Tag Archives: boomtown festival

Boomtown Fair 2016 – in review

In mid August, on what turned out to be one of the hottest weekends of the summer We Are Cardiff hit the road, heading for the bright lights and big city of one of the best independent festivals in the south west: Boomtown. In our trusty campervan Daisy, we rocked up onsite and found a slither of space in the camper field, applied lashings of glitter, made friends with the people parked up next to us who were all dressed up as hot dogs, and then danced and pranced our way through the weekend. It was an incredible, absolutely mental, totally wonderful weekend.

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Boomtown has come a long way from its humble beginnings: a couple of hundred people at a secret location in the Forest of Dean, populated almost entirely by party-hearties from Bristol and Cardiff and all those spaces in between. Since 2009, the festival has grown to become one of the UK’s wildest and most inspiring. To get some idea of how the festival has grown, check out our interview with Cardiff boy Kaptin: Boomtown’s Head of Music.

Boomtown is a complete feast for those who love the theatrical parts of other festivals. At Boomtown, theatrics is everything (and everywhere). At times, wandering around the city at night, bleary-eyed and with beer in hand it feels very much like you are actually stumbling around some crazy dystopian metropolis.

All around you are intricately built stage sets: street after street connected together with hundreds of tiny venues and shops and art galleries – even a job centre. NB: at night time the Job Centre turns into a venue, and was my favourite place for dancing throughout the whole weekend. Urban75 have a great piece discussing  the madness of the Job Centre – long may it continue! (Urban75 – The Madness of the Boomtown Job Centre).


The story of the growth of the festival actually a part of its narrative: something that keen-eyed fans can follow online before the event, and then witness in person throughout the weekend with a series of staged events that progress the storyline.

BoomTown started out as a humble village fair, and this year, in Chapter 8: The Revolution Starts Now, we joined the story as the divide between rich and poor has become ever greater, and with discontent and unrest spreading throughout the barrios and districts of Boomtown. Mayor Comrade Jose has been brainwashed and facing a coup, she introduces conscription and the city is covered in propaganda as she struggles to retain control. Then there’s the Sheriff, struggling to regain his place as the hidden leader behind the regime of Comrade Jose. And THEN there are all the rebels gathering in the shadows to destroy those who seek to rule them …

See? There’s a lot going on. One one hand, you can turn up not knowing a single thing about Comrade Jose or indeed anything about the story and still have an absolutely blinding weekend, enjoying one of the most intricately constructed festivals on a bigger scale than anything you’d probably find anywhere else in the world. On the other, knowing about the story that’s taking place throughout the weekend adds nuanced depths to everything that you see around you. It’s something that you might have only found in tiny corners of other festivals: in the big top, or in the circus field.

But at Boomtown, it’s everywhere: the theatricality and narrative structure are the central heartbeat for why the festival has expanded in the way that it has: with nine districts (that’s nine totally separate areas, with different music policies, different buildings, different venues – completely different!).

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Now we’ve explained the background, Our Boomtown experience went down a little something like this. We tried in vain to make our way around every district and explore fully, but what seemed like hundreds of venues dotted around every corner, it was impossible to get into everything.

With our trusty programme in hand (half set list times, half beautifully designed comic book), we spent most of Friday wandering around in a daze, being absolutely overwhelmed by how amazing everything was and getting repeatedly lost while trying to wander anywhere other than the central drag of the Old Town, Town Centre, Wild West and Mayfair Avenue, which are all linked together.



On Saturday we made more of an effort to explore the site, and realised that on Thursday and Friday we had barely scratched the surface. We headed straight for the glamorous and beautifully turned out Chinatown, the dystopian future of Dstrkt 5 and the full-on, oversized wonder of Barrio Loco. We tripped over a tiny punk stage, got beeped at by a very slow moving London taxi covered in mosaics, went on fairground rides until we felt sick, danced to techno surrounded by giant shipping containers and bounced around to UK bass and drum & bass. Boomtown is like a giant playground for over sized, over stimulated children.


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It’s really very difficult to get across the scale of Boomtown. I mean, the place is absolutely huge. There are a couple of stages that easily hold in excess of five thousand people (including the Lion’s Den, the UK’s biggest festival reggae stage, which was amazing), but there are so many other stages that even the programme didn’t have all the venues listed.

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One of my favourite accidental venue discoveries was the forest parties. In between the main areas of the festival are a number of stages hidden away in the woods. It was in one of these clearings that we happened upon the Tribe of Frog area, with some incredible pounding beats with live female vocalist. Normally the mention of psytrance makes me run for the hills, but this was amazing. The ground was covered in sand, the trees covered with fairy lights and sculptures hanging from them, and the sun was blazing. Make no mistake – we were at a beach party in Thailand in the 1990s, and Psibindi – this classically trained Indian singer – was our DJ.

