SATURDAY at Watchet Live’s musical feast was a blazing carnival of colour and sound – the promise of ska, sweet escape and thousands of people rolling up for a seriously good time.
Small yet mighty, this year’s Watchet Live struck the perfect note.
Mighty enough to lassoo the likes of Bellowhead, Bad Manners, Geno Washington, Toploader and Boney M, and be likened to Glastonbury Festival in its infancy, yet set at the heart of the action is the riotous, family-centric Watchet Kids’ marquee, full of feathers, swashbuckling buccaneers, and children making balloon parrots, cutlasses, or diving into the sand pit.
Then there’s the fact that over 60% of Watchet Live’s audience base goes home each night with more West Somerset residents buying tickets than ever before.
Wherever its punters have been pulled from, though, the profits from the community interest company’s endeavours – ten months in the making – are all channelled into worthy causes.
In the pathway to the main stage, flags licked the breeze with their flamey tongues as the waves rollicked in the channel below.
Later, the smoke steaming out from under Tankus The Henge’s piano lid (I kid ye not) would be whipped up round the crowd, adding mystique to that apocalyptic rock outfit’s hot-blooded theatre as they sang: “Smiling makes the day go quicker…”
Too quickly, Watchet Live fans will lament, this week.
Now eight years young, Watchet is the best it has ever been, say founders Jackie and Mark Bale.
“A lot of bands are approaching us to play,” says Mark.
“We seem to have hit the radar on the festival circuit.
“People can’t believe a small town like this in Somerset can produce an event like this.”
Jackie adds: “We get comments all the time that Watchet is a breath of fresh air because we haven’t got the corporate sponsorship.
“They say it’s like a real festival.”
And with real festivals, of course, comes heart-warming ideology, which, at Watchet, found its home yet again in the Something Else Tea Tent.
There, located between the main and the Udder Stage, you could catch performances from Taunton’s own Merle Travis protégé Darren Hodge and an audience with 13-year-old Ned ‘The Kids’ Dylan, spouting forth on his ambitions to make music to change the world.
In the big top-esque Udder Stage, lined with cow print, festival scene favourites RSVP were getting a packed house into the Bhangra groove.
Minutes later, the bassline from the Dub Pistols’ main stage set began its rumble.
Then, as the anticipation mounted ahead of Bad Manners’ Anglo-ska slot, the sky sank from amber to turquoise and pitch.
We sampled crepes and burritos, rich butternut squash and chilli from the hot food stands before worming our way to the front to watch Buster Bloodvessel belt out old favourites ‘Lorraine’, ‘This Is Ska’ and ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
All in all, a perfect snapshot of a perfect weekend.
What a shame it had to end…
PICK up your copy of the West Somerset County Gazette for the full bright picture spread and report of Watchet Live 2014. With thanks to photographers Paul Gibbard and Clayton Jane.