Before going, I had been told it was a festival for a bunch of hippies. This for me was a plus. I was never given the specifics on what to expect, but my judgmental mind led me to believe I would meet families made up of relatives and siblings with long, unkept hair, flairs and each one emitting their own... individual essence.
There was such a lovely welcome to those arriving that, despite the drizzling, dreary weather, gave hope to a long, happy, relaxing weekend.
An old double-decker picked people up from the little train station of Market Harborough in Nottinghamshire, cheerful voluntary workers confirmed tickets at the entrance with big smiles and a chuckle then pointed the way to the 'love chamber'; a tunnel which opened upon the camping field. For some reason (maybe the fact that I'm a big Harry Potter fan) I felt as if I had apparated to The Quidditch World Cup. Banners fluttered crazily high in the air as people carelessly threw their bags into their newly pitched tents, eager to make their way to the city of dazzling lights.
I don't know about other festivals, but what I heard on the Shambala site was that it began with a group of around 150 people with a sound system and a field. From this, they have managed to get up to 14,000 visitors in 2011 (that figure is not official, just what I heard from a random guy I met at a tree while waiting for a friend). If this number is accurate, the organizers have achieved quite a bit. They recycle almost all waste, invest in compost loos, use solar, wind and biodiesel for resources and were awarded the highest ever 'industry green' by Julie's Bycicle
So, we pitched our tent conveniently behind the portaloos - at a considerable distance of course - paces away from the FREE 'luxurey showers' and a reasonable stretch away from the small village of pleasures where the music, arts and crafts were being held. Within an hour we were asked to join the circle of the noisy crowd (which we declined) and were kindly offered a variety of uppers, downers and confounders (which we also declined... bar one?) by a wandering roamer.
Within 24 hours, we had all settled in and called it home. If someone asked where the Chaiwalla tent was, I would inform them; 'over there'. If families were looking for a good Sunday afternoon film? 'Grandma's cinema' (my favourite tent), right around the corner. The grounds had so much to offer. The healing area (beside the Enchanted Forest) was bliss to be in; yoga, massage, herbalist walks around the gardens. Workshops, fancy dress (our crew went as a veg patch; carrot, pepper, corn and our faithful slug), food, music, samba and more were available every day, inevitably drawing in the curious passersby.
In the Kamikaze tent, probably the second biggest stage there, I saw myself in the future. Coming through the crowd gently being rocked, a couple shuffled through behind a pram. In the pram sat the cutest baby of all time (oops, second cutest as cutest still remains with my friend's, Arthur). The display of lights above hypnotised the littl'en into a lolling daze. The earmuffs his parents had equipped him with made him even cuter; big, yellow blocks which probably sent him a muffled version of what I had been forced to listen to (mental note: get me some industrial earmuffs - also, stop sniggering at the word 'muff').
Lamb played on the Main Stage... Music; good, standing up to listen to the music; bad. Although I enjoy the tuneage, my physical movements did not match the rhythm and so I probably looked a bit unstable to fellow members of the audience. Reggae, or what I call reggae (Jungle, dubstep, ragga ragga etc) was in abundance. I listened to a great variety of this genre until I had to haul my white flag up on the third day so I could pursue further talents in the minor tents. One tent which made me leave an ass-print in was a tiny shelter near the crafts area. I watched a man with an AMAZING voice (can't remember his name, forgive me), doing acoustics with his guitar and I have to say, his fingers struck all the right cords! (Guffaw, guffaw)
Congo Natty, although I thought would be a pain in my feet, was really very good. The Kamikaze tent was bursting, the beats were difficult to fight against and the guys on stage were extremely engaging. My only criticism, and this isn't directly to Mr Natty (oh wait, isn't Mr Natty me? click here to see) is that the music went from; bounce, bounce, wave your hands to shuffle, sway, look towards the way out. More bounce, bounce would have been better.
After the second major bonfire and guards wrestling with approaching pyromaniacs (me!), the festival came to an end.
I would hate to see Shambala turn into Glasto, but I do recommend it from the highest level. If you would like to know more, click here.
MORE PICTURES HERE