Friday lust loafers

Just a quick post as I seem to be super busy at the moment but I saw these and my heart leapt… now, I am not a big fan of loafers on myself, though I love them on other people. On me they always seem like I am trying to dress smart; other people they seem to be able to pull off the casual loafer look, but I always look a bit wrong.

However, I am quite tempted to buy these shoes and try to nail that loafer chic look that I see on other people. I love the smartness, I love the unusual handkerchief detail: they look a bit Gucci without the price tag:

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Uterque loafer: £120

I really like the quality of Uterque’s shoes, and they fit well, but I am not sure I can afford them this month (I am also very temped by the tiger t-shirt, although that is a lot to pay for a t-shirt):

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Uterque tiger t-shirt: £68

I might just wait until pay-day and hope they don’t sell out before then…

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Built for comfort

It’s always around this time of year (late September, early October) that I get into a massive funk about having arthritis, and I lose inspiration, so I haven’t been posting that much as of late. The reason for this is because at this time, loads of beautiful ankle boots hit the shops, and & Other Stories have a really good selection of reasonably priced chunky-heeled boots that I really like and would normally be racing to buy:

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&otherstories patent leather boot: £125
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&otherstories pearl suede boot: £125
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&otherstories: blue velvet boot: £110
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&otherstories silver lurex boot: £95

However, it’s also about this time of year that my arthritis starts playing up, and I think it’s because as the cooler weather hits, I am not so used to warding it off, so I don’t wear socks and I don’t make allowances for it, and most days I wake up stiff, sore and grumpy.  I know that there’s no way I’ll be wearing a heel of that height during this time of year, despite the chunkiness of the heel and how lovely the boots are.

So for ultimate comfort factor, I think the Clarks Trigenic range currently offer the best on the high street, and I really like these Trigenic Lily trainers:

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Clarks trigenic Lily: £69

They are a trainer, but their wool upper and minimalist styling are very scandi, and you could wear these with simple but smart monochrome clothes, with some statement earrings or a necklace, and not look like you’re dressing for comfort:

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Weekday top: £35.  Weekday trousers: £45. Finery earrings: £19
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Mango earrings: £12.99. Whistles jumpsuit: £169
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otherstories necklace: £35. Otherstories backpack: £115. Toast cashmere dress: £170

Of course you can also go down the atheleisure route with these shoes too, maybe mix the textures up a bit with a velvet hoodie:

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Zara velvet hoodie: £17.99

The shoes are versatile, which is important when you are restricted in what you wear because you often end up wearing the same shoes on a daily basis, and it’s easy to get in a rut and bored with how you look.

If you’re not sore, however, the & Other stories boots are definitely worth a look!

Getting the slipper

Ahhh, yes, autumn, the time of year for crisp mornings, conkers and slippers (unless you’re me, in which case every day is a slippers day because slippers, like napping, rock).

I’ve written about my preferred slippers before, the brilliant Birkinstocks, and don’t get me wrong, I still find the support from these slippers to be fantastic for people with arthritis and joint problems, and I’m especially enjoying the benefit of them now that I work from home and I spend a lot of time in them. They are slipper numero uno.

However, as the mercury drops as autumn closes in, I’ve found myself desiring something else in order to fix a problem I have, and that problem is other people’s houses. Like a good guest, I take my shoes off before traipsing around the houses of my friends and relations, and now that it’s fashionable to hate carpets I have found that my arthritic joints get cold and really sore when I am in contact with cold floors (stone especially, but wood will also set off the dull, niggling little ache that just pulls the joy out of my day).

Of course, I could (and have done in the past) take my slippers round to other people’s houses, but this requires a level of organisation that I have not yet achieved. Especially if I have the kid and dog to take too because when you’re carrying all their crap, remembering to take slippers in an extra bag is just a step too far. So I decided to get myself some Mahabis.

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Mahabi classic: £79

Mahabis have been around for a while, I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard of them, so I’m not pretending to tread new ground here, but I have been so happy with my Birkinstocks until now that I didn’t see the need for them. Mahabis have a removable outer sole, which allows you to wear them outside and, when you get to your destination, take the outer sole off, leaving you with clean indoor slippers, and nobody has to remember extra bags of anything. Now, I’m not talking about wearing these on the tube to get across London to see my friends, I’m talking about people who I have to drive to see, where I will literally walk to the car, drive, park a short distance away (if not bang outside) and then walk up to the (cold-floored) house. You may not do this that regularly, maybe you live somewhere where the public transport is top-notch or the parking is a no-go but, in my suburbs, this pretty much describes all local family get-togethers, as well as my daughters play dates, not to mention brunches and lunches with friends. Staying in is the new going out, after all.

