Marianne Holt reviews Lancashire’s exciting and ever-surprising Beat-Herder festival
As one of the UK’s only independent festivals Beat-Herder can afford to break all the rules.
From virtually the moment you pull the handbrake up on the car, Beat-Herder does nothing but surprise. The stages and activities at Beat-Herder are barmy – you want a secret swimming pool? A hall of mirrors only accessible through a hole in a bush? A red phone box that is actually the door to a secret tunnel? You got it! At Beat-Herder you have the opportunity to hear DJ sets from inside a church, get a tattoo, see robot pole dancers, or even go on a blind date.
There is no limit on how much alcohol you are allowed to bring into the arena, which is a big bonus for students. Although, it is encouraged that you bring a maximum of 2 cans (or reasonable alternative), as the festival makes its profit almost exclusively from alcohol sales. However, there is no need to try and exceed this 2 can limit. The price of a pint was roughly the same as any northern local pub at around £3. No sponsors means no reason to jack up the prices. The independent nature of Beat-Herder means that you can sample the local ales, ciders, and huge variety of spirits on offer without breaking the bank. If you’re feeling particularly decadent you can drink in an underground absinthe bar, or if you want a no-frills piss-up head to the Beat-Herder & District Working Men’s Club.
As well as boasting a top-notch line up there are a plethora of activities you can participate in at this festival: a huge paint fight and Beat-Herder’s Got Talent are scheduled into the festival timetable. The quirkiness that pervades through the festival justifies the claim made by many Beat-Herder goers that the festival is Lancashire’s answer to Glastonbury. Saturday is fancy dress and everyone there takes it very seriously. This year the theme was the letter E – anything in the world you can think of that begins with the letter E descended onto the festival on the Saturday night. We saw Elephants, Eggs, Eddie the Eagle and even Eyeballs raving away until the early hours of the morning. Upon waking up and leaving the tent at 8am on the Sunday it was hard to determine whether the dishevelled eggs chilling on camp chairs had even been to bed.
Neither of us eat meat: this has posed a problem at festivals in the past. A lack of vegan and vegetarian food stalls has often meant resigning ourselves to a diet of Doritos and Dark Fruit for four days straight. This was not an issue at here; it was a dream for vegans and meat eaters alike. There was a better choice of Vegan food at Beat-Herder than any other festival I’ve been to, our food highlights were: the Herbivorous Jackfruit salad (the perfect antidote to a festival hangover) as well as the Vegan Pad Thai.
Although the festival has its roots in dance music, the music choices are as varied as the stage design. No other UK festival compares in terms of variety. We saw school disco legends Black Lace at the Working Men’s Club Stage, which declares itself as “the perfect antidote to all that chuffin’ dance music the nippers are into.” We’d never had so much fun at a performance before as we screamed the lyrics to ‘Agadoo’ and delivered the dance routine to ‘Superman’ flawlessly. At the same festival we were able to see Patrick Topping, one of the biggest names in dance music, at Toil Trees (a stage hidden in a forest where you can herd beats into the early hours of the morning).
Our personal highlight of Beat-Herder was PINS- a riot grrrl inspired band playing in The Factory, an
abandoned warehouse styled stage. PINS were magnetic in their effortless interaction with the crowd who consisted of predominantly women from every walk of life and age- they were the only band of the festival to make us dance so hard we broke our press passes.
Some of the most exciting names of the music scene performed on the Beat-Herder stage. Acts such as Orbital, Soulwax, Django Django, Boney M, Lindstrom and High Contrast delivered flawless performances. It must be said that Orbital were categorically the greatest electronic band either of us had ever seen live. Whatever you were in the mood for at this festival, Beat-Herder had something for you. Even S Club 3 made an appearance!
People who come to this festival seldom choose to go back anywhere else, with some boasting almost a decade of return trips. We met people who had the festival logo tattooed on their body, and even they probably haven’t uncovered all of the secrets that the festival has to offer.