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Other highlights of the weekend included seeing Madness on Saturday night, with a full capacity crowd at the Lion’s Den of 20,000 people, and then losing our minds in the Job Centre for a good few hours worth of jigging about to B Squared – actually DJs Mikey B and Krissi B tag teaming on some of the best UK garage, bass and breaks I have ever heard … and I strongly suggest you check them out if driving, pounding UK bass with an underlying hint of techno is your thing. What topped it off was the MC and his slick lyrics: “job centre skankas! pick up ya giro”, and so on. Well played, Boomtown. Well played.

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On Sunday, we spent most of the day at Whistler’s Green, a newly expanded part of the city that’s also the highest point, and makes for an amazing viewpoint down over the other parts. Whistler’s Green has a considerably more chilled out vibe to the rest of the place, with venues like the Lizard Cafe providing a nice mixture of jazz, blues and folk that gave some respite from the automated beats of the bigger venues.

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Wandering around the festival is the most surreal experience, and was my favourite part: almost everyone is in fancy dress. Everywhere you turn there is pop-up street theatre or performance in between the named venues.  We came across fire breathers, sword swallowers, bands singing Irish sea shanties … we were entertained with something new and fabulous with every step we took. It proved extremely difficult to actually get anywhere, and is difficult to report exactly what we saw, as my notes afterwards just consisted of things like ‘awesome bar Wild West balearic house‘ and ‘tiny rum shack Mayfair rock n roll band?’. Which makes for a great experience, but not a very comprehensive review (unfortunately!) – but there in lies the beauty of Boomtown.

There are so many wonderful distractions everywhere: you might want to run off to Sector 6 to see So Solid Crew, but you might amble down there, and be whisked off into some magical alternative reality for a couple of hours instead.

If you love your music festivals with an immersive, theatrical finish, then you will love Boomtown. Watch the Chapter 8 video, and set your alarm for 1st November when early bird tickets for next year go on sale!

Boomtown: Chapter 9 will take place on 10-13th August 2017. Earlybird tickets will go on sale on 1st November via Boomtown website: tickets. Set those alarms, people!

Stay in the loop via social media pages:

Boomtown Facebook

Boomtown Twitter

Boomtown Instagram

Boomtown: Facebook Chapter 9 Event Page

Boomtown Fair 2016, Chapter 8: photo blog

We are still processing the thoroughly awesome, AWESOME experience that was Boomtown Fair … but while we prepare our report, feast your eyes on this!

We know there were a whole bunch of the Welsh contingent there – we ended up camped next to some boys from Newport, of course, and met a whole bunch of set designers / glitter artists / DJs and all sorts from fair Cymru.

We hope you all had a safe and enjoyable festival.

In the meantime, enjoy these visual delights … and get yourselves ready for Green Man!

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BoomTown Fair website


Countdown to BoomTown

Not long now until the madness that is BoomTown kicks off! In celebration and anticipation, we tracked down the festival’s Head of Music – none other than Cardiff native Kaptin –  for a quick chinwag.

Describe the BoomTown vibe for people who haven’t been before.

It’s honestly like no other festival. The town is split into a number of districts and each district has its own streets and own vibe. For example, those who want to rave it up to Drum N Bass, Garage or the harder stuff like Raggatek can head into the backstreets of DSTRKT 5 where things are a little more wonderfully twisted, or our brand new Sector 6 district. For the Reggae fans, there’s either the lovely Hidden Woods or the massive Lion’s Den temple with artists such as Fat Freddy’s Drop, Madness and Damian Marley, plus then there’s many other districts from the chilled out Whistler’s Green or the plush(ish) Mayfair to the lawless Wild West or the even wilder OldTown where we have a life size pirate ship as the district’s main stage.

We have 27 main stages in total hosting everything from House to Hip-hop, Folk to Funk and Ska to Psy-Trance, but then there are tons of ‘inner city’ venues from the Job Centre to the Town Hall which are often populated by characters who will then set you different tasks or take you on a mini adventure.

It’s very theatrical and in fact there’s a whole story line that runs through the festival that you can keep an eye on. At the moment there’s a revolution happening against the corrupt Mayor, but I don’t want to give too much away as those coming will see the story unfolding around them as the weekend goes on.


How did you get involved with BoomTown?

Well I’ve been involved in festivals for over a decade, either as a DJ or with crazy projects like the Inflatable Church so I met the BoomTown directors Lak and Chris along the way and Matt The Hat and I did some Secret Garden Parties in their old club Clockwork. Lak asked me to host their main stage the second year of BoomTown and from there I somehow became the original Town Mayor.

