festival style stages held in open fields, almost every nook and cranny in the village and the surrounding woodland was filled with something of interest going on over the weekend with some 300 acts taking part.

Everywhere you looked within the village, in and around the magnificent scenery were street performers of all kinds; singers, dancers, DJ’s, ukulele bands, comedians, authors reading to gathered audiences, choirs, bubble makers, ‘Prisoner” show re-enactments, film screenings, Q&A interviews, processions and carnivals and plenty more besides. And once you've taken all that in, the festival goers had dressed up for the occasion and then of course, there were the bands.

There was only one problem with this coastal idyll and the events going on all around me… apart from the sensory overload that overwhelms festival goers here, I was spoilt for choice as to what to see and do and of course what I ultimately needed to photograph. Sadly I couldn't see and experience it all… even if I were to split myself into 6, never mind 2!

Stage No.6 (The main stage) saw the likes of Rock, Pop, Indie, Motown, Punk from well established acts to the new, including Friendly Fires, Everything Everything, Hurts, a welcome return of Matt Johnson’s ‘The The’, Gaz Coombes, The Charlatans and Franz Ferdinand as the final Sunday night Headliner for the festival.

Other stages included performance by the magnificent Baxter Dury (son of the late Ian Dury), A Certain Ratio, Hak Baker, Jane Weaver, Warm Digits, Anna Calvi and many others, including Talks by Will Self, Helen Pankhurst (granddaughter of Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst), plus the Brythoniaid Choir.

The Gatehouse played host to a seemingly endless parade of academic talks, comedians including Reginald D. Hunter and also a Q&A session with Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert (New Order) with a showing of their documentary of their Manchester International Festival show ‘Decades’ featuring the ‘Synthesiser Orchestra’ made up of students of the Royal Northern College of Music and a triumph of innovative stage design. Look out for a showing on Sky Arts soon.

The only downside of this weekend was the pretty harsh weather dampening down the crowds, at a slightly smaller scaled No.6 than previous years, with the sunshine only making its presence felt late on the final day . If you've been to North Wales, a little (or a lot) of rain is no surprise, but this year was memorable for some very wet weather.

Festival No.6 is taking a break after seven excellent festivals since 2012. Something is hinted at returning in 2020, but nothing is as yet confirmed. I for one will miss my annual trip to ‘The Village’ as it has been a festival highlight every year since my first in 2013. Farewell, Festival No.6, I hope to “Be Seeing You” in the not too distant future.


 

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