Singer/songwriter and music presenter Cerys Matthews is counting down to her festival, The Good Life Experience, which invites people to rediscover the joy of the simple things in life.
Cerys has fond memories of Chester. Two years ago, she visited the city to do a gig where a local told her it was illegal for a Welsh person to be found within the town walls after midnight.
“In theory, they said, I could be executed!” she laughs. “Is there really an antiquated law that is unchanged, or is it a myth?”
This won’t alter the fact that Cerys will be greeted with open arms when she returns in September to host The Good Life Experience, her festival of music, food and the great outdoors, in nearby Hawarden.
Now in its second year, the festival – set up by Cerys, her husband/manager Steven Abbott and Charlie and Caroline Gladstone – promises to be bigger and better than ever, with many new exciting activities in store for 2015.
“There’s a whole brand new music programme. It’s going to be a bit bigger than last year,” says Cerys, who has been hosting a weekly music show on BBC Radio 6 Music for the last five years.
Just like her 6 Music programme, the line-up is wonderfully eclectic. She’s hand-picked many of the performers, having either featured them on her radio show or stumbled across them playing live.
Guitarist Wilko Johnson (formerly of The Blockheads and Dr Feelgood and currently starring in Game of Thrones) will be headlining on Friday, while performers such as virtuoso Welsh harpist Catrin Finch, musical storyteller Tom Brosseau and eccentric ‘folk-hop’ band Honeyfeet are also set to take the stage over the weekend.
Eclectic music mix
“I enjoy music from all eras, all languages and all genres, as you can probably tell from the 6 Music show I programme and host every Sunday.
“It’s the same with the festival. If it’s great and I feel people will love it, it gets programmed.”
This year’s festival has an added Cuban twist, with a live set from Revolucionarios Cubanos to get the punters up on their feet, Cuban dance and cigar-rolling lessons, and authentic drinks.
As well as TV favourite and adventurer Ben Fogle, food blogger Ella Woodward [of Deliciously Ella] and a host of other talks, demonstrations and events, book lovers can expect to see more literary events this year.
“We have the Irish ambassador Dan Mulhall, who will be talking about WB Yeats, as it is 150 years since the poet was born.
“We’ve also got Professor Barrie Bullen (professor of English Literature and Culture at Royal Holloway College) talking about Thomas Hardy’s writing.”
Other performers include Murray Lachlan-Young, the first poet ever to sign a £1 million record deal, and local performance poet Suzanne Iuppa, who lives in Mold and is the chairman of Chester Writers.
Just like last year, there will be no backstage area or VIP tent; all of the performers are there because they want to be and are happy to meet the guests.
It’s this all-inclusive ethos, as well as the festival’s core focus on reconnecting with nature and enjoying real-life experiences, that has made it such a success.
“A huge dollop of the great outdoors is the other unique factor – as well as the free abseiling, archery, axe-throwing, vintage fair rides, wood carving, butchery, campfire cooking and cigar-rolling, and Cuban dancing lessons – meaning that you go away with more than just great memories, but also new skills, or at least experiences.”
But activities tend to cost money and it was the spiralling cost associated with traditional festivals and activities, which was one of the reasons that prompted the founders to set up The Good Life Experience in the first place.
“We were noticing year on year that the festivals were getting really big and weren’t very good value for money.
“They were getting more commercial and we wanted to start a festival that we would want to go to; one that was kinder on the pocket and you would leave having tried something new.”
Making it affordable
And, when you factor in children – Cerys has five, aged from five to 22 – the costs can become exorbitant.
‘I’ve got kids and, for all of them to have one go on a ride at a festival, it cost £30. If you times that by a whole weekend of activities, you can end up severely out of pocket.”
At The Good Life Experience, however, once you’re in, everything’s free, and all the activities are open to everyone, ensuring it really is more about the experience than the money.
“It may be a cliché, but I believe the best things in life are free and are about experiences.”
With this winning formula that includes wild swimming, group sing-alongs with the lady herself, huge campfires and stargazing in the picturesque woodland setting of the Gladstone estate, The Good Life Experience runs from September 18-20 at Hawarden Estate in Flintshire.
Adult tickets are £45, tickets for children aged 9-16 cost £22.50. To bring your own tent, you’ll pay £7.50 per person per night or you can order a pre-erected four-person Bell Tent from £250 for the entire festival. Visit www.thegoodlifeexperience.co.uk.