A GREAT LIFE EXPERIENCE
So last weekend was more than just a 'good life' experience – it was GREAT. Though we say so ourselves. From the moment the first tipi went up during the week, the huge campsite fire was lit and the singing began, we knew we were living in exciting times here at Hawarden Estate Farm Shop. And before we describe some of our highlights, here's the breaking news: The Good Life Experience will definitely take place again in 2015!
Our idea was to create a new kind of festival, bringing together three great loves – music, food and the great outdoors – and giving visitors the chance to experience something different, maybe learn something new. We were lucky to be working with Cerys Matthews and music producer Steve Abbott of Rainbow City, who totally got what it was about and were integral to developing the concept and talking about it. Cerys's distinctive straw trilby was everywhere in the days running up to the event!
Let's start with the food. We set up a demonstration kitchen right at the Farm Shop door and found ourselves mesmerised by the chefs at work: Luke Thomas, Harry Eastwood, the Baker Brothers – and Bill Granger, who had flown in from Australia for some fun. His chicken dish, crispy cauli salad and baked cheesecake, all whipped up in what seemed like seconds, were a triumph of taste and texture – and he managed to do it all without drawing breath, keeping up a running dialogue with occasional prompts from Charlie. Meanwhile, Rob the butcher was showing us how to skin a rabbit down by the campfires, and Caroline was cooking it in an authentic Hungarian enamel pot suspended over the fire (click here for the recipe). We barbecued venison burgers, sausages and sardines all day, serving them on flatbreads and buns with home-made slaw to over 1,500 visitors.
Around the site, people were making discoveries: axe-sharpening, engraving and throwing were being demonstrated by Best Made Co who came from New York to share their skills; explorer James Greenwood and journalist Simon Jenkins gave talks; visitors learned how to tie knots, carve a spoon, screen print a bag, roll a cigar and mix a mojito. There were alpacas, a traditional painted fairground, a CD stall from Portobello Road... you could abseil from the roof of the Farm Shop, win a pizza oven, have a haircut or beard trim from a traditional barber, and go delving in the vintage goods from Pedlars and the gorgeous dog stuff from The Magnificent Hound.
And then there were music and poetry. Wow. Georgia Ruth sang with purity and passion to her harp and Cerys led a singalong of traditional folk tunes. Murray Lachlan Young, poet-in-residence at BBC6, had us in hysterics as he performed some of his wittiest poems, becoming riskier as the evening wore on. CC Smugglers, an infectious band of musically gifted buskers who sing contemporary blues-with-swing and can play any instrument you like, had the crowd dancing on the straw bales: they almost brought the marquee down with the wild number they did with Cerys (and remember: you heard them here first). And finally, it was Paprika, led by its genius violinist from Romania, Bogdan Vacarescu. This was music from a Balkan/Mediterranean village square – but on steroids. They even got the Mission Impossible theme in. Exciting, stomping, heartbeating, virtuosic... they were as hot as campfires and the perfect climax to the evening.
What a day it was. Next year, we'll make it two.