Cloudspotting Music and Arts Festival reaches the milestone of its fifth anniversary this year.
To the unacquainted, Cloudspotting is a long summer weekend retreat deep in the Forest of Bowland for a few hundred like-minded souls, with a sizzling line-up of music, arts and outdoor pursuits.
Cloudspotting is supported by Arts Council England, the Forestry Commission and is part of the Northern Festivals Network. Further arts partners include The Bureau, Blackburn; The Grand, Clitheroe; They Eat Culture, Preston; Creative Lancashire and Hey! Manchester.
The festival also support and raises money for the overseas charity The Solomon Project.
In UK festival terms, Cloudspotting, which runs from July 24th-July 26th, is still micro-sized, but gaining enough of a reputation to be compared favourably to other “boutique” festivals. Including performers, volunteers and punters, there will be close to 1,000 people there this year.
The Guardian, selecting it as one of the top eight Boutique festivals to visit this summer, says: “A classic combination of music, lovely food and drink, family and arts activities in a stunning location. It’s good value and regulars applaud its non-commercial feel.”
Being in the forest is special as it allows us to develop new areas each yearMatt Evans
Co-promoter Matt Evans says: “It is nice to be recognised in the national press for what we are doing though I’m not sure what qualifies for ‘boutique’ as we were in there with festivals 15 times bigger than us!
“Being in the forest is special as it allows us to develop new areas each year. There is room for the audience to grow a little at Stephen Park, but without losing the intimacy that people cherish. It’s a special atmosphere.”
Live music was the spark that ignited the first Cloudspotting to take place and although the deep and eclectic music line-up is still the driving force, the choice of arts around it has been fattened up for a more enriching experience for a family audience.
Touring theatre, documentary cinema and a wide range of creative projects and workshops for families to share will ensure there’s rarely a dull moment. For the more active, there is also mountain bike hire available (it is one of the UK’s best rated spots with numerous forest bike trails), orienteering and archery.
Some of these activities are offered in conjunction with the Forestry Commission, the guardians of the site, who look after Cloudspotting as if it were their own.
“The suitability of the venue for families and the beauty of the environment around us has inspired the growth of the festival into a wider arts event,” says co organiser Helen Ficorilli.
“We have developed some great partnerships with a number of creative people who are delivering some really exciting projects over the weekend.
“People also love the seclusion of where we are and the fact that their kids can pretty much run free.”
The music line-up takes place across two outdoor stages and one smaller venue known as “The Attic” which showcases regional singer-songwriters and poetry.
Steeped more in the experimental music of BBC6 Music than the mainstream of Radio One, the festival line-up is bulked up by a number of burgeoning acts from across the North.
“We have 30 acts playing on the main two stages and 20 of them will be playing at Cloudspotting for the first time,” added Matt.
“Promoting local musicians is important to our ethos, it can be frustrating we can’t get more acts on but we like to ensure all our acts have healthy audiences.”
Baxter Rhodes (Burnley) Ragamuffins (Read), Bird to Beast (Colne) and Good Foxy (Clitheroe) are just some of the acts who will be flying the flag for East Lancashire.
Manchester is well represented with acts such as Dutch Uncles, Jane Weaver and Sara Lowes all promoting successful recent albums.
Saturday’s headliners The Earlies are a sprawling 10-piece amalgam of Manchester, East Lancashire and Texan musicians who play a heady mix of alt country, folk and progressive rock.
Other highlights include Sunday night headliners Ezra Furman and The Boyfriends, from Chicago, world folk duo The Hut People and This is the Kit, who play Sunday on the main stage at sunset.
Cloudspotting has a wider selection of fine food than ever before from award-winning wood-fired sourdough pizzas, locally reared meats, Indian and Mexican street-food, crepes, waffles, top coffee and teas and smoothies.
The highly regarded triumvirate of Hop Star Brewery, Darwen; Bowland Brewery, Clitheroe and Ribble Valley Gold ciders promise to keep the ales glorious and local.
Cloudspotting camp opens from noon on Friday, July 24th until 12 noon on Monday, July 26th.
For the full lineup and ticket information, visit www.cloudspotting-festival.co.uk.