As my last blog post was festival-themed I thought I’d start this year with another, on an event much closer to home.
Having been a music festival veteran for most of my adult life, from heavyweights like Glastonbury and Download to smaller affairs like Lodestar and Standon Calling, I’ve never been lucky enough to have one within walking distance.
So I was as chuffed as most people in my Cambridgeshire town to hear that an inaugural festival would be taking place in 2023, and not far from my pad, in the 80-acre park that served me so well during lockdown, when I got to fully appreciate how impressive are some of its trees!
And it was these very trees that came in handy for the maiden St Neots Festival in Priory Park over one of the hottest weekends of the summer, providing mid-afternoon shade for some of the thousands who attended.
The performing arts extravaganza on June 24-25 had more than 140 bands, artists, and dance and theatre groups on its programme, across two stages, with musical genres encompassing rock, pop, folk and classical, so a varied spread for most tastes.
There was also a community zone where local groups and artists showcased their creations and chatted with visitors, and a decent selection of food and booze options kept everyone well fuelled.
I was packing my good camera with a long lens so captured a few action shots to mark the occasion. (More, and better quality, images at my Flickr gallery.)
The whole free enterprise was conceived and organised by a local creatives collective which I not long knew about and only recently joined, called Neotists. The project was helmed by Neotists co-founder Richard Slade – a graphic designer who also created the festival’s colourful branding – and fellow co-founder and local community worker Clair Slade; and executed with the help of a sizeable squadron of local volunteers.
Was great to see so many environmentally-conscious initiatives in action, from the free circular shuttle bus running every 20 minutes throughout the day, to the troop of litter-pickers who left the park in a cleaner state than when the fest arrived.
Good news was to follow when 96% of festivalgoers rated the music as 'very good' or 'good' in a post-event survey, and 95% said the same about the whole experience, making it an easy decision to hold the festival again in 2024.
And then only this month, the news hook for this write-up: it was lauded Best Cambridgeshire Festival 2023 in the annual East Anglian Festivals of the Year Awards, and finished runner-up for Best Festival in the whole East Anglia region.
So not bad work at all for the organisers who made it happen, and an auspicious foundation for the festival’s return in six months’ time, and hopefully every year thereafter.
I’ll be back with my camera and a few more out-of-town friends this time, and fingers crossed until then for that weather to hold.
www.stneotsfestival.co.uk . 6-7 July, 2024