24-Hour Music and Mischief: Houghton Festival, Norfolk

24-Hour Music and Mischief: Houghton Festival, Norfolk

On the hour, every hour!

words reverberate around my head as I lean against a mammoth
three-metre-tall gramophone (our agreed meeting point), scouring
the kaleidoscopic crowd in search of my friends who appear to have
fallen headfirst down the Houghton rabbit hole already. Girls in
stripy flares, sequinned bras and chunky Balenciaga-esque trainers
swirl past me; boys in faded Hawaiian shirts and retro sunglasses
move to a thumping bassline that echoes out of the nearby

I look at my watch: 4.59pm.

The first notes of Bicep’s “Glue” wash over wayward revellers on
the hot breeze, and then I spot them. My own motley crew,
sauntering towards me like a band of jolly toddlers – smiling,
skipping and stumbling. I breathe a sigh of relief. And then, as if
on cue, a man of imp-ish stature streaks past, nonchalantly
displaying pert buttocks thanks to an outfit consisting of little
more than leather chaps, gleefully shrieking “Party time! Party

And so sets the tone for Houghton Festival.

Filling the grounds of a sprawling Grade I-listed Norfolk
estate, 2017’s hottest musical export from tech-don Craig Richards
(and produced by Gottwood) was awaited with feverish anticipation
this year – and it didn’t disappoint.

Like Secret Garden Party a decade or so ago – before it became
inundated with excitable 18-year-olds with little interest in music
and too much interest in glitter – Houghton is beautiful, boho and
barmy, expertly catering to a seasoned crowd of festival goers who
know what they want. A 24-hour licence sees a mishmash of music –
Horse Meat Disco, Seth Troxler, Mr Scruff, Joy Orbison, Donna
Leake, Ricardo Villalobos, Margaret Dygas, Khruangbin – ricochet
off a central glassy lake before snaking over hay bales, through
dense trees and into darkened tents to rouse anyone who dares to
rest their head. Concealed stages – like Terminus, found in the
forest following a tramp through the campsite – join soul-warming
yurts from Brilliant Corners that nurtured partygoers with funky
tunes and disco notes by day, heady beats by night.

The festival came under fire for a lack of female talent, and
this is undeniably something that needs to be addressed. That and
the Portaloos, which were nothing short of abhorrent by Sunday. But
industry-wide problems and newbie festival gripes aside, Houghton’s
hype is well-deserved and extends far beyond the music. Rise early
for morning yoga, linger over a three-course meal or board a
miniature train for a tour of the sculpture garden. But with killer
sound systems and music that never stops, the opportunity for
around-the-clock dancing is a primary draw for many. My favourite
place? A 360-degree stage in a sunken, grassy amphitheatre, where
people looked like their faces were going to crack from smiling,
sunrise to sunset.

The thing about Houghton is that you could spend four days
getting really (really) messy, or you could simply hang out at the
spritz bar soaking up the sunshine. Alternatively, you could
scamper around baring your buttocks and shrieking. And really,
that’s what a festival is all about, isn’t it?

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