Ten hours in traffic, a few hours queing at the gate and a long muddy walk through the acres of site to find a small sliver of ground to call your home for the weekend (and all at the cost of your will to live). Does this seem familiar to anyone? Probably, given that this is the necessary route into any major festival like Glastonbury, which has a population larger then many UK cities. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not hating on Eavis and the gang, but this could be one of the reasons why in recent years ’boutique’ festivals have emerged, with a smaller capacity and usually a more niche musical offering than your Readings or your T in the Parks.
Farr Festival is one of the gang doing the boutique thing really, really well. Like many of the best new festivals, it came from humble beginnings, starting as a tiny gathering of people in 2009 and evolving slowly into one of the UK’s leading underground electronic music festivals. The festival has an amazingly unique setting in Bygrave Woods, Hertfordshire, originally intended as an orchard for wild animals, planted in 1980.
With a capacity of just 2,000, the festival sits among the tiniest emerging boutique festivals. Along with the likes of Fieldview Festival and Farmfest, these smaller festivals offer a more inclusive and intimate vibe, with last year’s Farr Fest reviews including words like ‘atom-spheric’ and ‘tightly knit’.
The organisers seem to have found their niche in electronic music and have stuck to it over the years. This year, Farr Fest welcomes the sounds of jazz, hip hop, electronica and soul from headliner Giles Peterson and pleasantly disco-y house beats from Spanish, DJ and producer John Talabot. Also on this year’s roster are the likes of Joy Orbison, Ben UFO, Helena Hauff, Paranoid London and Midland.
As you’ll hear time and time again (probably because it’s true), small festivals aren’t all about the music… There are also a huge amount of workshops, activities and oddities taking place throughout the festival, including more types of yoga than I knew existed, fortune telling, a limbo competition, a pillow fight and the usual compliment of clothes stalls, fairground rides and food stalls.
To say there something for everyone would be a lie, as the motives behind these smaller festivals are necessarily niche and attract a very likeminded audience. So if you like the sound of the festival, chances are you’ll like the people who also felt compelled to buy a ticket.
Without a mind for constant expansion and methods of money grabbing from its loyal supporters, Farr Fest could be looked to as a shining beacon for modern boutique festivals. The focus for these picturesque weekends in the woods seems to be on the good music and a great atmosphere, which, luckily, it seems to have in abundance.
The festival takes place from 14-16 July. For more information and tickets please visit the Farrfest website.