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Beautiful Days 2012

Much like Secret Garden Party, Beautiful Days celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. I went to 3 of the first 5 of these but I felt that the festival was getting rather samey and so I hadnít made the long trek to Devon since 2007. However weíd heard several glowing reports from friends over the past few summers and felt it was probably worth another go. When we arrived on the Thursday I was disappointed to find that the majority of the venues were exactly as they had been 5 years ago. The main stage, Big Top, Little Big Top, Bimble Inn and Tiny Tea Tent were completely unchanged in set up or location, despite a significant increase in numbers to an apparent 13,500 punters, and Iím sure that a lot of the inflatables are identical to the ones which adorned the site when I first visited in 2004. Heavy rain and a dearth entertainment on the Thursday night did little to raise our spirits and we retired early to a persistent patter on the van roof.

However once the rain stopped on Friday we were able to see that there has been some expansion of the site in the intervening years and a smattering of new attractions to enjoy. A theatre tent and a bandstand are the main features in a new area on the Eastern side of the valley, which was previously reserved solely for car parks, tents and campervans, and there was also a small but interesting water garden under the shade of the trees near the Big Top. Headliners on the main stage were Frank Turner for the younger punters and Public Image Limited for the older punks. The Sunday night slot was, of course, reserved for our hosts, The Levellers, who no doubt churned out the same predictable set of ďLevelling The LandĒ based songs they have done for the last 9 Beautiful Days so we didnít bother with them and watched Attila The Stockbroker in the theatre instead.

All the above sounds a bit negative but in all honesty I had a great time. The weather cheered up significantly throughout the weekend and we were able to don sandals and sit on the grass for the ďheartsĒ themed fancy dress on Sunday. We discovered a couple of gems too, including Phantom Limb. Itís a pity that more people werenít in the Little Big Top to enjoy their soulful set. There was an excellent selection of food stalls across the site and plenty of tat for the retail junkies. Toilets were generally clean, despite the mud, but could have been more plentiful for the ladies and there were even lengthy queues for the gentís urinals at peak times. The local Otter brewery provided their usual selection of decent ales at relatively reasonable prices and there were a couple of quaffable ciders on offer as well.

But in retrospect itíll probably be at least another 5 years before I return again to Beautiful Days. Despite generally excellent organisation, the whole thing feels very retro and unimaginative, especially with the phenomenal Boomtown Fair of the previous weekend still so fresh in the memory. Itís obviously still as popular as ever, having sold out in record time this year, and I would guess that itís the one festival that has benefitted more than any other from Glastonbury taking a fallow year. Certainly the endless detestable rows of interlocked camping chairs, green wellies and picnic blankets on display in the main arena made it feel very much like Worthy Farmís Pyramid Field at times. And that isnít necessarily a good thing. If youíre not living on the edge youíre taking up too much room!
UV Gardens
UV Gardens
Bandstand Belly Dancer
Bandstand Belly Dancer
Big Puppet 1
Big Puppet 1
Big Puppet 2
Big Puppet 2
Hobo Jones
Hobo Jones
& The Junkyard Dogs
& The Junkyard Dogs
Singing Lions
Singing Lions
In The Bimble Inn
In The Bimble Inn
Friday Was Very Sloppy
Friday Was Very Sloppy
Ideal Attire
Ideal Attire
The Skints
The Skints
Chris Wood
Chris Wood
Dubs At Dusk
Dubs At Dusk
Sunset
Sunset
Theatre Field Creature
Theatre Field Creature
Toots & The Maytals
Toots & The Maytals
What Is A Frank Turner Please?
What Is A Frank Turner Please?
Baskery
Baskery
I Love These Swedish Sisters
I Love These Swedish Sisters
Crowns
Crowns
Clever Topiary
Clever Topiary
Blooming Marvellous
Blooming Marvellous
Big Bug
Big Bug
Union Starr
Union Starr
Bellowhead
Bellowhead
With John Boden
With John Boden
Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson
Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson
Performing Thick As A Brick
Performing "Thick As A Brick"
Public Image Limited
Public Image Limited
Hello Sam
Hello Sam
The Tiny Tea Tent
The Tiny Tea Tent
Interior Decor
Interior Decor
Sunday Sunshine
Sunday Sunshine
Ageing Site Art
Ageing Site Art
Heart Surgeon
Heart Surgeon
Fabulous Headgear
Fabulous Headgear
Phantom Limb
Phantom Limb
The Immensely Talented Yolanda Quartey
The Immensely Talented Yolanda Quartey
Heavy Pegging
Heavy Pegging
I HATE YOU ALL!
I HATE YOU ALL!
Reel Big Fish
Reel Big Fish
Got The Crowd Jumping
Got The Crowd Jumping
Hi Fives
Hi Fives
Alabama 3
Alabama 3
The Reverend D Wayne Love
The Reverend D Wayne Love
Main Stage
Main Stage
Studying The Programme
Studying The Programme
Ian Cognito
Ian Cognito
Attila
Attila
Fire Breathing Dragon
Fire Breathing Dragon
The Usual Fireworks To Finish
The Usual Fireworks To Finish