As you know from my post last week, I had some fabulous highlights at Festival No. 6 in Wales earlier in the month. I also put out a little video of said highlights on YouTube this week if you fancy a gander…
But I’m not one of those bloggers that will only talk about the good bits. There were a lot of moments at Festival No. 6 that I wasn’t so fond of and I think it’s only right that I give you guys a good overall view of my experience: the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s a long post guys, just saying. Here goes.
Festival No. 6 Essential Info
Let’s face it, the main draw of Festival No. 6 is the setting, the idyllic village of Portmeirion. And it really doesn’t disappoint in the flesh with beautiful pastel-coloured houses, a large piazza with pretty fountains and lovely details everywhere. And let me tell you, you feel pretty good about life when you’re sitting on a deckchair in the middle of it all with a glass of prosecco.
But there are actually only a few stages in this village area. The Central Piazza showcases some acts but they tend to be more spoken word, talks and the famous Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir. Then there’s the Town Hall for lots of the activity-based events (like making your own festival headdress or learning Welsh) and the Dome Gallery, a small indoor space where they held the Prince Disco and Bowie Disco.
So where’s everything else?
Well a little walk down from the village is a beautiful beach and there’s a little garden area, complete with swimming pool, overlooking it. This has a little marquee known as the Estuary Stage and is where I got to see the awesome Hip Hop karaoke. I’m a fan.
Then into the woods we go…
A lot of party locations are in woods including the amazing Virgin Trains Village Limits floating dancefloor. YES. There is also the Lost In The Woods stage where I saw a few rock bands and the Tangled Woods rave-y area for some house-y DJ sets. Very ecclectic at this festival, you see.
But what about the Headline acts?
There is a “main arena” kind of arena near the campsite which houses the main stage, Stage No. 6, as well as a few tents with smaller stages. The Grand Pavillion stage is another good one where I saw Milky Chance and Oh Wonder. Now I’ll be honest, this main arena area is probably the part I was disappointed with… I mean Portmeirion and the beach and the woods are all lovely and have so much character, whereas the area with all of the actual music you want to listen to didn’t seem to have much thought put into it.
It didn’t help that there was terrible weather, but it showed a little lack of organisation with the field being completely hideous with thick squelchy mud. It needed wood chips or a few paths made out of MDF or something. Even inside the tents was muddy. DON’T FALL OVER.
(Get a load of the mud in the background of this pic…)
But I did love the couple of bars dotted around the main field – House of Rum and the Kiwi Bar are both great for good music and dancing when the live music finishes. There was also a good little set-up in the Castle Gardens for a DJ set and a dance, you know?
Although beware that the proximity to the campsite means you will still be able to hear the music in your tent. But you kind of expect that with smaller boutique festivals I think. Festival No. 6 doesn’t have the square footage of Glastonbury after all.
There were some really great artists at Festival No. 6 this year, in particular Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds who knocked it out of the park with some Oasis classics. I also loved Oh Wonder, Bastille, Milky Chance and Clean Cut Kid. There was also Kaiser Chiefs and Hot Chip in the mix.
Although because it is a smaller festival, you should expect much smaller, unknown bands during the day. I personally felt like the evenings were like a music festival and the days were more like an arty festival with other things going on like cabaret acts and parades. I mean I liked it that way, it was a bit more diverse. But worth noting for those looking for a music-all-day kinda festival.
The eccentric little extras were a lot of fun though. It’s cool to mix up the music with a ukulele workshop or a Prince Disco. And even non-music things like the Carnival No. 6 parade or the Bloody Mary Workshop were awesome. Definitely a quirky festival with lots of little niches which I liked a lot.
It was a mixed crowd at Festival No. 6 but it seemed a bit older than others I’ve been to. That may be due to the line-up though with a lot of 90’s classics playing and a lot of Bowie-based acts. But there was still modern stuff and woodland raves and that which made it quite versatile for all ages I guess. I think both me and my parents would like this festival, you know?
I’d also note that there was a distinct lack of any wrong’uns, which I liked. Maybe I’m speaking as a girl that used to frequent Reading Festival in her teens – I just really appreciate when people aren’t trying to set fire to tents on a Sunday night.
The transport to and from.
From what I’ve read on other blogs, getting to Festival No. 6 by train was pretty seamless. Apparently the train was full of fun festival-goers and shuttle buses ferried them off to Portmeirion village from the train station in Bangor. That’s all you want really.
For those of us that did Park and Ride, it was quite a different story…
Now I’ll start by saying that apparently for the last four years they’ve had absolutely no problems and it just so happens that I’m writing this review based on the year all hell broke lose in the Park and Ride. But I shall tell you what went down nonetheless.
The Park and Ride was 4 miles away from the festival in some football grounds – basically just some fields we all parked up in. Then we had the same process as the train-goers, get your wristband, queue up for a shuttle bus and head on over to the festival. But the problem was when the weather turned sour on the Saturday. We had a lot of rain and apparently a nearby river burst its banks, flooding the fields where everyone’s cars were parked. DRAMA ENSUED.
Rumours were going round the festival, everytime I started speaking to someone, they asked if we were in Park and Ride and told us it was shocking. People just started packing up and going home on the Sunday and I’m guessing it was because of the carpark fear. So we were super worried about the state of our cars.
Monday morning, we woke up early and left the campsite at 7.30am prepared for queues but there actually weren’t any because a lot of people of had left the night before. So that was a result. But as we were walking to the shuttle stop, staff were asking people what time they had arrived at the festival. Because if you had arrived Friday or later, you car could be in deep water and you would have to wait until they sorted out the situation…
Thank God I arrived on Thursday.
