It’s that time of year again, when a music lover’s mind turns to days devoted to listening to their favourite bands live in the sun, and when my arthritic bones start complaining about element exposure and long standing times in fields. Yes, it’s festival season, and if you have arthritis and love music in equal measure (I REALLY have arthritis) it’s a double-edged sword.
After enjoying Bluedot in 2016 I decided to do it again, as the fact I can combine a single day at the festival with staying at my mum’s house makes it a really attractive option. It’s nice to see my family and catch up with them, and the festival turns it into a little bit of a holiday, especially as it has a good range of science talks and kids’ activities.
So, as I always recommend, I checked the weather forecast religiously in the week before the festival, which suggested it would be 17°C, and as last year I remember being really cold when he sun went down (which is hell for arthritic bones) I packed a jumper, gloves and a hat. Of course the day before the festival, the meteorologists realised that the approaching cold-front wasn’t going to hit until the following day and instead would be 24°C and sunny. If I had had access to my wardrobe I would have worn a dress or a pair of shorts, but making an outfit from what I had, I went for a shirt and cropped jeans, and it worked pretty well:
On my feet, I wore the Clarks Tri Angel, which are a great choice for a festival if you have arthritis and don’t feel the need to make a statement with your shoes. There was plenty of glitter at the festival, but generally people don’t do fancy dress for Bluedot: people realise it’s a field in Cheshire, not Coachella, and I only saw one flower crown. Comfortable, flexible and light, the Clarks Tri Angels really helped me last all day: I ended up walking over 7 miles at the festival, but my joints didn’t feel too bad at the end of it.
So, the festival itself, Bluedot is a good one for families or if you’re with people who like music but get bored just doing it all day. There were lots of interactive science displays from all over the country, interesting talks, comedy and activities for children. Maybe it was the weather, sunshine makes people chilled out and chatty, but I ended up chatting to lots of scientists over the course of the day, and I learned a lot. My favourite was discovering a robot I would actually like living in my house:
I don’t want robots that do stuff apart from be petted and enjoy my company, because then they won’t want to kill me (I’ve seen sci-fi, I know what happens).
Musically, on the day I attended the festival was OK. Alt-J were the headliners on Sunday and played a good mix of old and new songs. They’re not the band to see live if you like a lot of interaction, but they always have great stage design — their lighting is always beautiful — which makes up for it:
But aside from Alt-J, there weren’t that many musical highlights that grabbed me. Warpaint (who were given the penultimate slot) were so insipid that I wandered off to a tent where people were coding electronic music live, and you could see the coding and algorithms they were using (yes, it was super nerdy, but it was really interesting and it’s the sort of thing that allows more people to make music, which is no bad thing. I was inspired to have a go at coding music, and I don’t code):
The early, lesser-known bands and performers had lots of energy and were better festival fodder, my daughter had a great time dancing to them:
A particular highlight was the Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band, which did a set on stage, playing various sci-fi themes, and then joined the crowd later on in the day, getting everybody dancing with some traditional music:
Another highlight from Bluedot is that although there was some corporate sponsorship, it was fairly low-key and not too much in your face (the worst offender being Blue-Moon beer), but generally it didn’t feel like you were in the middle of a massive advert like so many festivals. Also, the litter pickers were AMAZING, Bluedot not only had great recycling bins everywhere, the teams worked really hard to keep it spotless. You can see from the photos, it was pristine and that really made a difference to the atmosphere for me.
My one criticism of Bluedot this year was their decision not to allow re-entry on a day ticket. The best way of managing a small child at a festival, is to take the child to your mum’s when she’s had enough and go back for some grown-up festival experience. If you have a really family-friendly festival, they should be issuing wristbands because a) kids need to be able to leave if it gets too much and b) it’s great to be able to leave coats, picnics, changes of clothes and all the stuff kids seem to need rather than carry it round all day. I know some kids can get by with very little, can eat anything, will be chilled out all the time etc… I do not have one of those kids. In addition, if it’s hot, you don’t want to be carrying a coat, but it does get cold when the sun goes down, which can be hard on people with arthritis, so being able to go back to your car to get a coat and sweater, or maybe a pair of warm socks, is a massive bonus.
I hope Bluedot changes their stance on this next year, because it probably is a deal breaker for me, and it would be a shame to miss it because it’s a great festival.