Giving a UK festival a summery name might seem like tempting fate, and this weekend the English Summer did indeed deliver its traditional grey skies, ceaseless downpours and rivers of mud onto Sunrise Celebration 2012. But the British Festivalgoer thrives on adversity, and the atmosphere at this small, sustainable festival was as sunny as the sky wasn’t.
Taking place on an organic farm in Somerset, Sunrise has a strong environmental angle, and if desired you could spend all day learning how to whittle and listening to talks on composting, but there was also plenty of the more usual festival activity of getting drunk and dancing. With a refreshing lack of corporate logos anywhere, organic scrumpies and lagers at the bars and veggie burgers on sale everywhere, it’s a very different festival experience. The biggest shock was discovering that compost toilets smell less terrible than conventional portaloos.
The music ranged from funk to folk to afrobeat to reggae, and the dance tent kept the psy-trance going till late into the early morning. On Friday night The Egg got the main stage dancing happily with their disco-techno-indie noise, while more soothing folk sounds filled the other tents. Saturday’s stand-out was Ariya Astrobeat Orchestra, a horn-led funk act that kept everyone happy even as an apocalyptic storm began battering the site. Sunday’s music was enjoyed while up to the ankles in mud, but the atmosphere hardly seemed to suffer for that – the sunny pop-reggae of Will and the People seemed the perfect soundtrack to the afternoon – the sun even came out, and as long as you forgot that your wellies were full of muck it almost felt like summer.
Sunrise is going for something different, and it achieves it. The lively site is full of colour and action, and the stalls and traders are not the ones you’re used to seeing. As well as the bands, there are workshops and talks to enjoy throughout the afternoon. There are familes and kids enjoying themselves all day, and a real party atmosphere at night. The mood is as friendly, relaxed and upbeat as you could wish, and if the music programme is solid rather than thrilling, the great atmosphere more than makes up for it.