For me, and my achey-breaky legs, it made the (rather large, let’s be honest) expense acceptable. So, are they worth it? As you can see I went for the classic wool grey (more expensive ‘luxe’ versions are available) and yellow sole combo, and they are very snug and comfortable.

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They have a soft sole, unlike the Birkinstocks, so there is no support from the slippers, but the wool makes them warmer than the Birks, and they stay on thanks to the stretchy rubbery bit behind the heel so I can wear them to climb into the loft (bonus):

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The outer sole clips on and off at the back, and this is a pretty neat idea, but it’s no quicker than just changing into some outdoor shoes so it’s not a game-changer for just nipping out to do the bins:

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And you do have to try not to lose your soles, but I reckon I will soon be leaving these by the door (in the shoe pile that I really need to sort out but can’t bring myself to face) for easy on-off visiting:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It helps that they look kind of scandi-cool too. I won’t feel ashamed rocking up to a play date in these rather than feeling like a granny (in a bad way, not in a cool wearing-purple-giving-zero way), which is also nice. When you have arthritis, feeling like a premature granny is sadly inevitable and, when you have bad days, it helps to still feel cool on the outside, and these are definitely warm on the inside, cool on the outside.

Smartening up in September

Earlier this year I made the big leap of becoming a freelance editor. I haven’t really blogged about it because it was, at times, incredibly stressful and I wondered on many an occasion whether I was doing the right thing. I’m the sort of person who takes a lot of self-confidence from the quality of the work I produce, so if work is thin on the ground, I tend to take it personally and then get myself into a right tizz. There are pros and cons to everything, and although I do miss the buzz of working in central London and having work colleagues, a stressful office and a public transport system that was regularly driving me to despair (and charging me a massive amount in the process), as well as the age-old question of consistent childcare, finally pushed me over the edge and into the no-mans land of working from home.

It is, I’m pleased to say, going well. Even in the summer holidays when I was sharing my workspace with a six-year-old, who are by their nature intrusive, I feel like I’ve just about managed. I have, however, noticed a slight but noticeable slide into an eternal uniform of jeans, t-shirts and trainers, more so recently perhaps because it’s the summer holidays and when you have to walk the dog with a recalcitrant child, followed by making a ketchup-centric lunch, and then an afternoon of ‘craft’, it’s hard enough to get out of bed, nevermind pick something to wear that totally slays. Not to say I look awful, it’s just I don’t really feel the need to dress like it’s not the weekend any more, and I really miss that.

So, it’s my new (academic) year’s resolution to dress like I might well be going into the office. I’ve been noseying around the shops (or more accurately their websites, because my kid doesn’t shop well), and getting kind of excited about the new season stuff coming in (I love autumn), but I think a lot of excitement has been to do with the fact that everything is new, and there’s not that been that much that I thought, ‘yes, I want that’.

However, I did see these pair of shoes on the Uterqüe website , and my eyes became little hearts. Red strappy shoes, studs and, best of all, a cute comfortable heel — it’s what my dreams are made of:

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Uterque studded shoes: £115

Uterqüe are owned by the same company as Zara, and it’s a sort of higher quality version (a bit like H&M with & Other Stories), which is good because although the clothes in Zara are often bang on the money style-wise, the quality of the fabric is sometimes a lot to be desired…

They don’t look it, but they are also very comfortable to wear, the straps aren’t tight and the shoes have a nice width so no pinching, so no issues about them rubbing my swollen joints or restricting my movement, but my feet don’t feel like they’re going to fall out of them either:

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I’m not usually into getting matchy-matchy with my accessories, but I am very tempted to buy this bag from Hush to just set the red of the shoes off nicely:

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Hush aveline bag: £99

These shoes, although pretty awesome are also quite pricey, but there are some red strappy shoes from M&S, which are a total bargain for leather shoes:

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M&S red strappy shoes: £39.50

And if you’re really on a tight budget (September always means new school shoes and uniform, so it’s a tight month for a lot of people), ASOS have some black textile strappy shoes for £20!

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ASOS lunge: £20

Now, I will be wearing these shoes with my jeans a lot, but in the spirit of getting out of my jeans, I think these shoes also work really well with shirt dresses. There are lots of statement midi dresses in the shops, and I can’t decide whether I actually like them or whether I’m just bored of summer dresses. I love the colour of this one from M&S (though maybe not with the red shoes), or, for a bit more length, this one, but I don’t really like the flared sleeves, and I think anything too ruffley with strappy ballet shoes runs the risk of looking twee and too ladylike. Because shirt dresses are kind of masculine, they aren’t always great with boobs, and simple shirts are hard enough with the gaping risk to be honest, let alone a whole dress, but as long as there is a belt, or you can add a belt, you can size up if gaping at the boob or hip is an issue and draw it in to define your waist. I really like all of these, and I’m rather tempted by the checked pattern which seems to be in for September:

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1 ASOS: £58. 2 Zara: £39.99. 3 French Connection: £120. 4 Karen Millen: £215. 5 Ganni: £180

I also like the idea of wearing a long shirt dress, unbuttoned a little, with jeans as with the French Connection dress. I bought this dress and, although I washed it very carefully, it shrunk a little (most noticeably on the sleeves, but I roll mine up anyway), so you have to be very careful with it. So, yes, I am definitely going to be weaning myself off the jeans slowly (you don’t want to go cold turkey though, right?), but at least my steps in the right direction will be in glorious shoes.

