Tucked away in rural Herefordshire, Nozstock: The Hidden Valley is a delightful glimpse into British eccentricity. It is independent, small and not quite as yelled about as bigger, more commercialized festivals. Many of its attendees take part, putting on performances, manning stalls, or simply helping out.
Much like Glastonbury do every year, the site is transformed into a mini village for a weekend. This year the theme is 'Wonders Of The Ancient World', presented through sculptures and various pieces of art.
There is a sense of freedom here – a collection of people escaping their lives for a moment and relishing in familiar and unfamiliar territory. Most attendees seem to be regulars, determined to purchase tickets every year regardless of the line-up. Nozstock isn’t just an arts and music festival, but an experience. There is a theatrical tone throughout, as acrobats contort their bodies in trees and characters from the ancient world roam the site.
With ten stages, there is a little something for everyone. Children enjoy some time creating crafts and doing yoga in the Little Wonderland area, while up and coming bands showcase their skills on the Bandstand stage. Colourful festival goers wander the grounds following a powder paint fight, as others try their hand at a ‘human fruit machine’. At Nozstock, anything seems to go.
Efforts have been made to create a family friendly atmosphere. Take a seat in the Laughing Stock tent at the wrong – or right – time, and your child may even be included in the act. Potentially even be coaxed into swearing into a microphone, much to the delight of the audience.
Ensemble group Slamboree take over the main stage on Friday night, a bold introduction to the weekend. Described as ‘a mash up of Basement Jaxx and The Rocky Horror Show performing at the Moulin Rouge’, Slamboree is the type of music act you need to see to believe. Performers take part in various circus style acts – from fire dancing to stapling body parts – to the sound of synths, hip hop and a horn section.
Following as headliners are Leeds-based reggae group Gentlemen’s Dub Club. A unique combination of bass, dub and reggae, the nine piece band are prided on their consistency. Moving between moments of intense euphoria and chilled reggae interludes, the band perform seamlessly.
American hip-hop legends Jurassic 5 play a triumphant headlining set on Saturday night. The group's energy is infectious, radiating through the audience as they make their way through a list of hits. "Open and close your hands to the music" they demand at one point. The audience, like putty in their hand, oblige. A poignant speech regarding the Black Lives Matter movement in America precedes 'Freedom', generating a roar of applause. "Never take your freedom for granted" vocalist Akil requests. It seems appropriate given the circumstance. There is an overwhelming sense of positivity and unpretentiousness to Jurassic 5. Later, the group perform a secret set in a small, packed room in the Cabinet Of Lost Secrets.
Third headliner Irish singer Imelda May closes out the Orchard Stage on Sunday night, bringing her unique style of smooth jazz and rockabilly. A true vocal powerhouse, the singer leaves the crowd breathless as they dance the night away. It has been a long, hot weekend and it feels right to end to the words of 'It’s Good To Be Alive'.
Nozstock: The Hidden Valley is more than just a music festival. With artists from all over the world, it brings together an electric group of performers that would never otherwise be associated. Flipping between heavy dance beats, soothing jazz, alternative rock and aggressive hip hop, Nozstock is an eclectic mix of veterans and novices. The people are just as diverse. Whether painted head to toe, dressed as an Egyptian god or simply soaking up the sunshine, you may never find a happier group of people. It is a joint effort, a true slice of British commodity.