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23 July 2014

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Event review: Green Man Festival

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From Vauxhall to Glanusk, we made the five-hour schlepp to the Brecon Beacons for Green Man Festival’s 10th birthday. And boy, did we celebrate.

Photos: Daniel Mackie, Jon Pouncey, Rosie Powell and Polly Thomas

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Drinking at festivals – you know the score. Tent-warmed cider for breakfast, a pocket-sized box or two of wine and a hipflask wedged down your wellies. But things were different this time. We were at Green Man Festival. Here, they take things seriously.

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No sooner had we pitched our tent and made our way past the aptly named Mountain Stage than we sniffed out the Real Ale and Cider Bar. Laying claim to title of world’s biggest beer festival, within a music festival – yeah, you heard – the tent offered 99 ales, ciders and perries from 21 different Welsh brewers.

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Having started as a 300-capacity one-day event in 2003, Green Man now attracts 20,000 people, qualifying it as Wales’ biggest festival. Part of its charm is the mixture of people it attracts: young families, hippies, middle-aged middle-class couples and, of course, plenty of cool kids – like us.

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The food on offer was impressive. From Barnaby Sykes selling traditional pies to The Goan Seafood Company serving up gloriously restorative curries, there was no shortage of choice when hunger struck. Our whistles were most whetted, though, when we walked past a stall decorated with hanging cured meats. You don’t see that at Reading. We even had a steak cooked to order at midnight.

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The line-up, although equally diverse, wasn’t hugely tempting, compared to previous years. But standout acts included psychedelic rockers Unknown Mortal Orchestra, cinematic seven-piece Revere and Scottish folk trio Lau – a smorgasbord indeed. On Saturday night, it was great to see energetic Band of Horses headline with their dulcet Americana too.

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Besides the five music areas, the site was packed with alternative entertainment. The Nature Nurture retreat had weary festival-goers lining up for massages, while the Talking Shop tent saw the likes of Caitlin Moran sharing her madcap wisdom. Elsewhere, Scrabble was played and grown adults queued to hold baby chickens. Yeah, that happened.

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Although there is no specific VIP/hospitality area, Green Man is refined and comfortable enough for groups to camp in the main area. There’s no reason you can’t take your own big tepee. Get there early, though, and nab a good plot – it fills up fast.

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How did we end the weekend? In the cinema tent with our favourite film Withnail and I – the perfect close to a sometimes sophisticated, but more often dissolute, weekend in Wales.


Best bit: location. Set in the Black Mountains, we were surrounded by hard-to-beat scenery. The rainbow over the Mountain Stage definitely made Saturday’s rain worth it.

Room for improvement: more ATMs (one broke, it was bedlam) and toilets, please. We blame the ale for needing both so desperately

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