Eco-friendly Tiger

I have had my eye on a pair of Onitsuka Tigers for some time, and I’ve been waiting for the perfect pair. I did have my eye on a yellow pair (I love yellow), but I decided the black stripe was a bit too waspish for me: I want the yellow to be mellow, not invoke a fight-or-flight response when you look at them.

A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing the Onitsuka website when I noticed they had brought out a new selection called ‘Soft Marty‘. I think it was the basic and minimalist approach to these shoes that grabbed me, coupled with the ‘micro-knifing’ technique used to give a raised texture to the accents. They were just a bit different to the millions of other trainers on the market:

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There are two models available on the UK website, the Mexico 66:

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Mexico 66: £155

and the Corsair:

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Corsair: £155

I didn’t realise this at the time, such was my fervour to put a pair on my legs, but they’re also made with leather produced without using chromium-based tanning methods. Chromium IV, used in leather tanning, is harmful to the environment and to the people doing the manufacturing. So hurrah for not using this method! However, they don’t explicitly state which leather tanning process they do use, and given the colour of them I am assuming they probably use the aldehyde method rather than vegetable tanning methods. Formaldehyde is pretty toxic to the environment and people, so I don’t think we can be claiming any bold step forward just yet, but it’s a nice try for the marketing department. I am not going all eco-warrior here and demanding we boycott leather; leather manufacturing is toxic by its nature, and as long as we protect workers and dispose of chemicals responsibly I am happy. I just don’t think non-chromium leather can make any outlandish claims about being eco-friendly if they use formaldehyde instead.

Anyway, back to the shoes… from an arthritis point of view, the Corsair would be a better choice. They’re more stable, with great cushioning and arch support and not as slim-fitting as the Mexico 66. However, with my slim feet and love of the shape I went for the Mexico 66.

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I was very impressed from the start. They’re very, very soft and light-weight, and although they don’t offer a lot of support along the foot because they’re so soft, there is enough arch support to stop me over-pronating, meaning I can walk a reasonable distance in them.

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I also love the detailing on them, the cream colour is a quite like ‘cricket whites’, which I find very pleasing, and it goes with everything, especially denim. I quite like the fact they are not just another pair of white trainer that look the same as all the others. The micro-knifed texture is a nice touch, they feel good when you hold them, which, again, I really like. The narrowness and close-fitting form, coupled with the lightness, makes me think of fencing shoes, which for me is tremendously nostalgic (yes, before I was f*cked by the arthritis, I was handy with a sword and used to represent my university at fencing), but I realise that won’t be for everyone, but the Corsair is not so fitted…OI000035.jpgThey’re also very flexible, which is great for tired arthritic feet that don’t want to work hard. I can’t imagine they will be so great when the temperature drops because the leather and soles are thin in order to accommodate the softness and flexibility, and cold is worse for arthritic bones but, for the cool summer the UK is having, they’re perfect. I also wonder about how hard-wearing they are given their delicate feel, but I can report back next year.

So, in summary, I really like these shoes and I would heartily recommend them.

Festival season: Citadel

 

Citadel is a newish one-day festival. Three years old this year and set in London, it is, on paper, a festival I would enjoy: it’s close enough to my house not to have to stay over anywhere, and it fields the sort of music that I like. However, it’s been my experience that festivals in or close to London are not as fun as those outside London. In order to live in London, people forget how to interact with each other in a civil manner, which is fine on the tube but not so fine when you’re supposed to be feeling chill listening to your favourite bands. To put in bluntly, people in London can be arseholes (and I am sure I am guilty of this at times, especially when people are STANDING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ESCALATORS. YES, IT DOES MATTER!!!), and so London-based festivals have to be pretty special to get my money.

I was tempted by Citadel this year, I really liked two of the bands — Sylvan Esso and Wild Beasts — and quite liked many of the others: Laura Marling, Nadine Shah, Foals. However, because I had seen Wild Beasts twice last year I didn’t think it was worth spending the money on seeing them again, but then I had the chance to meet an old friend there as part of her birthday celebrations (I was missing her party), so I was sold.

