The Wickerman Festival has been going for eleven years now, and inspires a warm and loyal following of fans that return year on year. And it's not hard to see why. With an always eclectic line-up, a noticeably safe and friendly atmosphere, and plenty to do by day and night, Wickerman lends itself perfectly to festival goers of all ages - as evidenced by the huge number of children who are brought along each year by parents not ready to trade in a festival-going lifestyle for stay-at-home domesticity.
Arriving at the site on Friday afternoon, we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by blue skies and warm sunshine – quite a change from the heavy downpours and wintry temperatures we've been experiencing lately. Well done, The Weather. Getting into the festival was a smooth enough process, as was finding a space to pitch a tent in the large camping area.
There are a few camping grounds at Wickerman, with a quieter, family camping area located up at the back past the acoustic village and a – let's face it – pretty noisy site next to the dance village. We chose this one. There's also a posh 'glamping' field full of teepees and yurts, providing a more boutique camping experience for those who don't mind splashing a bit of cash.
Tent erected, airbed inflated (who needs a yurt anyway?), neighbours greeted, and we were off into the festival arena to get our bearings.
The site is manageable in size, with the Summerisle main stage happily situated in a natural, sloping amphitheatre and towered over by the 40ft Wickerman sculpture – this year taking on an Olympian theme with torch held aloft and winged shoes. Other main arenas include the Scooter tent; with a predominantly ska/punk line-up, the Bass Camp dance arena consisting of the Skiddle.com tent, the Em-It tent and the Vinyl Frontier outdoor DJ booth, and a smattering of other indoor stages hosting everything from acoustic acts to reggae.
The first act of the day for us was Cast. We took advantage of the dry ground – a rarity of this summer's festival season so far - to perch on the grassy slope facing the main stage and enjoy the last of the afternoon's sunshine as John Power's merry band of Liverpudlian Britpoppers took to the stage. Fact: everyone knows all the words to at least one Cast song, even if they don't know they do. Newer material was well received by the buoyant crowd, but really we were all there to hear hits from their most popular album All Change - and the band gladly obliged us; rattling through 'Finetime' 'Alright' and 'Sandstorm' like it was '95 all over again and finishing with a swaying, singalong rendition of huge hit 'Walkaway'.
Next up on the main stage were Brighton rockers Levellers, but we decided to forego the guitars for the decks and pay our first visit to the Skiddle.com dance tent – this year named '2012: A Bass Odyssey' – where Liverpool DJ Yousef was throwing out some big tech-house beats to an already packed tent.
Suitably warmed up now, we headed back to the main stage where excitement was mounting for the headliners of the night - Scissor Sisters. As probably one of the festival's biggest bookings to date, the New York collective drew a predictably huge crowd, and the anticipation hanging in the dark night air was electrifying as the spangly glam-rock-nu-disco five piece took to the stage amidst a blinding light display.
The group launched straight into an energetic showcase of lesser-known tracks from new album Magic Hour, mixed together into a highly charged electro disco medley of danceable rhythms and glitter-coated routines. Way to make an impact. The crowd was hooked and lapped up the rest of the set, which continued at the same pace. Better known hits from the band's first few albums came thick and fast as the set gathered momentum – to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd.
As the Scissor Sisters brought their set galloping into a triumphant finale with new hit 'Shady Love', we made an early getaway to find a spot in the Skiddle.com tent ahead of Steve Lawler's highly anticipated headline appearance. As we arrived, Skiddle.com's 2011 resident DJ of the year Ginny Koppenhol was in the thick of an intensely enjoyable electro-house set, interacting enthusiastically with the packed out, appreciative crowd who were loving every moment.
Rumours that Steve Lawler was running late began circulating, and as time went on it became apparent that Ginny was going to have to hold the fort until he arrived. Not that anyone minded though. Ginny continued to build the momentum, and had the tent whipped up into an electrified frenzy by the time our esteemed headliner took to the stage some 30 minutes late.
