Set against the backdrop of the iconic, and quite frankly stunning Lovell Telescope in the grounds of Jodrell Bank, the Bluedot Festival is a celebration of all things science, space exploration, arts and music.
We decided to take a break from our other local festival this year, the family friendly Deershed Festival, and venture over the pennines to Bluedot and expand our horizons. We had paid for the extra Thursday night ticket, which enabled arrival on the Thursday afternoon, which seemed like a good move as we were extremely close to the entrance and didn’t have far to walk with the camping gear to the campsite. We chose the general camping site over the late night party field, and set up in good time, in blazing sunshine for the afternoon and evening entertainment.
The site has various stages, but the only one open on the Thursday was the small and intimate Roots Stage which hosted various acoustic, folky acts, until the main arena opened at 6pm for a welcome by Professor Tim O’Brien. The main event of the evening was a performance by the Halle Orchestra who were playing a soundtrack to the Blue Planet TV programme, which was playing on the big screen at the back of the stage. Thankfully, Thursday was the only day camping chairs were allowed into the arena, and the only evening a VIP area was spotted next to a sponsored whisky area.
Friday dawned with the unwelcome realisation of a leaking camp bed, but with excitement of the day ahead, we had breakfast and went exploring the now fully opened arena. Flaming Lip’s frontman Wayne Coyne was spotted leading his own bands soundcheck, in full stage gear at approx midday, and this was the first of 3 times I saw him during the day.
The main stage (Lovell stage) hosted Plastic Mermaids, To Kill A King, and Alexis Taylor, before my first must see of the festival ; Public Service Broadcasting. Playing against a huge backdrop of a television, the album The Race For Space was well represented (obviously), and their slick energetic performance was a far cry from the first time I saw them in the tiny Trades Club in Hebden Bridge.
Headliners for the day The Flaming Lips, were, well, their usual mixture of circus, theatre and music, creating a performance even non-believers could be entranced by. Opening with the theme from 2001 A Space Odyssey, Race For the Prize (obviously), and incorporating Yoshime Battles the Pink Robots, She Don’t Use Jelly, Space Oddity and Do You Realise this was a performance to remember. Magnificent. Not sure they would have the same response if songs from The Terror or Embryonic were being played. Earlier in the day, Mr Coyne was in conversation with Prof Tim O’Brien on one of the other stages discussing his love of space, space rock and this particular venue, suggesting they didn’t actually want to leave.
After another night spent half on the floor, the weather was again glorious and started with something different with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop on the main stage. Lovely start to the day, listening to them create tv show soundscapes and of course ending with the Dr Who theme. The music seen during the day was quite an eclectic mix : Amber Arcades, Baloji, the excellent Hookworms, the bonkers Warmdusher, Gary Newman (!), and headliners Future Islands.
During the late night hours, the Lovell telescope itself acts as a backdrop to a quite wonderful light show, and especially during and after the headliners. To be honest, most of the day’s music was not my interest so we took the opportunity to explore the site and there are plenty of activities, talks, lectures to keep you occupied which is the festivals USP. The late night entertainment on the tented stages (Orbit and Nebula), tended to be DJ sets. I think I managed 20 minutes of one on Saturday night.
Sunday again dawned super hot, meaning leaving the unbearable tent at 8am in order to breathe, however fatigue had set in after another uncomfortable night, and the general heat we had been exposed to. Pair that with the schoolboy error of not booking Monday off work, and we packed up the tent and left site about 5pm. I did however manage to catch the excellent Leeds band Mush, Night Flowers and Lost Horizons before heading home. Yes, we missed the Chemical Brothers and Slowdive, but that was a decision we had to take.
In summary, an excellent mid sized festival, with some interesting alternatives to the music, and certainly something for all members of the family. The music has a certain bias towards the electronic spectrum, which isn’t my main interest, but I knew that before booking the tickets. I’d certainly recommend this festival, especially if you are into science, space and electronica - it’s interesting, set in a magnificent, spectacular setting and some good food and drink options.