When we got to the carpark though, that first field where us Thursday people parked was insanely muddy. To the point where people were pulling out of their carpark space and being instantly stuck in the mud. They told us to put our hazards on if we got stuck and one of the tractors would pull us out. There were hazards and tractors bloody everywhere. Luckily we had scouted out the best route, pulled some Top Gear-esque manoeuvres and managed to get out without getting stuck, but I really feel like we were in the minority.
Just to highlight how big this issue was, I drove the 5 hour journey home, had a shower, ate some much-needed comfort food and got into bed to watch the Gilmore Girls (aka standard post-festival behaviour) and I got an update on my phone saying people were STILL waiting to leave. Apparently some people had to just abandon their cars and come back the next day. That’s not ok.
So you see, it was a massive drama. It was bad weather which I get, but it’s North Wales in September, it wasn’t going to be fantastic weather was it?
It was a nightmare for a lot of festival-goers but I think you do have to remember that Festival No. 6 is in its FIFTH year. It’s still a baby and has teething problems. I just hope they learn from this and fix it for next year!
You know I have a thing about food trucks right? I just love them. The food is always completely amazing and normally at really cheap prices. Well I was a little worried about Festival No. 6. On first glance it seems like quite a middle class festival, especially with mention of a Welsh Produce Market at the festival. But that was pretty much just a fruit and veg stall, completely randomly just there.
But the food trucks themselves were really affordably priced. On the first day I had a mushroom stew with sourdough bread for £5 and it completely filled me up. The most I paid for a meal was £8 for a pizza with truffle oil… YUM. The food was really good and not at all as pretentious as it sounded on the website.
Another thing I completely loved was that there were NEVER QUEUES AT THE BAR. I mean that’s a result right there. That’s definitely one of the highlights of going to a festival with only 15,000 people there.
One thing I would mention is that they offer a ‘Dinner at Clough’s’ experience where you pay for dinner cooked by a Michelin Star chef. I didn’t experience it myself, because it was like £75 a pop and I ain’t got that kinda cash to burn, but I got chatting to someone who did. She said the food was good but it was all on sharing platters which she was disappointed about. And apparently there was low security so people just came into the tent to get out of the rain. Not really a luxury experience.
I really enjoyed the food though and I liked that there were a few regular cafes in the village so you could sit inside and eat something if you wanted to. FYI the sausage rolls in there are fab.
Also, top tip. If you’re driving through Wales to the festival from the South, stop at Market Square Fish and Chips in Llanrhaerdr-ym-Mochnant. Superb lunch en-route. Get the curry sauce. I’m just saying.
The staff at Festival No. 6 were surprisingly upbeat and cheerful, which isn’t always the case with people that work festivals. Especially in the rain. The security guys always made jokes, the bartenders always wanted to chat and even the food truck vendors weren’t as aggy as usual.
My one negative is that no-one really knew much, like they hadn’t been briefed all that well. When I arrived at the Park and Ride, 3 different members of staff told me completely different things about how I went about getting my parking permit. And I rocked up to the Chandon bar and asked for a glass of Chandon and they didn’t know which bottle was the Chandon and had to discuss it at length before serving me. Dude, it’s the freaking Chandon bar.
There were also varying levels of security where one day they would want to search bags and needed to see wristbands and later that same day they wouldn’t even look and you’d just walk right through. This was also the case with the Portmeirion village area where on the first day we were told to finish our drinks before walking through because they weren’t allowed, and on the second day there wasn’t even anyone there… It’s not a major thing, just felt badly organised in this way.
But hey, they were all nice, that’s what counts right?
The campsite was quite small but there were still loads of places to camp when we arrived on the Thursday evening. Normally at a festival it’s a struggle to find a spot where you and your pals can camp together but we found a decent-sized spot pretty easily. Although a bit of an annoyance was that the whole field was on a slant. Just a bit weird when you start sliding down your tent in the middle of the night. Hashtag slant life.
What I massively loved about the campsite were all the freebies. Every day a little Lavazza cart would set up in the campsite and hand out free coffees to everyone! And although miniature-sized, you could have as many as you wanted. Perfect if you’ve had minimal sleep. There were also free samples of healthy smoothies which was a nice bonus.
A massive thumbs up about Festival No. 6 is that there are ACTUAL REAL-LIFE TOILETS. I mean what other festivals can offer that?! There is not a long-drop in sight, the arena and the campsite have porter loos and the woods have compost toilets which is pretty standard. But Portmeirion village itself has so many real toilet options. The ones in the town hall and near the cafe at the entrance to the village are great and clean and amazing.
I’ve never been so excited by toilets.
The Festival No. 6 App.
Yes, there is an app you can download which has the line-up for the whole weekend and will send you notifications if you want to be alerted of what’s coming up on your favourites list.
I loved this app. There was no phone signal the whole time I was at the festival (which sucks) but this app worked offline! Hooray! It’s a nice detail that made my festival experience a lot easier to navigate. Nice touch, FN6.
Overall I think Festival No. 6 is a fab festival that does things right in a lot of areas. It has fantastic food options, quirky little cabaret acts and workshops, a drop dead gorgeous location and a great line-up of headliners. It’s downfall is poor organisation I think. But that’s something I think will improve each year as it matures a bit, you know?
Although I’ve mentioned a few negatives here, it is definitely still worth going and getting to experience the magic of Portmeirion village. I just like to make sure you’re prepared with these things. I’m good like that…
Have you been to Festival No. 6? What did you think? Am I being a bit too picky here or do you agree there’s room for improvement? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!
Total Blogger Transparency: I attended Festival No. 6 with complimentary press tickets, but all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. I wouldn’t play you like that, shorty.