Unfortunately, Steve Lawler failed to maintain the pace, turning the stage lights down so that he was practically concealed in darkness and playing a deep, techy set that somehow didn’t seem to sit well with what had been played before. The crowd began to thin out, but thankfully Jordan Suckley was on hand to pick things back up afterwards.
Heads spinning, we made our exit at around 3am and returned to our tent where the bass continued to resound through the campsite until the early hours.
- Date: Saturday 21st July 2012
- Event: The Wickerman Festival at Festival Site
- Venue: Festival Site
- Artists: Jordan Suckley, Yousef, Steve Lawler, D.O.D, David Dunne, Ki Creighton, Kid Blast, Ginny Koppenhol, Sonny Wharton, Dance Lady Dance, Crazy P, Newton Faulkner, Scissor Sisters, Texas, Kassidy, Organic DJS, Levellers, Cast, Duke Special, Graeme Hawley
Saturday arrived, bringing with it the sunshine, and after a relaxed morning around the campsite we headed back into the arena in search of calming remedies to bring us back to life. An Oreo milkshake happily obliged, and we wandered up to the quirky tents of the acoustic village where the soothing, folky sounds of Rachel Ade and then Hailey Beavis swirled gently around our sore heads like a comforting blanket.
Hangovers depleted, we decided to find a sunny spot near the main stage, where Manchester based Morecombe quartet The Heartbreaks were just getting started. Festival goers lounged on the grass in the sunshine as the band's catchy hooks, jangly guitars and Elvis Costello-esque vocals floated out across the arena, with tracks such as 'Liar, My Dear' and 'Polly' inspiring some frenzied dance moves amongst those that could be bothered to get on their feet.
Next up were Manchester's up-and-coming ska-punk revivalists Janice Graham Band, who have been courting attention from all fronts in the last 12 months with their exciting live sets and unique multi-instrumental sound that combines ska, reggae, punk, indie and rock n' roll, and wraps it all up in a canny 21st century package. Clearly the word had spread, and the Scooter tent welcomed a large crowd, all eager to join the Janice Graham party.
It was then back to the main stage for us, where cheeky Dundee four-piece The View, now on their fourth studio album would-ya-believe, smashed out a high-octane selection of tracks from their six year career – the unavoidable highlights being 'Shock Horror' and, of course, the anthemic 'Same Jeans'.
Saturday's Scot-heavy line-up culminated with a headline set by iconic indie-rockers Texas, fronted by the undisputed Queen of Britpop Ms Sharleen Spiteri. Drawing an almighty crowd which we couldn't help feeling must have left the rest of the festival site near-empty, the band showcased a rousing selection of hits from their 20-year career, all delivered with Sharleen's effortless cool and engaging patter that got the home crowd interacting with every element of the set. The band finished with a joyous rendition of the Elvis classic 'Suspicious Minds', leaving the crowd on a high for the midnight burning of the Wickerman.
As the climax of the Wickerman Festival, the annual burning of the 40ft Wickerman sculpture is an undeniably exciting and magical moment, bringing the entire festival crowd together to watch the flames consume the imposing structure, while an impressive firework display explodes against the black sky. The Wickerman lighting was followed by a DJ set from Mike Skinner, who took to the main stage amidst an eerie expulsion of smoke and light, carefully crafting an atmospheric, dubby set as the Wickerman slowly burned to ashes on its nearby hill.
We finished the festival back in the Skiddle.com tent, where Crazy P Soundsystem were delighting the huge gathered crowd with a sexy DJ set of groovy disco house, enhanced by the silky vocals of beautiful frontwoman, Danielle Moore. The party continued well into the night with a breathtakingly high-tempo house and techno set by Sonny Wharton, and with smiles on our faces and ants in our pants we danced back to our tent to sleep off what had been another incredible Wickerman weekend.
Roll on 2013!
Words: Jayne Robinson
The next Wickerman Festival will take place on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th July 2013.
Tickets are no longer available for this event
You can find these artists/djs playing at the following events: