Solfest is tucked away in that rarely visited corner of England: Cumbria. It is a rural county which is stunningly beautiful and very wet. I set off from my massage therapy practice in York, and end up driving through Aspatria (a small town near Carlisle) and turn off down a twisty country road. Every now and again there is a sign saying “Slow Solfest” but, as I continue my journey, it feels as if someone has played a practical joke on me. However, just before serious panic sets in, Solfest suddenly appears on my right, like an oasis in a very lush desert.
With a capacity of 10,000, it is a medium sized festival. You can walk across the main arena in 10 minutes. You can just about see the Solway Firth from one end of the arena – the coast is worth visiting for the magnificent coastline and breath-taking sunsets.
I set up my massage tent and massage equipment at a leisurely pace, taking in the laid back atmosphere.
I start Friday evening by watching the Oyster Band on the Main Stage. I’ve never seen them before. I find the music very moving. The lead singer is quite charismatic. I look around me. This band has been going for 35 years, but many of their admirers seem to be barely half this age and enthusiastically bop to the music. The audience is small (I stand at the front despite arriving 15 minutes into the set) but it is early on in the festival – many people haven’t arrived yet.
The Bar Stage is set in the largest marquee of site and is opposite the Main Stage. These two venues time their bands so they never clash. The Bar Stage reminds me of an old fashioned working men’s club – although the music is somewhat more up-to-date. It is full of comfy chairs of various ages, sizes, designs, colours and states of repair. They are set around a variety of tables. How full this tent becomes depends on the musicians, time of day and if it’s raining.
Just around the corner, but far enough away from these two venues for the sound systems not to interfere with it, is the Dry Stone Stage. It is more mellow and laid back than the other two stages and plays host to acoustic, folk and jazz.