We’ve just spent our 3rd year running at the fantastic Nozstock Festival, a family-run, family-friendly festival in the rolling Herefordshire countryside. Find out what we thought…
NB: Jane and her family were guests of Nozstock but all views and opinions are their own.
Nozstock started life as a private party thrown by the Nosworthy family on their sprawling farmlands, and has morphed into a wonderfully intimate and eclectic festival with a maximum capacity of 5,000. This year was a big year for Nozstock, as it celebrated its 20th anniversary. To mark this special birthday, the theme this year was ‘Nozstalgia’, with nods to pop culture of old everywhere, from giant Rubiks Cube entrances to entertainers dressed as video game characters such as Super Mario. In keeping with the old skool theme, Grandmaster Flash – godfather of hip hop – headlined on the main stage on the Saturday night to a wildly receptive crowd.
We felt very lucky that Nozstock fell bang in the midst of the legendary 2018 heatwave. Last year, we persuaded 18 of our closest friends to join us at Nozstock, as we’d loved our first year so much. Sadly, it rained so much on the Friday that half of our group (us included) were forced to abandon the camping and stay in the local Travelodge!! The rain took the edge off the Nozstock magic a little, as a lot of what is fabulous about this festival is the wonderful array of entertainers wandering around the place in weird and wacky costumes, interacting or instigating crazy games with the crowd. The magic was back in abundance this year though, with not a drop of rain in sight and glorious sunshine for much of the weekend.
We arrived on Friday early evening, had our e-tickets exchanged for wristbands with the usual calm efficiency, and headed into the family camping area. We noticed that the family camping area (and the car parks on the way in) seemed a lot busier than in previous years. We just about got the last spot in the family camping section – we saw others who arrived shortly after us being directed to camp in one of the main car parks. This was our festival with Donald Trump – our Motorhome – and we absolutely loved not having to unpack all our camping gear from the car and trek back and forth to the campsite with it (even though the family camping area is extremely near the parking area, meaning it’s not too painful to unload). Within 10 minutes of arriving, we’d filled the van with water (with thanks to one of our very friendly camping neighbours – who watched in amusement as we tried to fill the van with a kitchen funnel and water carrier – for the loan of their electric pump, which made the whole thing much easier! Must get one of those) and off we headed into the festival.
Within a couple of minutes, we’d arrived at the Bandstand Stage area, also the home to the Little Wonderland children’s area. Again, we tried our hands at circus skills (this year, we mastered plate spinning, which is actually easier than you’d think), and there was a kind of ‘pop up’ acrobats’ ring where the children could get a little tuition session from the experts. Over the course of the weekend, my girls queued up time and time again to have a go (I think they were channelling Anne in The Greatest Showman). Each time they were taught a different ‘move’ on the ring, which I thought was rather lovely as they were made to feel they had nailed the previous moves. There was loads going on in the Little Wonderland, including Bhangra dancing lessons, kids’ yoga, festival headband and skirt crafting, decorating a festival bag, tye dying and a breakdancing workshop. I was dying to have a go at breakdancing, but it clashed with the 3pm ‘paint fight’ (more of which later). The kids were a bit disappointed to see that the music tent – which had been such a favourite for us for the last 2 years – wasn’t there this year. Rosie and Mimi got over this pretty quickly, though, when they saw that they could get their faces covered in glitter and their hair put into festival plaits, which were also then caked with glitter.
Everyone remembered the fantastic pizzas from last year, so we headed up to the main Orchard Stage area where most of the food stalls are situated, and ordered a couple of pizzas, which took 90 seconds to arrive!! We listened to a couple of bands there in the evening sunshine, and then caved in to the pressure from the kids to go to The Lost Cabinet of Secrets – our favourite stage from the previous two years. On the way, though, we noticed that people seemed to be crowding around a group of hollowed out tree trunks on a hill. We stopped to watch while the trunks were set alight and gradually burned to look like giant candles on the hillside. A wooden phoenix, apparently made by festival goers earlier in the day, was also set alight, and the crowd was entertained by fire throwers. I say crowd, but there were probably only a couple of hundred people watching at the most, so it was easy for the kids to get a great view of the fire show and it felt very intimate. It’s one of the things we love about Nozstock that it never feels crowded, and I’ve never been worried that we might lose a child or two.
After watching the phoenix burn down, we headed round the corner to the Lost Cabinet of Secrets. To get into the Lost Cabinet, you have to walk through an entrance in a fence, and down a tunnel into what looks like an underground bar. There’s no sign of a stage at all – you have to find it yourself. The way to access the Lost Cabinet is different every year – last year, we walked through a corridor of mirrors and had to work out which one was actually a secret door through to the stage area. This year, two characters wearing giant wolf headpieces stood in front of a piano, which they then slid along a wall to reveal a small door through to a tunnel leading to the small indoor arena. We had a good old boogie to a Latin American band, before the kids declared themselves shattered at about 11pm and we headed back to Donald for the night. As we’ve said in previous reviews, the music at Nozstock goes on well into the early hours, and the headliners on the main stages don’t even start until 11pm(slightly earlier on Sunday). Chase and Status were starting just as we went to bed on Friday night and we could hear it even in the van. We’d brought our ear plugs though, and none of us were disturbed at all by the noise. It would be different in a tent though, so if you’re a light sleeper and think you could be disturbed by dance and grime music blasting out until 3am, Nozstock may not be for you. It didn’t bother me at all when we camped, but some of our friends with younger kids weren’t that keen last year.
