Down the rabbit hole of Norfolk’s electronic woodland utopia.
A couple of weekends ago, the heavens opened over a small portion of East Anglia’s idyllic countryside. And nope, not a light smattering. We’re talking biblical, get-the-ark-out, vengeful rain.
But you’d be wrong in thinking that anyone’s spirits were dampened. Thousands of hedonistic sequin-toting revellers had descended upon Norfolk’s Houghton Hall for a four-day electronic music extravaganza, and a bit of water wasn’t going to do a thing. Hoods up, a shrug of the shoulders, and drinks in both fists pointed towards the sky served as a two fingers up to the elements. Business as usual and the soaked masses danced the night (and day) away in the dense woods. What rain?
Only in its second year, there’s a reason that Houghton Festival is repeatedly being touted as one of the UK’s best new festivals. Here’s seven reasons why the newbie is a big-hitter…
Alighting the shuttle bus from King’s Lynn station, incredulous festival-goers ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the vast remoteness of the location and the 18th-century hall’s impressive grounds. A common announcement: “It’s just so bloody green!” (a disbelief, fyi, that only stems from years holed up in London’s slate-coloured urban jungle). Four magical days were spent stumbling over roots, winding around trees and a fairytale lake, as well as absolutely zero phone signal – casting an Alice In Wonderland down-the-rabbit-hole spell over the proceedings.
If stamina’s your strong suit, Houghton will definitely appeal to your sensibilities. A 24-hour music license means there’s round-the-clock fun to be had, and trust me, fun was rife. Joy Orbison, Seth Troxler and Ben UFO headed up a stellar electronic line-up, with an emphasis on long sets. Peak moment? Horse Meat Disco taking to the Derren Smart stage (named after the late London promoter) for five hours worth of pretty balmy dance antics (yep, the sun finally made an appearance).
Everyone knows that food and festivals go hand in hand, with endless trucks lined up to tempt you with wares you’d never even sniff at back at home. However, the likelihood is, that out of pure laziness you’ll probably find yourself tucking into your fourth styrofoam tray of cheesy chips, and be bloody grateful too. Not with views like this. The Nest was one of Houghton’s two pop-up restaurants where you could enjoy a three-course meal overlooking the gorge views of the lake. Be rude not to.
Damien Hirst and a rainy UK festival probably aren’t exactly the likeliest of pairings. Yet, like a mirage appearing in front of the eyes, sculptures from the iconic contemporary artist, sprung up left right and centre. Highlight? Hirst’s biology lesson-style vivisected pregnant woman, standing at a casual 67 feet high.
A festival stage can either propel the night into euphoric dance hooliganism or blur it all into a never-ending traipse between sets. The latter is no fun at all. Luckily when it came to incredible stage set-ups, Houghton did not come to play. The Old Gramaphone provided a constant source of beats when the rain decided to plough us all into the ground. The Derren Smart stage made for a sun-drenched playground for day-time revellers. Eighties-disco was turned up to 100 in Giant Steps. And The Pavillion? Magic memories were made in the open-air stage, where the thick foliage enveloped dancers in a strange intimacy.
It’s the day after the night before. Your mouth’s in a state of perpetual drought, your eyes are rejecting the sun and your legs actually physically ache from all the angular shapes thrown (who knew that was a thing?) No problem. That’s the thing about Houghton. You can go hard, or alternatively, make your home in The Orchard, a blissful hammock-filled refuge, which looks like something straight out of a Peter Rabbit book, except with more hungover people. Have a nap, then roll straight into disco yoga, life drawing or sound bath meditation.
As if being subject to consistently stellar sound waves all weekend wasn’t enough, Trevino’s – the festival’s fully functioning record store/social space – fully switched up the game when it came to music appreciation. Think cosy sofas, DJ booths, vinyls galore, plus a £40,000 sound system that kept ears reverberating for days after the last shuttle bus home.