The Wickerman Festival is my personal favourite music festival in the whole of the United Kingdom. I have been going to music festivals since around 1980, so I have been to a fair few in my time and I can honestly say that I have never witnessed the atmosphere of the Wickerman Festival at any other UK event (other than, maybe, the Tartan Heart Festival at Belladrum, Scotland).
The festival takes place at the end of July each year on a farm in East Kirkcarswell, near Dundrennan, Dumfries and Galloway, South West Scotland. The main stage sits in a natural ampitheatre with the glorious Dumfries & Galloway countryside as a backdrop. Around the festival site are several large marquees, such as the Scooter Tent, which act as venues for the various genres of music. Besides the usual array of festival stalls you will find many areas dedicated to keeping youngester entertained and the Wickerman Festival is very much geared towards family entertainment. You will find a fairground, mountain bike trek and various other things to keep kids, and big kids, thoroughly entertained. In 2009 there was a song writing workshop and a DJ workshop and various other activities.
Although the Wickerman Festival is a music festival it is independant and NOTHING like the large corporate affairs (such as T In The Park). The overall experience is more like a long weekend break, rather than a large gig, and the family friendly festival sees regular increases in the numbers of young (and old) families attending. Many families treat the Wickerman Festival as their annual holiday and spend a few days in and around the Dumfries & Galloway area before or after the festival and this is very much in keeping with the original idea.
Wickerman Festival History
This year (2009) I had the pleasure of spending some time chatting to Sid Ambrose. Sid is a local guy whose heart is firmly placed in this lovely area of Scotland. Although he spent some parts of his life elsewhere (London & Dundee) he returned to his homeland and decided he wanted to do something to help the locals. Sid strikes me as something of a socialist, maybe not politically (I don't know) but from a social perspective he is a very caring guy and his calming prescence and "easy come, easy go" attitude must help greatly during the chaos of the festival.
In 2002 I saw, on the local news, the amazing sight of a huge wicker man on a small hill near Dundrennan. As I had long been a fan of the crazy 1972 British film "The Wicker Man" (starring Christopher Lee , Edward Woodward & Britt Ekland) I was thrilled to learn that the burning of wicker man was to be the highlight of a small music festival. Unfortunately it was too late for me to attend that year and, due to health problems, I was unable to attend for the next few years but, at the earliest opportunity I packed my bags and started what was to become an annual pilgramage for my family.
Sid Ambrose had hit upon the idea for the festival when considering ways in which to attract visitors to his part of Scotland. Much of the Wicker Man movie had been filmed in various locations dotted around the area and using the film as a theme he was able to create a music festival celebrating the movie but also incorporating other artistic elements. Today the festival is best described as a "music and arts event" and Sid happily explained to me that the area of Dumfries & Galloway has the highest concentration of artists in Scotland. This is not so surprising when you learn that the nearby town of KirKudbright (pronounced kir-koo-bree) is also known as "The Artist's Town" and features strongly in the history of Scottish art. From the guy who carves the totem poles to the two guys who build the Wicker Man nearly all are local artists.
While I spent time in and around the Press Room, I began to realise just how many people are working towards making the Wickerman Festival a success. Many folk give their time and resources freely and this is something extremely rare in music festivals generally where the main theme seems to be to make as much money as possible in the shortest possible time.
Cheap Or Expensive?
There is no question that, generally, music festivals are very expensive things to attend. Those who have been to the likes of TITP will know that your cash does not go very far. How refreshing it is to find a music festival which is not a money grabbing monster! The Wickerman Festival is the cheapest festival I have EVER been to. The tickets themselves are very cheap but also the stalls do not appear as expensive as elsewhere (even if they are the same stalls). This is partly due to the fact that many stallholders are enjoying the music, atmosphere and friendly banter themselves. I have first and second hand experience of stalls going "beyond the call" to ensure that folk have a great time. One guy happily told me that the woman who did the face painting only charged him a very small amount (compared to the advertised price) to paint the faces of a large group of children he had with his group - where else would you see that?
At this point I really must point out one wonderful stall "The Cumberland And Westmorland Sausage Company". If you want proper tea, coffee or hot chocolate try to get to this stall. The sausages are the best we have tasted and the only sausages which do not give my wife heartburn/acid reflux. The folk who run the stall are lovely and friendly and I really do hope that they can make it next year.
To read more and view some photographs of the Wickerman Festival please follow the links below