Pembrokeshire is absolutely, stunningly, amazingly beautiful and a very relaxed and cool place to be; it’s like living in a snapshot of another older, wiser time – only, erm, in colour. A place of such sacred beauty deserves a jewel at its heart and Festivals For All may well have discovered it in a field near the ancient Welsh capital of St David’s. Unearthed in a Field was a stunning festival and managed to capture that intangible mystical power of the land and channel it in expressions of words, music, dance and song that, well, simply blew this Reviewer away. Some festivals strive for years without success in creating a VIBE, a feeling of oneness with the environment, a shared love of the universe and every entity within it. In only its fifth year, Unearthed simply excelled. It absolutely nailed that vibe thang. It had the buzz. Beautiful people doing beautiful things. The vibe within us and without us was all.
Now don’t get me wrong, amongst all the New Age mindfulness the weekend was kicking with some fabulous beats. The Gods came down to that field to play, but so did a ragtag crowd of allsorts – all ages, all world views and belief systems – from new agers to the local kids looking for, and finding, a wonderful space for one hell of a party. It all worked together – humanity at its finest. A genuine community.
Set in a stunning location, the festival site is well organised and thought out, with effective artworks, acceptable facilities, and easily accommodated around a thousand happy souls. One large covered stage, plenty of chill out zones, workshop tents, a few eateries (all veggie / vegan fayre), a bar selling lovely locally sourced Pembrokeshire ales & firewater, and the wonderful Drenchtown scene – a discreet area with its own sound system, sauna, hot tubs, campfire and various states of undress. A fabulous place to laze around the fire, or the hammock bedecked garden, and soak up some fine Reggae rhythms. The Sun Gods smiled all weekend but there were plenty of shaded zones across the site to escape the blistering heat of the day.
The ethos of the event is ‘from the material to the ethereal’ … to create a space to explore and expand within. Soo… lots of music, workshops, talks, and happenings in an environment guaranteed to pull the multiple threads together to create a bigger whole; providing an internal and external safe space to explore your surroundings and yourself.
Musically the festival is themed to reflect and enhance that ethos, and majors on World, Roots, and (Dub) Reggae soundscapes. From hazy, lazy sunny days to 3am stomps, the festival delivered a heady mixture of chilled sounds and pounding beats. Unearthed is not just a music festival of course. There is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of talks, demonstrations, workshops, and frankly bizarre malarkey going down in the Avalon Rising tent, Workshop Yurt and in the stalls and fields to fill the weekend. You could make a Longbow, take in some Tree Meditation, get down with Shamanic spirits, or indulge in an impromptu flash spoon carving session on the campsite… Wonderful stuff!
On the value front Unearthed is unbeatable - £55 Early birds (£85 later) gets you in for the three night weekend. To cap it all – they allow camping on the Wednesday before the event until Tuesday after, providing an excellent opportunity to explore the wider North Pembrokeshire coast … consistently voted some of the most beautiful on the planet.
FFA Reviewers thought it all rather wonderful; we had a ball. We lost track of time (Always. A. Good. Thing.) and simply cruised through the weekend drifting from experience to experience collecting our good-time nectar. Memories are hazy but here are some of our highlights in a weekend of extremely high calibre artists, entertainers, and strange goings-on…
Friday was hot, on every level, and a day packed with fine music and shenanigans in the tents. FFA sought the shade but Matthew Frederick wowed us on the Steppen Roots main stage, particularly when sparking up some damn fine honkytonk blues piano… and included some tracks he’d written at the ripe old age of thirteen (smarty pants!). A great start to proceedings. Avalon Rising kicked off with a session by Fishguard’s community led and internationally renowned Transition Surplus Food Café (another Pembrokeshire jewel) before FFA were captivated by the first of many wonderful Story Times from the superb Hedgespoken. Excellent tales spun from the dropdown side of a converted horse box! Oh the power of stories to transport you to another time and place… one of our highlight experiences. The brass heavy dub roots of Mount Nakara absolutely rocked out a bouncing main stage to a great crowd reaction. The site was jumping. A great set before the excellent Maya Mitten laid down dub upon dub in the 1:30am slot. A remarkable woman.
Broiling Saturday and FFA again cruised the strip. Cynefin was pretty much on the button with intense thoughtful musings over on the main stage before another wonderful story over at Hedgespoken. Later, Natty and the Rebelship knocked out one of the sets of the festival. Fantastic world music soulful vibes against a reggae backdrop; the guy has a mighty stage presence and had the crowd eating from his hand. You could feel the love that night. One of the best crowd reactions of the weekend. Follow that with Solo Banton and his posse’s brand of polished goodtime rap and beats and it was an absolutely stormer of a Saturday night. FFA were known to dance!
Blimey. Sunday was a cauldron of heat and the early doors mainstage acts epitomised what Unearthed in a Field is all about; fine happenings that somehow, magically, managed to capture the mood of the moment perfectly. The Goat Roper Band laid down the marker with a cracking set of fine Country Blues to set the stage for what was arguably one of THE sets of the festival from the delightful Jodie Marie. The lady was magnificent with a voice as pure as the driven snow. This is a rootsy blues singer-songwriter of immense talent but it was her rendition of Tim Hardin’s ‘Reason To Believe’ that brought the house down and ended with a standing ovation. Lovely.
Some splendid folk-rock from the excellent Sky Barkers set the scene for the truly wonderful I See Rivers. Again up there for set of the festival and certainly moment of the festival. This Norwegian folk-pop trio lay down the most beautiful vocal harmonies these old reviewer ears have heard for many a year. Fragile, ethereal stripped back wordscapes simply delivered with minimal instrumentation or acapella. When they dispersed into the audience to sing ‘I Think I Like You’ amongst the enthralled crowd, in that one moment artist-audience became as one. Everything combined. All was good with the world. The sun shone. Brothers and Sisters united. A special little festie moment. Now that’s the Unearthed vibe!
Some raucous audacious beats and another Hedgespoken story saw us through to the traditional centrepiece wood sculpture burning. A cracking bonfire and a lovely smoky finale to festivities with some scenes positively Wicker Man as the Children Of The Fields tripped out to the festival spirits around the fire.
So there you go. A wonderful festival. Unearthed may perhaps have a niche appeal for some, but the organisers successfully manage to create an ethereal space in those sacred fields of Pembrokeshire that everyone should find a place for in their hearts… FFA were truly blessed.
Article & Sauna Snap by Barrie Dimond
Images courtesy of Peter Bounds Photography (except image 2). Check out more of Pete’s excellent photography Here.