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Review: Wickerman Festival 10th Anniversary

Wickerman has been a calendar fixture in Scotlandís summer for a full decade now. And from the off, itís easy to see why.

Jayne Robinson

Date published: 3rd Aug 2011

Reaching a 10th anniversary isn’t easy for any festival to do.

What is perhaps even harder however, is to continue to grow and progress whilst maintaining all of the original ethics the founder mapped out. After all, in an age where money talks louder than ever, ‘selling out’ has become the done thing.

Wickerman has been a calendar fixture in Scotland’s summer for a full decade now. And from the off, it’s easy to see why.

Blissfully lost in an unfamiliar land, we are surrounded by strangers that could easily become friends. There is an air of tranquillity somewhere amidst the live music coming from the different stages at all angles, the playful antics of children and the activities galore that everyone and anyone can join in. Hula hooping, anyone?

The family-friendly atmosphere not only endorsed all of this fun and games – it also managed to successfully combat the standard festival issue of litter, albeit with absolutely no signage. Subtle fenced boxes acted as bins and with no guidance or real effort, the arena was kept tidy and the campsite spotless; kids following their parents’ lead by disposing of packaging and waste like true eco-warriors.

For those too, like me, that perhaps find themselves now further removed from teenage wasteland and closer to the new family lifestyle, Wickerman is a dream realised. You don’t have to surrender your festival-going days when miniature selfs take over – just bring the offspring and let them start theirs early!

The main stage is a well-located affair. At the foot of a gentle slope, all is visible for as far back as you’d like to sit or stand. Indeed, this great viewpoint meant that the core area was never too crowded. In fact, the field’s accidental acoustics meant that the acts could be heard perfectly back in the camping area.

Friday’s proceedings are well underway before Noisettes put in a noteworthy performance, most likely one that garnered a fair few new fans in the middle of the afternoon. Perhaps forgotten due to not releasing anything for a couple of years, the TV advert smoothies of ‘Don’t Upset the Rhythm (Go Baby Go)’ and ‘Never Forget You’ have many in the crowd saying, “Ahhh, I didn’t know they did this!” Wonderfully acclimatising to the music, the sun comes out.

Next up, those indie-popsters The Hoosiers. Forever ones to get a crowd going, it’s no surprise to see these guys at festivals. Forget pathetic fallacy and weather adjusting peoples’ moods, ‘Goodbye Mr A’ and ‘Worried About Ray’ get some serious rejoicing occurring at the front.

The night grows young with the old; post-punks Echo & The Bunnymen enjoying one of several outdoor slots this summer and Manchester’s finest, James, all burrowing out near-Greatest Hits sets. Slight sound issues mar the two, as does torrential downpour and wondrous lightning for the latter. But then again, what’s a British festival without a spot of rain?

Those hardcore enough are free to party until gone sunrise with Skiddle’s own tent and the rest of Bass Camp playing host to the likes of Riva Starr and other renowned DJs. Like a whole separate festival, this corner of the site is where the real party is at throughout the day and night.

Greeted by another beautiful day, the carnival samba sounds of Kings of Marcumba awaken the ears from midday. It’s then the turn of Scotland’s own, MOPP, who produce a refreshing dance take on indie-pop. Keyboards and synths might be still what bands deem to be cool at the minute, but few use them as courageously trance-flavoured. Try them.

Classic rockers, GUN, are really making the most of their comeback since splitting up in 1997. They’ve been gigging in various guises now since 2008 and their new songs from EP ‘Popkiller’ sound even more punchy than their original material. Still life in the Glaswegians yet.

Fellow Scots Twin Atlantic are ones for the younger crowd perhaps, with their modern alt-rock stylings provoking mass energy down stageside. They are followed by the ever-proud Yorkshire lads, Pigeon Detectives, complete with a white rose flag-bearing fan. More indie chart hits please the revellers as the sun starts to hide.

The Coral may have been off most people’s radar of late, but they’re alive and well. Debuting a few new songs, their psychedelic roots are re-emerging and they sound good. Headliners Feeder chug out plenty of their anthemic hits before attentions are turned to The Wickerman himself.

As tradition, the crafted statue is set alight, producing magical flames and an unforgettable image. It might symbolise something different for each person, but it mesmerises regardless. Spectacular fireworks follow, before Craig Charles of Corrie fame breaks into his acclaimed funk and soul DJ set.

There’s another super-late curfew for the hardcore in and around Bass Camp; X- Press 2 impressing by all accounts as many work out that the next day is Sunday and there’s a whole day to recover before work beckons. Genius planning for Friday and Saturday line-ups.

Wickerman burnt to ashes, people of all ages gleeful after a great weekend. Forget T in the Park – you can see exactly why folk have stayed loyal to this particular Scottish festival and why it continues to grow in its own success.

See you next year!

Words: Daniel Alston

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