Musical discovery, summer fun and a dog show: My first Standon Calling
- Credit: Archant
Reflecting on my first Standon experience at the weekend, there was one question that dominated my thoughts – what took me so long?
Although I can’t claim to be a festival expert, as far as this neck of the woods goes I have sampled a fair few – Secret Garden Party, V Festival and Hitchin’s Rhythms of the World have all been conquered at least once.
This year I finally made it to Glastonbury, and the same can now be said for Standon Calling, too.
It’s been on my wish list for a while, but perhaps the Hertfordshire festival’s 10th anniversary gave me the nudge I needed. And boy am I grateful for that.
The ‘Standon story’, as founder Alex Trenchard puts it, is an endearing one.
What started out as a glorified garden party in the grounds of his family’s Standon Lordship estate a decade ago, has – via a rickety stage – become a three-day festival attracting thousands of people. It’s still got the swimming pool from the early days, mind.
What’s more, this year saw Basement Jaxx, Little Dragon and The Dandy Warhols all headline what is now the Main Stage – an impressive feat given such humble beginnings.
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And wandering around the 10 stages of various sizes and guises, there was always a sense of musical discovery.
I loved the fact that the ever-energetic guitarist of Landshapes decided to lead her own special dance after her instrument failed on the last song, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who was impressed at the Last Dance Saloon stage.
The ‘Rockaoke’ that I heard on the Main Stage was interesting, shall we say, but heading back to hear the crowd pleasing efforts of Big Jeff followed by Grace Whitford’s chillingly good performance was revealing.
Singing a Florence and the Machine cover seemed appropriate, given it is a festival Florence graced as she began to make a name for herself.
Mumford and Sons, Bastille, Clean Bandit and Paloma Faith have all played here, too, and by my reckoning that showcasing of emerging talent can only continue.
Yet to me, regardless of the acts the festival is now able to attract, what was most refreshing was the approach.
Standon is no longer a few friends getting together for a party, but even though this was my first one I felt it still maintains that ethos.
There really is something for everyone here. Whether it’s a sandpit for the little ones, trapeze lessons for anyone brave enough or a dog show for pet lovers, the festival caters for all ages and tastes but never loses that sense of friendless and, above all, fun.
It’s well thought out, too. The cashless system may be familiar to regular visitors, but being able to top up your wristband with cash or card and then pay for everything on that is simply genius.
The bars never seem to be busy as a result – which is no bad thing in my eyes – and even if you don’t spend it all then you’ll get a refund.
The fact you are encouraged to reuse your own festival pint glass (it’s plastic, but by no means flimsy) makes so much sense, and begs the question why isn’t this being replicated so effectively elsewhere?
The simple answer is that, despite its continued growth, Standon Calling has never lost sight of its roots.
Alex and his ever expanding team of organisers and supporters which he alludes to in the festival programme must take huge credit for that, and long may it continue.
The 10th anniversary may have been extra special, but I don’t doubt that 2016 will offer more of the same.
So happy birthday Standon and, given I need to make up for lost time, I’m already looking forward to celebrating another one with you next year.
• To find out more about the festival, visit www.standon-calling.com.