Dates: 8th - 11th August 2019
Location: Houghton Hall, Norfolk
This electronic music festival is a newbie on the block; but it hasn’t taken long to become immensely popular and tickets have sold out rapidly for the second instalment. The event is curated by Fabric artist-in-residence Craig Richards, who is renowned for his unique and scintillating sound compositions. Produced by the people behind Gottwood, Houghton Festival has a tremendous team behind it so it’s really no surprise that everyone’s clamouring for a ticket.
Above all else though, Houghton Festival is distinctive for being the first festival in the UK to have a 24 hour music license. At no point does silence descend on this little part of Norfolk – at least, not during the festival weekend. There’s a refreshing sense of spontaneity and improvisation that is often missing in other events, which leads to unexpected but excellent collaborations and musical arrangements. The organisers are committed to maintaining quality over quantity, and as such have strict regulations regarding the number of tickets sold – and – who they are sold to. In January 2018, advance sales for the August festival became available only to those who attended in 2017. That sense of exclusivity simply works to make it even more desirable.
“By presenting music, art and a promised experience in an honest and restrained way meant those four days in Norfolk last year were not only magical but they were believable. The setting proved to be nothing but perfect. Our aim is to build on the foundations of last year’s success, but instead of growing we’re sticking to the story with minor improvements and a strong belief in the initial concept. Artists, DJs and musicians will be presented with meritocracy and equality. Everyone who performs will be given a chance to shine and everyone who attends will be treated to the best of everything.”
There are nine stages spread out over the vast, bucolic splendour of Houghton Hall. It’s a fabulous juxtaposition – the heady, modern beats of Richards’ carefully curated line-ups against the peaceful, ageless setting of a conventional English stately home. Some of the more memorable venues include The Quarry; a deep pit with walls of trees girdling the edges – which further emphasize the astounding acoustics and atmosphere, and then the more idyllic backdrop of The Pavilion, which rests magnificently on the shores of a wide, serene lake. At night, the reflections of all the lights glimmer encouragingly back up from the dark water. And then for a complete about-turn, there’s The Warehouse, an industrial style space which delights in the harder side of techno. Further venues include the Magic Carpet stage, the Brilliant Corners tent and the more secret Terminus stage.
People will remark time and again that the UK festival scene has become saturated and that there’s no room for any more – but the resounding opinion in the aftermath of the first Houghton Festival is that this is the exception. On top of the non-stop music and superlative DJ roster, there’s a section for health and well-being, art and meditation. These additions to festival life are now standard but no less important. Food and drink too, have to be excellent if there’s any chance of competing with other industry greats – here too, Houghton have succeeded in giving their audiences just what they want.
Accommodation at Houghton Festival is equally outstanding. Visitors can choose from a variety of different options, but there’s no doubt that bell tents and Lotus Belles are by far the best of the bunch. Of course, standards are high across the spectrum and you shouldn’t expect anything less than memory foam mattresses and luxury cotton sheets. But on top of that, you should, you must, treat yourself to the inimitable romance and incomparable luxury of sleeping under the sleek designs and generous curves of cream canvas that make up our magnificent bell tents.