A mere three hour drive from Manchester transports you from the inner city to the stunning ‘Amalﬁ coast carbon-copy’ that is Portmeirion and the critically-acclaimed yet intimate Festival No.6.
Although relatively new on the festival front, it’s already a major contender to the big boys out there and this year’s just revealed line-up is already a pretty impressive one.
The ﬁrst two headliners, Beck and London Grammar – a third is yet to be announced – will perform in this magical Welsh village along with Martha & the Vandellas, Jimi Goodwin, Cherry Ghost, Neneh Cherry and the Brythoniaid Welsh Male Voice Choir whose unforgettable version of Chic’s Good Times last year was one of the most momentous musical experiences I’ve ever had (one of those hairs up on the back of the neck moments).
Apparently headliner Nile Rodgers was also blown away with this Welsh take on his 70s funk-fabulous disco classic and rightly so. And who knows what the boyos have in store for us this year? Perhaps Beck’s Where it’s At ? I certainly hope so. You see, this is the thing about Festival No.6 that makes it so very special.
It isn’t just the setting – but of course where better to feast on music, comedy and culture than Portmeirion – the wonderfully bizarre and elaborate interpretation of an Italian villa, couched in the waters, mountains and magical forests of North Wales? And trust me the forests are magical, especially as night falls, with glowing fairy lights leading the way to some ‘secret’ poetry readings, plays, DJ sets or even chill sessions with huge comfy chairs and low-level music under the night sky.
Yes, that’s all rather special and perhaps unique to No.6, but it’s also extraordinary because the acts perform across the entire site – the historic town hall, piazza, Bristol Colonnade, the picturesque Estuary stage – and the whole whimsical Italianate architecture comes to life for a weekend in September.
It also features Michelin starred chefs – the food is darned delicious – and this year the organisers say they’ve raised the culinary bar even higher so the food and drink at the festival promise to be sensational. I seem to (just) recall a rather refreshing gin and tonic marquee at last year’s event where we sat and admired the rolling estuary waters of the Irish Sea while marvelling at the vast expanse of beach that was much traversed by Number 6 himself, Patrick McGoohan. Accompanied by some rather lovely fairy cakes it was a most civilised way to spend an afternoon. So you see, I’m reading from the same hymn sheet as Bradley Thompson, the festival’s organiser, who says:
Straight off the back of releasing his much anticipated 12th studio album Morning Phase, which has been described as ‘a work of art’ by The Times, while Q magazine declared that ‘Beck has properly re-acquired his mojo’, Mr Hansen will headline the festival on the Saturday night (September 6).
London Grammar played the festival last year to rave reviews and following a monumental year which saw them nominated for a BRIT and perform sell-out gigs practically everywhere, the trio say they are ‘delighted’ to be back in Portmeirion for this year’s festival, calling it an ‘honour to play again in this beautiful yet somewhat surreal location’.
With more acts being revealed on a rolling basis, Thompson says the festival has a stronger DJ line-up than ever, demonstrating that the event is growing from strength to strength.
“This is only the ﬁrst line-up announcement,” he says, “and there’s plenty more to come. We’re excited to make this year the most impressive yet.”
The arts and culture line-up will be announced shortly with some special guests in the pipeline.
Festival No.6 runs over the weekend of September 5-7 and, from personal experience, it is more fun if you stay on site, whether in one of the (limited) hotel rooms, a tent or yurt. Whatever you decide, you’re in for a weekend of pure magic.
What: Festival No 6
Where: Portmeirion, North Wales
When: September 5-7, 2014
Tickets: Prices vary and all details can be found at www.festivalnumber6.com or www.facebook.com/festivalnumber6