I started attending in 2004, when the festival was hosted at Shoreham Airport, separated from international airspace by a three feet high fence. Since 2007, the event has been hosted at Church Farm, hard by the settlement of Coombe, a working farm with a converted barn and space for camping, and the festival continues to grow and thrive.
Punk-era legend Attila The Stockbroker takes care of the entertainment, putting together an eclectic mix of performers who play over the three days, while real-ale legend Alex Hall sorts out the beer. This year would be my first trip down since the first year at Church Farm, and I was looking forward to a cracking list of new beer, including a 4.6% California Common (i.e. steam beer) style beer from Knops Beer Company, and beers from Liverpool One, Art Brew, Raw (where Alex had their Gyle 1, 2 AND 3 beers on) and of course, a delicious selection of ales from event supporter Dark Star.
On Saturday, I walked in at lunchtime to the angry folk stylings of Steve Gribbin, followed by a band of apparent 15-year-olds called Gecko. A couple of their songs reminded me a little of Orange Juice and (worryingly) Del Amitri, which I'm prepared to allow as contemporaries of the "Postcard Sound" bands. They mixed up some reggae and made a generally pleasing racket.
Highlight was Michael Horovitz, one of Britain's original beat poets, who, I think it's fair to say, captivated his audience, including your writer. Coming, as I do, from the N Molesworth School of appreciation, which is that poetry is gurly and uterly wet, and owning but two tomes of verse (one of which is Spike Milligan's 101 Best & Only Limericks), I wasn't ready for a performance in voices, but that's what he did, and it was quite brilliant, and now I own another volume of prose.
My visit is all too short, so at 4:30 it's time to head back to the train. The organisers take care of almost everything, so there's a vintage bus to take us from the farm to Shoreham station, only I leave with Matt Wickham of The Evening Star and we stop off for a quick pint and chat about ESP and remote viewing at Dark Star's Shoreham establishment, The Duke Of Wellington.
A lovely festival. The music and performance is thoughtful and provocative, the stillages a showcase for the creativity and skill of British craft brewers.
Since it's a beer festival, and since Cooking Lager was looking for stereotypes to tick for his own attendance at a fest this weekend, I offer this:
Note the tankard AND a drinking horn slung expertly across the back. I watched him order a pint poured into the plastic pint container (remember, a working farm, so no glass), which he then poured into his tankard, and THEN into the horn. Beat that, Cookie.
One more thing: Alex Hall, real-ale legend? Then why haven't you heard of him? Well, if you've been to New York in the past decade and had a pint on cask in one of their better bars, chances are you'd have Alex to thank for that. He's influenced bar owners to offer it, and persuaded brewers to brew it. He runs cask fests and produces publications promoting good beer. He's had warning letters from AmBev asking him not to insult Stella Artois. Better beer publications are noticing the cask scene in New York, and credit goes to Alex for nurturing it. That's legendary to me.