In the verdant green, green, fields, somewhere just left of middle earth and but a shimmy away from the quaint stone villages that must surely be home to Hobbits, a beat is vibrating in the depths of the magical soil.
From every direction they follow their ears, travelling from far and wide to the rhythm of the beats and dressed in every colour of the rainbow, a herd of festival-goers with a smile on their face and the knowledge that for the next three days and nights they will be amongst friends.
Within moments the sea of bright green grass is turned to dark brown mud, but the laden festival-goers don’t care a jot, they have with them their colourful wellies, their even brighter tents and the cheeriest grins they possess.
The rain may be pouring from an ominous sky but this is Lancashire’s Ribble Valley, the multi-coloured flags are flying, and all are welcome.
The weather, an unpredictable friend, is but another guest in all its guises.
Summer is here and with it a small but bright jewel in Northern England’s festival calendar.
Beatherder 2016 is officially begun.
I arrived with some trepidation.
A Beatherder beginner, I had retired my festival mojo many moons ago when they were only three or four big music festivals.
Now hundreds have sprung up, some massive, many with modest beginnings.
Beatherder began as a rave in the Lancashire hills in 2006 – a vibe that that organisers have deliberately fought to retain.
At heart, this an inclusive, friendly, festival where children are welcomed and music-preferences all catered for. Crazy dressers are actively encouraged (Saturday is even fancy-dress themed – this year was R) and a bit of bonkers really helps. Its motto is ‘love thy neighbour,’ and hedonism its by-word.
With ticket sales capped at a modest 12,000 to retain the festival’s egalitarian feel, it remains intimate, manageable and traversible in half an hour even in mud-wedged boots with drink in hand.
It is rare in that there is no cap on booze being brought in, despite the festival plea to buy from the bars – which basically fund a great deal of the event.
Despite that, this is the biggest festival to date and organisers had worked hard to improve roads, drainage, accessibility and amenities – a litter bond even promises a fiver in return for a bag of rubbish in a bid to clear up the site.
We arrived on Friday faced with putting up my first tent in years, luckily the rain stayed away until it was up, a little skew-wiff but what’s a dodgy canvas amongst friends.
The blow up bed was more challenging, but was aided by a fellow-festival goer and suspected band member with boy-band looks and wearing moon-boots and a poncho, whose electric pump sorted it in seconds. (We camped in the crew and artist field)
It was Friday night and the beats were already just getting started -and it was already nearly time for headliners James (they replaced original headliners Primal Scream after Bobby Gillespie sustained an injury) on the Beat-herder main stage, whose short and characteristically energetic set was the icing on the cake if not the end of a magical evening, characterised by ‘who cares’ driving rain and sticky mud to rival Glastonbury.
I was lucky enough to be allowed in for an interview, in their back-stage tepee, just before their set – a surreal experience and characterised by the fact they were still trying to decide on the set-list– they only thing they were sure about is not playing Sit Down. Probably-wise, given the mud.