As with most things in life, the sign of something good is how it copes with adversity, and the Galtres Festival shone through, despite the weather. The festival got off to the worst of starts with continuous heavy rain turning much of the site into a quagmire even before the start of the festival proper. Festival goers were faced with major logistical problems simply parking, and then had to face an arena totally engulfed in mud upwards of six inches deep. Despite all this, everyone involved; punters, organisers, support staff, the bands and artists, managed to produce a festival to remember. As is often the case, challenging circumstances bring out the best in people, and for this reviewer at least, this was probably one of the friendliest and welcoming festivals ever attended. If Friday & Saturday's conditions curtailed some activities, as the rain abated on Sunday, the festival emerged from the mud and positively blossomed into a cracking little event.

Galtres strives to be something different; much more than just music, with an integral Beer Festival, quality food, diverse family entertainment, and a strong creative artistic thread that permeated all aspects of the multitude of attractions on offer. In this they succeeded. Despite the conditions, the festival offered imaginative entertainment and hands-on crafts in the Angels Garden to keep the kids occupied in a dedicated family area, which was complemented by magic shows, storytelling, and puppeteers, amongst a host of other attractions in various locations around the site.  There was even a unicycle entertainer, showing true British endeavour, entertaining the crowds in deep, deep, mud. It’s the unplanned little happenings that you stumble across at festivals which make the day. FFA were particularly impressed with The Magic Ball Man (no seriously) fascinating the crowds over the weekend with some virtuoso contact juggling. It had to be seen to be believed. Excellent stuff.

The beer festival was a huge success with a throbbing scene in and around the beer tent; conditions outside may have contributed to the camaraderie of course! Promising over 100 beers, ales, and ciders, with a price point of only £3, they did a roaring trade. So much so that they were running on reserve tanks late Saturday night - luckily additional suppliers arrived on Sunday to save the day. As much of the revenue is allocated to charity, we felt rather noble in our quaffing!

Quality pervades all things Galtres, and the food on offer was a cut above typical festival faire, and again reasonably priced, if a little sparse later on the Sunday evening. This reviewer has long championed the northern festival scene for value for money, and again Galtres delivered to prove the point. 

Musically, Friday highlights for FFA were main stage headliners British Sea Power, who produced a power set to get the damp crowd dancing. Accompanied onstage by the BSP Bear (surely the warmest outfit on a cold wet night) Yan the man sported a York City shirt proffered from the crowd to deliver a superb, almost orchestral, set with ‘No Lucifer’ in particular bringing the house down. Again, the making of a great festival is the late night scene (if any!) once the main stages finish. In this respect Galtres positively shone, with the Little Top and the Arts Barge tent in particular producing some outstanding vibes. Bush & McCluskey were the highlights for FFA over in The Little Top, with a set full of cutting social commentary and satire, whilst also extremely funny. Some of the almost John Cooper Clarke Manc ‘esque rapping was profound and ridiculously humorous in equal measure. Spot on.

Saturday saw a wealth of talent over the half dozen stages. The Chris Helme Band probably stole the show for us after being granted a later, main stage, slot after his storming solo performance last year. Helme produced some classic moments, at one point being joined by the guys from Shed 7 with Witter, Helme, and the boys belting out great back to back versions of ‘Going for Gold’ and ‘Love is the Law’. Saturday main stage headliners The Charlatans proved just what a polished live band they are with a hugely entertaining set to close the Duke’s Stage. John Otway delivered his usual entertaining mayhem in the Little Top, and, at midnight, the stage was given over to The Habit; a collective of extremely gifted local musicians. Vibes like this are what made Galtres into a something rather special. No idea who they were (& we don’t think they did by the end of the night!), but artists grouped and regrouped, sharing the stage with one another to produce some damn fine music. Drummers in the audience joined in to beat plastic dustbins, as the number of musicians on stage grew, sometimes in mid song. FFA had a ball!

Sunday saw the best of the weather and a fine set from Jonny & the Rizlas on The Firkin Stage. Once again, the quality of performance away from the main stages never failed to impress, as the guys knocked out some stunning R&B fuelled good time music including a brilliant take on ‘Shakin’ All Over’. The Men They Couldn’t Hang provided an excellent lead in to the Levellers on The Dukes’ Stage.  Playing a set celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ‘Levelling The Land’ album, these old stagers were simply splendid. One of THE festival bands over many a year, they worked the crowd brilliantly interspersing the album tracks with other classics such as the ubiquitous ‘What a Beautiful Day’ and an extended encore featuring a stomp along  version of ‘Dirty Davey’. A privilege to be there to watch these consummate professionals at work. Maybe Monday’s public holiday helped the atmosphere along, but, unlike many festivals, late night Sunday was no jaded affair.  Via the bar, where FFA encamped most of the weekend to make Black Dragon cider their alcoholic drug of choice, we again stumbled upon a brilliant scene going down in The Arts Barge tent where Ginger Soul Brothers (a.k.a. Andy Stones & Dave Keegan) produced a great sing-along session.  As with Keegan’s performance on Saturday with The Habit (for it was he!), various musicians joined the guys on the sofa to get the heaving crowd dancing. ‘Unexpected and great fun’…… Indeed a fitting epitaph for a great, if muddy, festival weekend! 


Article by Barrie Dimond