It was a couple of years after programming Cardiff Arts Institute and then a project in London that I started in the BoomTown office. I was originally given a couple of week’s work updating the music info on their website to help me on my feet as I’d just moved to Bristol, but then never left and in a bizarre few twists of fate ended up running the music office, then became the Head Of Music for the whole festival a few months later.

How has the festival changed through the years?

It never stays the same from year to year, but last year’s festival was certainly a turning point. The atmosphere on site was just beautiful, which is great considering how quickly the festival has grown. This year is our eighth and it’s 60,000 people, but it really feels like we’re growing in the right direction.

The team we have now is easily one of the best in the festival world and it’s surprising how much that feeds through into the whole atmosphere and experience of everything else. The festival has become infinitely more family friendly with a brilliant kids area and a lot more suitable districts to wander around, plus where the crowd used to be 90% Bristolian, now people come from over 90 different countries and the age of our citizens ranges right up to people in their 80s.

What can people expect this time that’s different?

Well if you’ve never been before then the whole experience will be different to anything you’ve had before, but even if you came last year, there are new stages such as our massive Sector 6 ‘Nuclear Power Plant’ and the Windmill Stage in our newly situated Whistler’s Green district, plus some of the other stages have evolved so we now have: the Scrap Yard to host the hardcore beats; Robotika for the classic dubstep, glitch hop and more experimental styles; and Vamos where you can find House and Techno acts such as Derrick Carter, Simian Mobile Disco, Alan Fitzpatrick and Jackmaster.

BoomTown seems to have a bit of a Cardiff link up – you’re there, the festival is full of Cardiff peeps – what’s the attraction??

Well in terms of bands and teams such as the Crazy Calamities crew, it’s been a pleasure to bring in people who I’ve been working with for years back home in Cardiff, but then in terms of the crowd, I think Cardiff people just know a really good thing when they find it and make the most out of it.

In my experience Cardiff has one of the best crowds to perform to and the BoomTown crowd are by far the liveliest and most giving I’ve ever seen, so they probably feel right at home.

BoomTown Fair website

Thanks Kaptin! Normal adult tickets are SOLD OUT but there are a couple of ticket + coach packages left. We’ll see you guys down the front!

All pics credit BoomTown


Festival Guide: easy-reach festivals from Cardiff and south Wales

Hear ye for the We Are Cardiff guide to the summer’s festivals! Below is our hand-picked list of the best easy-reach festivals from Cardiff and south Wales. Some of them are in England. Embrace diversity, yeah??

Some of them are also still looking for volunteers, so if you can’t quit afford a ticket, have a hunt around on their websites for information for volunteers.

The sun’s out (sort of), but even if it’s not, isn’t that what fabulously design waterproof ponchos are for??


Larmer Tree Festival

13 – 17 July, Dorset

ONE month until #LarmerTree16! See you in the Gardens.. #Festival #Countdown #LarmerTree #Summer #LarmerTreeGardens

A photo posted by Larmer Tree Festival (@larmertreefest) on Jun 13, 2016 at 3:18am PDT

 One of the most beautiful festival locations in England: get ready for a family friendly, week long knees up amidst wandering and ca-cawing peacocks. Larmer Tree Gardens are a beautiful setting for a lovely festival: there’s plenty of day-time stuff for those who are more active in sunlight, and for the night owls, plenty of mischief to be had in amongst the deep forests of the Lostwood. There are craft workshops, dance yoga sessions, bubble discos, poetry readings, relaxation therapies, delicious food, and pop-up fun galore.

This year’s line up: Jamie Callum, Caro Emerald, The Stranglers, Calexico, Afro Celt Soundsystem, Quantic Live, Kitty Daisy and Lewis, Lau, Eska, The Wave Pictures.

Distance from Cardiff: 105 miles


More info:

Larmer Tree Festival website

Twitter @LarmerTreeFestival



28 – 31 July, Charlton Park, Wiltshire

The country estate on the outskirts of Malmesbury plays home to this annual celebration of wonderful sounds from around the globe. If you want bounce between Tibetan throat singers and Javanese bells, this is the place to do it. There’s a very relaxed approach to ‘world music’ here, so you can expect to see some mainstream artists peppered into the mix. There’s a Children’s Carnival on Sunday, and it’s a safe place to bring older kids too.

This year’s line up: George Clinton, Baaba Maal, Ibrahim Maalouf, Hot 8 Brass Band, Aziza Brahim, Sidestepper, The Grit Orchestra.

