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Festivals evoke the greatest feelings of community; revellers from all walks of life unite with the overarching aim to have a good time. Some may be on a hedonistic mission to ignite feelings of ecstasy, to relive memories, while first-timers hope the weekend lives up to the promise of the posters. Festival No. 6, located in the the fairytale land of Portmerion, an Italianate seaside village in north Wales, captures these feelings. According to locals, Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis designed and built the quirky village in the mid-20th century to cure his homesick Italian lover. Romanticism imbues the pastel colours, the palm trees and the piazza. It’s proof that a young man’s fantasy can be realised and a hope that we too can do the same.
This year, Festival No. 6 was drowned in heavy rains which tested its spirit. To say I was underprepared for the weather is an understatement. Leaving London in the bright morning sun, dressed in white and hiding behind sunglasses, I felt suitably dressed. As I disembarked at Snowdonia, it transpired that Birkenstocks had not been my smartest choice. The sky was dark and the rain heavy, even the train warden was laughing at me. We made a quick trip into town and picked up the last pair of wellies left – clearly I was not the only one to be caught off guard by England’s predictably unpredictable summer weather. Booted and ready to go we headed into Portmerion determined not to let the rain dampen the annual torchlight parade. Yet the ornate village provided enough shelter and entertainment that it was easy to forget the weather. The fantastical quality of this other-worldly village is backdrop to the four-day fiesta, as disorientating as it is intriguing. We spent the majority of our time wandering and stumbling upon an unusual acts in even more surreal locations.
The village was created by Williams-Ellis who wanted to take a place that was intrinsically beautiful – here, the Snowdonian coastline – and enhance it. Contrary to popular opinion, he felt that man-made creations could intensify a place’s natural beauty. Made famous by the Sixties’ TV series The Prisoner, Portmerion is one of Wales’ must-see attractions.
The accommodation at Festival No. 6 is in-keeping its their reputation as one of the UK’s most boujis festivals. A large portion of the campsite is the boutique village, a cluster of luxury yurts and plush bell tents with hot showers and toilets. Wood-fired Swedish spas looking out over the River Dwyryd estuary provide respite when the dancing gets to much. Yet a truly unique feature of Festival No. 6 lies in its selection of cosy rooms and self-catered cottages dotted around Portmerion village. Rooms are also available within the historic Castell Deudraeth but be warned: these sell out in a flash, so when September 2017 rolls around get booking fast.
Foodies will delight in the boutique food stalls. I could have dipped into a variety of options, but my Hispanophelia meant I was fated to flittering between the Paelleria and Churros Bros – a choice I do not regret. To add to the festival’s culinary rating, it now hosts luxury banquets three of which were hosted by Michelin-starred chefs.
The festival by day
The festival caters to a fun blend of young and old. There is plenty on offer to kindle creative minds; the organisers have curated a selection of innovative workshops including creating the perfect bloody Mary, seaside yoga, Welsh language classes, paddle boarding and wood-carving workshops. Entertainment is not limited to self-improvement; enjoy watching stand-up in the piazza, interpretive dance in the woodlands or some mellow music in the Grand Pavilion.
The festival by night
A candle-lit procession from Central Piazza to Castell Park – where Bastille were playing – marked the beginning of the festival. Highlights of this year’s headliners included the Kaiser Chiefs, Craig Charles, Super Furry Animals and Noel Gallagher. Hot Chip stole the show on Saturday night, with frontman Alexis Taylor getting everyone dancing. My personal favourite was the performance by the lesser-known A.W.A (African Women Arise) in which Zimbabwean rapper Awakhiwe Sibanda captivated the crowd with her stories of female injustice.
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