Scotsman Kelburn Review

THE apparent success of Kelburn Garden Party – a primarily music-based annual festival set in the lush but bohemian environment of Kelburn Castle’s grounds on the North Ayrshire coast – can be best summed up by the fact that last year it was extended to a three-day event and this year the area covered by the festival, and the number of activities available, both jumped greatly. Alongside the addition of an acoustic tipi and an alfresco performance area called the Landing, the Neverending Glen is an inspired new art trail which takes in most of the scenic woodland on the site.

Kelburn Garden Party – Kelburn Country Park
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Those with a full weekend’s camping ticket may have found the event’s typically idyllic atmosphere spoiled slightly by the gale-force winds and rain which hit the campsite early on Saturday morning, blowing tents away and playing havoc with some of the onsite catering electrics. But it’s a testament to the Dunkirk spirit on display that things were pretty much back to normal by the time the Sun split the clouds late on Saturday afternoon.

Kelburn’s spirit is laid-back verging on hippyish, with great food, plenty of family-friendly activities – including a circus skills area, a soft play barn and an activity tent for young children – and an off-the-wall taste in leftfield music. Sonic diversity was strongly in evidence, with versatile Glasgow DJs Optimo headlining the woodland-set Viewpoint Stage on the Saturday, Scots rap crews Hector Bizerk and Loki and the Kartel both booked, and Winchester indie-folk singer and Lost Map signee Rozi Plain rounding off Sunday.

In among such choice selections, there was a strong element of world sounds, with Latin-influenced orchestras Samba Ya Bamba and Rumba De Bodas featuring on the Saturday afternoon, with Victorian Trout Conspiracy adding bluesy brass-funk vibes, and indie-rockers King Eider levering in a bit of folk violin.

With unannounced interventions including Will Pickvance playing piano somewhere up on the hill and former Altern-8 raver Mark Archer hosting a Saturday evening rave deep in the woods, it was about as well-curated and diverse a line-up as you might expect from any local boutique festival.

Yet with the introduction of the Neverending Glen, an energetic hike boasting sights including a huge, playable Roland drum machine and a tree whose fruit forms notes when touched, the singularly magical air of this distinctive weekender remains something that even the most unpleasant weather can’t spoil.

David Pollock, The Scotsman
5th July 2015
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