Having just about recovered from an utterly whirlwind weekend at Houghton festival, I write this with bleary eyes and a profound amount of respect for the effort and thought that went into creating this incredible event.
Created by the people behind Gottwood, along with Craig Richards, Houghton didn’t give much away in the lead up to the event. Other than the promise of an incredible lineup, and a beautiful boutique festival site. It was hard to have any expectations at all.
All we did know was the level of names appearing on the lineup were not the standard carbon copies you usually see at festivals or ‘big-top’ events. Instead, it was the likes of; Craig Richards, Ricardo Villalobos, Nicholas Jaar, Seth Troxler, Void, Floating Points, Andrew Weatherall, Sonja Moonear, Raresh, Rahdoo and much more.
Set deep within the countryside and woodlands of Houghton Hall in Norfolk, this tranquil site transformed into the setting of a non-stop 72-hour rave! With a few hiccups on the first night, Houghton opened to the public on Thursday afternoon, but from Friday morning, the music didn’t stop until the early hours of Monday.
The rural setting helped avoid the usual sound restrictions that come with most festivals, and the winding layout of the site alleviated any annoying sound clashes occurring between stages. You had a sense of being completely cut off from everything, which was also part and parcel to the fact that there was no phone signal on site. Goodbye real world, I’m lost in the woods and lost in the music. Exactly how it should be.
Each stage seemed as if it’s design was independent, and felt encased within its unique world. Spread across the grounds, around the beautiful lake, and amongst the woods, it was easy to lose yourself and find a home at your favourite spot.
The Quarry which was a sight to behold, with an impressive light show of lasers bouncing around the sunken bowl shaped space. Or the Pavillion, nestled under the dense trees next to the lake, which gave way to some beautiful sun streams coming through at sunrise. There was even a ‘secret’ stage; The Terminus, which was only accessible via a train for the first two days.
There was a severe lack of signage for the stages or programme, which at first I found quite frustrating. Personally, I like to know who I’m connecting with behind the decks, especially if it’s not someone I’m familiar with. But, C’est la vie, it only ended up adding to the magic and mystery as you often didn’t know who was playing, or where you were.
The one thing that makes Houghton stand out from the rest of the festivals out there right now wasn’t just the non-stop party, but the length of sets on offer. With the most anticipated set of the weekend being festival curator; Craig Richards, going B2B with Ricardo Villalobos for no less than 8 hours at the Pavillion.
The beauty and simplicity of Houghton just goes-to-show you how much extra fluff and filth we’re subjected to with other festivals. Even down to the beautiful festoon lighting across the campsite, instead of the conventional harsh floodlighting at other festivals. Houghton Festival genuinely thought of everything and went above and beyond what anyone could have expected.
They lucked out with the weather though; I’m not sure how beautiful, or safe the site would be, had it rained all weekend, which is often the gamble you take with the great British summer.
It’s difficult, to sum up, Houghton Festival and everything it had to offer, part of me wants to keep that level of mystery that made it so special this year. The secret is out, and Houghton was clearly the UK festival highlight of 2017.