The summer of 2016 saw Gottwood return to the island of Anglesey for the 7th time. Living just along the coast in North Wales I’ve been able to attend the festival for the past four years – and I have to say it just gets better and better. The venue is a country estate surrounded by the beautiful Carreglwyd woods, a forest transformed by the organisers to create this festival’s unique atmosphere. Here is an area once inhabited by the mysterious Druids, today a temporary home for four thousand dedicated festival goers many of whom return year on year for a long weekend of magic, music and happy memories.
After passing through the gates there is a short meander along a covered walkway, passing ancient ruins to arrive at the campsite where an anticipatory buzz hangs on the soft sea air. As some curse unfamiliar camping equipment others more relaxed get another drink in before entering the main site through a small gate set in a stone wall. Here in its spectacular setting in front of the country house and lake is the arena and the Gottwood stages, each with a distinctive theme. One is shaped like a huge owl, another is made from hundreds of pieces of twisted wood while a third resembles a sci-fi rave in an igloo. There is no doubt that the Gottwood production team plays a key part in the success of the event. The organisers have always put effort into getting the site looking great but this year they really ramped it up. Stages were more impressive, the forest was made to look even more beautiful and new walkways made it possible to explore deeper into the woods. Although Gottwood has grown in the past few years it still manages to maintain that feeling of intimacy that so many festivals lack.
Mr.G kicked things off on the first night playing a live set that combined huge bass lines with deep melodies and his signature hi-hats. His energy spread through the crowd as he got everyone moving at the Walled Garden Stage. Here he stood peering at the crowd from the roof of a gutted caravan which had a large owl painted on its side. Prosumer was another highlight of the Thursday, selecting groovy house and techno for the appreciatively groovy crowd. Between stages there are many areas to chill out and the seating around the lake adds to the magic.
With empty stomachs on Friday afternoon we headed to the grub area to grab something to eat. I went for a wood-fired pizza which was perfectly accompanied by the rejuvenating sounds of Casio Kohl from the Trigon Stage. Queuing for food was never a long deal and with bars set up at every corner of the venue you didn’t have to wait long for a drink either.
Next it was Move D for Secretsundaze, the first of three sets for the Gottwood favourite. As always he delivered a memorable set which included plenty of feel-good tunes such as the Organ Grinder’s remix of Gil Scot Heron’s ‘The Bottle’ and Midland’s ‘Final Credits’. His sun soaked disco set on the Saturday attracted a massive crowd to one of the larger stages – The Trigon. Glitter and sequins were as far as the eye could see – Candido’s ‘Dancin and Prancin’ on Salsoul got the whole crowd doing just that. The rest of Saturday remained superb with Andrew Weatherall playing records from another planet in his ‘A love from outer space’ set. Axel Boman played a massive set that included Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ from 1996 whilst the Futureboogie crew slammed out endless grooves from the heights of The Treehouse - Braxton Holmes and Mark Grant’s ‘The Revival’ being a top pick.
Sunday saw Khraungbin, a band I have long wanted to see live, play on the lawn stage to a surprisingly energetic crowd. This proved to be a great addition to the lineup as their dreamy guitars and funky drums provided the perfect soundtrack to a warm afternoon. Hunee’s set went down in history with others such as Zip, Glenn Astro, Beautiful Swimmers and Tristan Da Cunha more than managing to keep everyone’s jelly legs moving. Throughout all this, a mystical fog had descended upon the festival creating a fairytale atmosphere. The final day and night was a perfect end to the weekend.
A special mention must go to the attendees at Gottwood. At no other festival in the UK have I come across such a pleasant bunch of people. Whilst the attendance has grown over the past few years the crowd has remained a pleasure to be part of. Gottwood has decided to reward people who have had tickets over the past four years by giving them priority for 2017. An idea that hopefully will maintain the community that has been built since 2010.
Everything at Gottwood seems a perfect fit. The setting is intriguing, the production and organisation pretty much faultless, the music is perfect and the crowd tops it all off. The effort that the whole team puts into the event is reflected in the comments of so many – you only hear great things about this wonderful place. Ok, there might be one or two areas for improvement; toilets and on one occasion a desperately quiet sound system but these were minor and in retrospect the overall experience will be a big positive for all. This small festival on a remote island in North Wales is up there with the biggest and the best. If you haven’t attended Gottwood before I recommend you get a ticket for 2017 – if this year’s crowd doesn’t get them first.
All images: Fanatic, Gottwood