Distance from Cardiff: 65 miles


More info:

WOMAD Festival website

WOMAD Festival Instagram

WOMAD Facebook

WOMAD Twitter @WOMADFestival


Camp Bestival

28 – 31 July, Lulworth, Dorset

From the Isle of Wight Bestival crew comes a proper family festival set in the gorgeous grounds of Lulworth Castle on Dorset’s Jurassic coastline. Camp Bestival is jam-packed with awesome entertainment. The music (handpicked by famous-off-the-radio-Rob-Da-Bank) always features fabulous headliners, and along on the side are cultural delights, sideshow attractions and extra servings of family fun. It’s won Best Family Festival a ton of times and has a truly massive kids’ area. There are kids’ shows and performances on the Castle Stage and in the Big Top, daring antics to be had at the Freesports Park, and fairytale escapism in the Dingly Dell.

This year’s headliners: Fatboy Slim, Tears for Fears, Katy B, Squeeze, Arrested Development, Bananarama, DJ Yoda, Turin Brakes, Brand New Heavies, The Cuban Brothers.

Distance from Cardiff: 120 miles


More info:

Camp Bestival website

Camp Bestival Instagram

Camp Bestival Facebook

Camp Bestival Twitter @CampBestival



5  – 7 August, Baskerville Hall, Hay

2016 is the reboot year for this lovely festival which is one of two to come from the excellent Troyfest. A home-grown affair (and by that, I mean the folks running it are based in Cardiff), TrueFest promises a return to their roots, echoing the personal and intimate experience of those previous house parties, combined with a selection of some of the finest live acts on the festival circuit that they’ve met along the way.

The festival is set in the gorgeous grounds of Baskerville Hall in Hay: a festival party, in a mansion! And it’s a short drive from Cardiff: bonus!

This year’s line up: Broken Brass Ensemble, Solo Banton and the Uppercut Band, Lazy Habits, The Allergies, DJ Cheeba, Ratcatcher, Afro Cluster.

Distance from Cardiff: 60 miles


More info:

TrueFest website

TrueFest Facebook page 


Kaya Festival of World Music and Arts

5 – 7 August, Margam Country Park, Neath Port Talbot


While it’s not quite WOMAD sized, if you like your beats eclectic then Kaya is definitely one to consider: over the years, this celebration of diversity within our culture has grown to playing host to some of the world’s best artists, in the lovely surroundings of Margam Park.

This year’s line up: Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show, Asian Dub Foundation,  Judge Jules, The Selecter, Jerry Dammers (The Specials),  Don Letts, Paul Trouble Anderson, General Levy.

Distance from Cardiff: 30 miles


More info:

Kaya Festival website 

Kaya Festival Facebook

Kaya Twitter @KayaFest2016



11-14 August, Matterley Bowl, Hampshire

Without doubt one of the most beautifully ‘dressed’ festivals in the UK (and by that I mean the amazing attention to detail that goes into all the stages and bars there), Boomtown has gained a reputation for being a seriously party-hard affair. There’s so much diversity in terms of music: from afrobeat to old skool rave to bashment and roots, if you’re into alternative music, you’re sure to find it here. The festival is also hosted by Cardiff music man, Kaptin and features hundreds of Cardiffians running stages, DJing and generally having a lovely time. It’s another of those where you’ll wander around all weekend saying ‘I recognise you …’

This year’s line up: Madness, Damian Marley, Leftfield, Parov Stellar, Asian Dub Foundation, MJ Cole, Nightmares on Wax, Derrick Carter, Shades of Rhythm, Chris Liberator, Calibre, Imelda May.

Distance from Cardiff: 124 miles


More info:

Boomtown website 

Boomtown Facebook

Boomtown Twitter


Green Man

18- 21 August, Glanusk Estate, Crickhowell

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Yes son! One of Wales’ best-loved festivals, now in its 14th year (!!!). Also known as the weekend where the whole of Cardiff decamps in Glanusk, Green Man brings a delightful mish-mash of music, comedy, performance arts, healing vibes and science together and serves it up like some insane cultural smorgasbord you just can’t stop chomping down on. The site is small enough that you’re never a ridiculous distance from your tent (handy if you need to pop back for food, booze, or just to top up your glitter), but big enough to hold delightful treats that can keep you amused all day, and all of the night. We love Einstein’s Garden – teaching kids (and adults!) with interactive science throughout the weekend.

We Are Cardiff tip: make a proper week of it and get Settlers tickets. Also, indulge yourself some pamper time in the Nature Nurture field: we booked a Green Man hot tub last year and it was THE BEST DECISION WE EVER MADE. You get to shower before hand, then hang out with your friends in a wood-heated hot tub drinking Prosecco.