Being a London festival, it does mean that one has no excuse to look like you’ve just crawled out of a tent. If I owned anything sequiny I would have donned it (gonna trawl some charity shops with this in mind for next time). The weather was also being a bit of a pain: it was warm, but in that ‘going to be muggy and rain in a minute’ kind of way. I the end I wore a light dress with an awesome print, but with fish-netty leggings because it wasn’t the weather for a short skirt, and a long cardigan for layering.

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I also struggled with what to wear on the feet, even though it was technically a local festival, I actually did more walking because I used public transport, so I wanted something really comfortable. The leggings made it hard to wear sandals (and also you have to be quite brave for sandals at a festival, they can be grim and I wanted my toes covered) so I went for glittery hi-tops. Glittery hi-tops are totally festival shoes.

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Chuck Taylor All Star glitter: £85

This outfit worked really well on the day. I could take the cardigan off when it got really hot, I had an umbrella for when it rained (too hot for a waterproof), the dress was floaty and summery but the print hid the muck and beer spillages, and the leggings prevented my legs shocking any teenagers. There were a lot of people in festival gear — glitter-galore and flower crowns, but I can’t be bothered frankly. However, I can recommend an eye pencil for some grown-up sparkle at festivals or otherwise:

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Colour Chameleon champagne diamonds £19

I’ve been wearing this Charlotte Tilbury eyeshadow pencil over the summer and it’s great. Long-lasting and easy to wear, it’s got a nice starry sparkle that isn’t too over the top. I bought the champagne sparkle, which is for blue eyes, but there are other colours available. This colour does like nice with my grey–blue eyes, but it would suit most people.

So to review the festival itself, Citadel was a lot of fun, and they managed to cram a lot in. Victoria Park was a lot bigger than I had realised, but I think the organisers had tried to cram too much into the space, there wasn’t enough distance between some of the smaller stages to be out of earshot of other stages, and this was really detrimental with the spoken-word events, such as the comedy and the science talks as you just couldn’t hear them.

That said, the bands were really good. The main stage was huge and had lots of screens that were so high-definition you could read the waist size on the band members’ Levis. Wild Beasts were, of course, belting out some solid tunes, although I think they do better headlining their own smaller stage.

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Wild Beasts + camera man’s arse

They were on at a bit of an awkward time and overlapped with my favourite set that night, Sylvan Esso. I don’t have any pictures of Sylvan Esso because I was dancing so much; they really seemed to be enjoying being on stage, and it whipped everyone up. People were really getting into their songs, which created such a special moment, and one that seems to be rarer as I watch live music as I get older. So in the absence of a picture I’m posting a youtube of one of my favourite songs. I don’t love the video, but this song got everyone dancing:

Margaret Glaspy also did a really good set. Short, snappy grungey New-York rock, I was surprised as I always assumed she was folky. I will definitely be checking her out in the future.

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Margaret Glaspy

So in summary, Citadel was enjoyable, but it’s not one of my favourite festivals. Maybe because it’s a London thing but it feels kind of manic, like there were just too many people and pineapple workshops and not enough thought about the spacing of the music or the comfort capacity of the area. If you have to queue to get into a bar, you know something is wrong. Also, I hate a lot of corporate sponsorship at festivals. I realise that without it, the ticket prices would be a lot higher (it was close to £60 including postage and booking fees, which I think is reasonable for a day’s entertainment), but it really felt ridiculously in your face at Citadel. It just wasn’t needed to have Jagermeister branding all over the Jagermeister tent. All you could buy at the bar was Jagermeister (which smells so potently of regret) so it was bloody obvious. It didn’t feel like there was a square metre that didn’t have some corporate branding on it… not my thing. Also, the litter situation was atrocious. I know it’s a festival and people want to get drunk and not put things in the bin, but when I look back to other festivals such as Greenman and Bluedot, they are pristine: they have reusable cups and the litter-pickers work very hard.

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Foals playing the headline. Litter everywhere…

Walking out to the periphery to take a photograph of the main stage when Foals were playing, the were plastic cups everywhere. It looked like a rubbish dump. I took a quick snap (above) and put my camera away, it wasn’t very inspiring.

I probably would go again, given the ease of getting there, but they would have to have some really good bands playing and the bonus of catching up with some old friends, which was by far the best part of the day.

In terms of attending with a disability, it was good. the ground is smooth and flat and there are accessible toilets if you need the extra space. It was hard going, but I limped home happy.

 

 

Festival season: Bluedot 2017

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.

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3,200 tonnes of science

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:

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Jeans: whistles. Shirt: OtherStories. Trusty gig bag: Boden (all old, bag is bloody ancient). Scarf: Rockins

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.

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My daughter’s infinitely cooler converse trainers and my Clarks angels

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:

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Miro robot: cute AND clever, get a robot that can do both

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:

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Alt-J

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):

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Drop some weather report in there

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:

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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:

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It was impossible not to dance to this

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.

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Stay classy Bluedot