After a good night’s sleep, bacon sarnies cooked in the van and a latte from the pop up coffee van in the family camping area, we headed back into the festival late Saturday morning. We did a bit of shopping in the vintage stores dotted around the festival, and Mimi picked up an adult’s glittery vest for a fiver, which she rocked as a festival dress. Mimi and Rosie decorated bags and made festival headbands while Charlie played hockey in a pitch made of hay bales. We wandered further into the festival, and we were all delighted to find our old friend the music tent sitting on top of the hill opposite the Lost Cabinet of Secrets. The same people were there manning the tent, and were as welcoming as always, handing us instruments and props and inviting us to join the music-making. Rosie found a giant gong and enjoyed bashing that at regular intervals for 20 minutes, which I found akin to water torture but the hosts seemed to find enchanting. The hillside area – home to the Lost Cabinet entrance and the music tent this year – is a brilliant place to sit during the early afternoon at Nozstock.
At the bottom of the sloping hill is the Sunken Yard stage, which is a makeshift DJ booth playing hip hop, funk and disco. There are regular, impromptu dance-offs, and there was a limbo competition going on this year (for kids and adults alike). Scattered on the hill in front of the stage are those festival goers who were clearly partying all night, and are just coming round. We sat and watched as more and more people were encouraged to get up and dance off their excesses, and Charlie played a game of volleyball next to the stage with a bunch of other kids. At 3pm, the DJ announced the infamous Nozstock paint fight. We’d never seen it in action before – although I remember seeing people wandering around in our first year who appeared to be covered in coloured chalk. The volleyball court was cleared, and about 10 giant boxes of powder paint were set out in a line, with 2 crowds of people on either side. On the whistle, the crowds surged forward, grabbing handfuls of powder paint and flinging them around, until everyone was absolutely covered in paint. Ed, Charlie and Rosie joined in, while Mimi and I watched from a safe distance. When all the paint pots were empty, everyone cracked on with the dancing – quite surreal.
After showers, I bribed the kids to head down to the Elephant Grave stage, home to the dance/jungle/garage crowd. The music was a bit too hardcore for them, but I spent a wistful ten minutes re-living my lost youth at the Hacienda…. We then headed up to the press party for Nozstock’s 20th birthday, and were able to meet the festival organisers, Ella and the Nosworthy family. We drank lovely cocktails (well, the kids had lemonade) and ate tasty vegan snacks while hobnobbing with the festival entertainers in their amazing costumes. Our favourites were definitely the giant glittery fish people – complete with real bubbles coming out their mouths!
Early evening was spent at the main Orchard stage watching Mad Dog Mcrea, an Irish folk band. We had a good old boogie with a very friendly crowd, before heading up to the food stalls for our tea. Charlie had his third Hawaiian pizza of the weekend, while Mimi had a plate of delicious homemade ravioli from the Ravi Ollie van, Rosie had a Posh Dog and I had a giant falafel and haloumi cheese wrap (too big to finish). The prices were relatively reasonable (£7.50 ish for most things, save for the pizzas which were a tenner), and we never had to wait longer than 10 minutes to get our food. There’s a bit of a lack of anything very plain for the kids if they’re a bit fussy (like Rosie, who declined all the amazing sounding trimmings on her hot dog, ending up with a very expensive plain sausage in a bun!), but the food is all excellent quality and there were even some vegetables in there – a rare thing at a festival.
As it went dark, we watched another amazing fire show on the hill, and wandered into the theatre tent at the bottom of the hill, enticed by the sound of Dee Lite’s Groove is in the Heart. We all danced about to disco music for ten minutes or so, wondering why everyone else in the tent was wearing animal masks, and a woman dressed as a big cat was dancing on the stage. She popped over to tell me that we were very welcome to stay, but we had inadvertently wandered into a musical speed dating event called Animal Instincts, and she was about to invite everyone to swap partners. We weren’t sure about setting up our kids on dates at a festival, so we had a last little dance and left them to it. As we wandered home, we treated the kids to some delicious churros, a perfect end to a great evening.
On the Sunday, we sadly had to leave around 2pm as Rosie and Mimi were performing in a show with their drama group back at home, but we had a chilled few hours wandering around in the morning sunshine. I’d booked the kids and Ed in for massages with the Yeleni massage therapists in the Healing tent (£10 for 20 minutes, not too bad). They all loved their massages, especially Ed who declared his Indian head massage the best ever. He’s only had two others in his 47 years, but still – a win’s a win. We watched some interactive theatre next door, which was fun, and then the girls made little mushrooms out of wood and Charlie and Mimi made staffs. I was slightly worried to see them wielding what looked like scythes, and being encouraged to draw them up the staff between their legs, up towards their stomachs, but was assured the procedure had been fully risk assessed and that it would be almost impossible for them to disembowel themselves at that angle. We played a brilliant game involving each of us trying to be the first to bash our nail into a tree stump with the wrong end of a hammer – Charlie turned out to be very good at this, and I turned out to be the opposite of that. With time ticking on, we treated ourselves to some amazing homemade ice cream from Mimi, the vintage VW ice cream van, and headed back to Donald Trump. After 10 minutes of packing, we were on our way home, reflecting on another amazing year at Nozstock and wishing we could have stayed for Goldfrapp that evening…..
Why not PIN this review of Nozstock Festival 2018 to remind you to book for Nozstock Festival 2019!