This year’s line-up: Belle and Sebastian, James Blake, Wild Beasts, Laura Marling, Grandaddy, Lush, White Denim, Battles.

Distance from Cardiff: 45 miles


More info:

Green Man website

Green Man Facebook

Green Man on Twitter



20-22 August, Bristol

If rock of varying varieties (eg post / math / noise / alt, and so on) is your gig, then ArcTanGent is a must. The world’s ultimate music festival for connoisseurs of RAWK, it’s a lovely intimate festival with a capacity of just 5,000. Three nights of camping, over 70 bands across four stages, a silent disco, plus some tasty treats provided for those who can’t deal with festival cooking!

This year’s line-up: GY!BE, American Football, Mono, Toe, Gallops, Three Trapped Tigers, Errors, Hexvessel, Falls, Samoans

Distance from Cardiff: 40 miles


More info:

ArcTanGent website

ArcTanGent Facebook

ArcTanGent Twitter


End of the Road

2 – 4 September, Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset

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#England in #September #festival #eotr2015

A post shared by Peter Richardson (@peterrichardson1960) on

Back in the grounds of the beautiful Larmer Tree Gardens (see Larmer Tree Festival above), End of the Road focuses on alternative music of the folk, indie and alt-country variety. There’s also stonking literary and comedy line ups, featuring Bridget Christie, Josie Long, Stewart Lee, Darren Hayman and Cathi Unsworth. The food offerings are delicious, as is the surroundings.

This year’s line-up: Joanna Newsom, The Shins, Bat For Lashes, Animal Collective, Bat For Lashes, Cat Power, Devendra Barnhart, Goat, Savages, Thee Oh Sees, Teenage Fanclub.

Distance from Cardiff: 105 miles


More info:

End of the Road website 

End of the Road Facebook

End of the Road Twitter


Festival Number 6

1 – 4 September, Portmeirion

Undoubtedly the most ornate festival location of all the ones we’ve listed … Festival Number 6 is situated in the beautiful Italianate village of Portmeirion, in the stunningly AMAZING north Wales. Seriously. I can’t over-egg this pudding: it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. You’ve probably heard all about getting lost in its magical forests, eating silver service pop-up banquets and dancing on the white sand of the estuary, massages and spa treatments, so I won’t go on about that too much: I’ll just say that if you’ve made the effort to go all the way to Portmeirion for the festival, do yourself a favour and take a few extra days off to go exploring Snowdonia. It’s one of the jewels in the Welsh landscape crown. Maybe even our diamond!

This year’s line-up: Noel Gallagher, Hot Chip, Bastille, Super Furry Animals, Cassius, Roisin Murphy, Roots Manuva, Andy Votel, Crazy P, Gold Panda, Hot Chip, Joy Orbison, The Two Bears.

Distance from Cardiff: 150 miles


More info:

Festival Number 6 website

Festival Number 6 Facebook

Festival Number 6 Twitter 



The Good Life Festival

16 – 18 September, Hawarden Estate, Flintshire

A relative rookie when compared to some of the more long-standing festivals in this list, nevertheless The Good Life has possibly our favourite line up. Its tagline is “Culture, food, and the great outdoors” – how can you argue with that? Great things about The Good Life: the ticket price is very reasonable, and once you get in, all activities are free. This includes family axe throwing workshops, hay bale fights, tree climbing, and all sorts of amazing fun activities for small kids (and big kids). Oh – and it was founded and curated by Welsh lady, Cerys Matthews. Do you listen to her 6Music radio show? Then you’ll know you’re in good hands for a weekend of entertainment.

This year’s line up: Mercury Rev DJ set, Gilles Peterson, John Cooper Clarke, Cerys Matthews

Distance from Cardiff: 153 miles


More info:

The Good Life Experience website

The Good Life Experience Facebook

The Good Life Experience Twitter


Porthcawl Elvis Festival

23 – 26 September, Porthcawl

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If you were going to pick a wild card from the festivals on offer in this post, it would be this one. An entire weekend – JUST devoted to Elvis impersonators? Widely recognised as the biggest Elvis festival in the world, the tiny seaside town of Porthcawl becomes transformed by lycra, huge flares and Vegas glasses. You might not be the world’s biggest Elvis fan – but spending a weekend surrounded by them is a transformative experience.

This year’s line-up: do you really need to ask?

Distance from Cardiff: 30 miles

More info:

Porthcawl Elvis Festival website

Porthcawl Elvis Festival Facebook

Porthcawl Elvis Festival Twitter



And that’s it for this summer’s festival guide. Have we missed anything out? Let us know in the comments and we’ll update the post!