Are music festivals the new Butlin’s?

By Alan Gregson

Like most kids growing up in the Seventies and Eighties, before EasyJet made European holidays affordable to most people, we spent our family holidays in the UK, initially at caravan parks, then Pontins in Blackpool and Butlin’s in Pwllheli.

The first holiday I can remember was at a caravan park in Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria. My memories are not dissimilar to Fathers Ted and Dougal’s experience of a caravan holiday, although I don’t remember Graham Norton turning up to perform the Riverdance. It did, however, rain so much that the whole caravan shifted overnight. My other memory of that holiday is the Laurel & Hardy films shown every night in the campsite bar, possibly a memorial to Stan Laurel who was born close by in Ulverston.

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808-orchestrate: Rowetta and the Haçienda Classical

When Rowetta joined the Happy Mondays in 1990, not only did she bring the Mancunian masters of indie-dance crossover a more soulful presence, she provided additional visual stimulus to a band that was already pretty watchable in the first place: cos the Mondays had Bez!

With her dominatrix toughness and body hugging bondage attire, Rowetta arrived as an equal partner in this most laddish of lad bands. Here was a woman who was clearly having a ball. With every swish of her whip, Factory Records shifted towards the mainstream: no longer would indie automatically mean an embracing of the mediocre. Soon, Pills ’N’ Thrills And Bellyaches arrived, an LP that was basically a summer holiday on vinyl, reaching No.4 in 1990. Rowetta’s extraordinary vocal range and “Yippee-yippee-yay-yay-ay”-ing perfectly counterbalanced Shaun Ryder’s Nike Air-wearing, couldn’t-give-a-toss cool. We just wished that our girlfriend was hot like Rowetta.

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One foot in the groove: Cock & Bull Festival 2016

When your knees have started to knock and there are too many miles on the clock, the idea of spending a weekend in the sprawling metropolis of Glastonbury brings on a sense of unease rather than excitement. All that expanse, all those people and, can you believe it?, Coldplay!

Nowadays, of course, there are more festivals than bands but for those of us not overly fussed about standing three-quarters of a mile down a field to watch Muse on a distant screen, there are options. Take the Cock & Bull Festival near Bath, for example, a 500-capacity gathering that manages to mix music, DJs, farm animals, decent food and reasonably priced drinks. Cock & Bull is more Livestock than Woodstock, with pigs, cows and sheepdogs all delighted that you could make it.

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My stupid Manchester United autograph hunt


By Dan Poole

Premiership football in the mid-Nineties was played upon hallowed turf. It was a time of glorious convergence, when TV money and foreign flair hadn’t yet saturated the English game with a tsunami of cynicism but, rather, added a subtle sheen to a sport still rooted in Bovril and bobbly pitches. Players’ shirts were still baggy, football boots were black and advertising hoardings were analogue. Players such as Dennis Bergkamp, Gianfranco Zola and Juninho were rubbing shoulders with Darren Peacock, Neil Ruddock and Carlton Palmer; like pineapple and cheese on a stick, it was a clash of tastes but by God it was delicious.

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Donald Trump is not amused: the illustrations of Stanley Chow

Unless you have broom handles for legs, it’s become practically impossible to buy jeans in Britain. “Skinny” is now the nation’s regular fit, while “Regular”, well… you have to assume every pair has been dragged from the shelves of the high street and taken to the nearest incinerator. All of a sudden, everyone’s starting to look like Max Wall.

One location that’s stubbornly impervious to the enforced narrowing of fashion is Manchester. Here men, on the whole, still dress like they’re off to see Oasis at Maine Road. Perhaps it was an act of black magic conjured in the bowels of the Factory Records office one long night in 1989, but it’s like a spell has been cast on the city, meaning that the width of jeans will forever provide legs with much-needed space. It certainly pays to visit Manchester in the sales and stock up on wide-fitting denim.

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A nation divided: Frank Field MP on Brexit

Two weeks on from the referendum and the dust is far from settling. Some people are a few friends lighter while others are feverishly posting messages about loopholes that might prevent the UK’s break from the EU. Facebook, once home to throwaway banter and pictures of slap-up breakfasts, has transformed into a political shooting alley. Leave voters tread with extreme caution on social media or have stopped using sites altogether. Right now, there seems no end to it, although the ever-reliable Billy Bragg made a valuable point on his Facebook page earlier this week, telling his 273,000 followers: “Though it may be painful for the Remainers, democracy must prevail. The alternative is unthinkable.”

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Vinyl demand: Tim Burgess puts the needle on the record

Bloomsbury, London: the heart of British literature and not a shop selling vinyl records for, oof, at least half a mile. Tim Burgess, frontman of The Charlatans, is sitting in a stupendously sunlit room in the offices of Faber & Faber, publisher of his new tome Tim Book Two: Vinyl Adventures From Istanbul To San Francisco. Part paean to LPs and part autobiography, it features a cast of 54 contributors including Ian Rankin, Lauren Laverne, Andrew Weatherall, Bob Stanley and David Lynch, with each naming an album that deserves closer inspection.

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Sympathy for the DVLA: the private plates of Pimlico Plumbers

While too many plumbers create havoc for ordinary families with Barney Bodger pipework, spur-of-the-moment joints and wedged-in 4×2 – all nefariously hidden behind a bath panel – there are some, like Pimlico Plumbers, who take the job seriously and have clearly prospered as a result. Londoners will be familiar with the distinctive red, white and blue of Pimlico Plumbers vans but they’ll probably be more aware of the fleet’s private registrations, a creative toilet humour that pulls the chains of both young and old.

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A load of Cock & Bull: the West’s truly alternative festival

So your mobile phone ran out of battery when you were trying to book tickets through the Glastonbury hotline and SXSW is a little too south by south-west for your building-society account to cope with. But ask yourself what you’re really missing. Are you desperate to listen to the foul-mouthed Adele jabbering to 100,000 revellers in an accent not heard in London since the doodlebugs were dropping? As for SXSW, it was in March – it’s gone, you’re too late.

There are still festival options if you’re willing to act quickly and not muck about. British Ideas Corporation heard great things about the 500-capacity Cock & Bull Festival in Bath last year, mostly from South-east-based DJs who had played sets on-site and convinced us that these more intimate gatherings were the future of UK summer fun, especially for people of more advancing years – whatever that meant. Some of this year’s acts are even appearing at major UK festivals, so here’s your chance to catch them close up. Like Glastonbury, the Cock & Bull is on a farm and also assisting a charitable cause – and we’re told the beer will be “normally priced”. We chat with Henry Trew, Cock & Bull’s event organiser, to find out more.

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