Starting off as a leisurely Bromyard BBQ 17 years ago, it’s surprising just how much of that intimate, homely feel has been retained in NozStock: The Hidden Valley festival given it now plays host to 5000 people. This year’s theme set as NozStockers Guide to the Galaxy, saw a sea of colours, sparkles and smiles fill ‘The Hidden Valley’, along with something unexpected and interesting around every corner.
From glitter wrestling and hula hooping, to a cabinet of lost secrets, to sporadically placed pianos, the large variety of activities is quite possibly the cause behind the astoundingly, well balanced age range that can be seen around the site. Rightly titled an Arts and Music festival, the balance of attention between the two is something to be commended. Despite the variation of talented acts on the line up, crossing genres from dance, rock and folk, the arts are most definitely not overshadowed… if anything, during the day they rule the roost and the music is simply treated like an added bonus.
Nevertheless, it’s a very large bonus, made specifically clear during folk band Skinny Lister’s performance. Transforming attention from all directions into an audience full of wannabe swing dancers, pints in hand and smiles on faces, spirits are high. Ever popular Rollin Over most definitely fuelled fires, their set placed on Saturday evening they pumped energy into all those witness to it, ready for the second half of the festival and all it had in store.
When both the music and arts meet, it really is a treat and The Cabinet of Lost Secrets is a perfect example of that, filled with a DIY photo booth, a piano, sofas and armchairs it offers a scenic, comfy break from the hustle and bustle outside, but then there’s the cabinet…
Motivated by curiosity alone, we followed a group of dancing people into the brightly coloured enclosed space, admittedly slightly confused we were nothing short of delighted when three bangs on the wall saw it lift and reveal a hidden stage. Especially when our expert timing meant that the surprise fireworks were let off simultaneously to the big reveal.
The consistent range of quality entertainment throughout the day, intriguingly causes a lack of build up throughout the weekend, there is no big highlight to this festival… It’s constantly on a level.
Even when the turnout for rock’n’roll band The Computers is less than to be desired, frontman Alex Kershaw still puts every ounce of energy he can muster into the set, abandoning the stage for the majority. For those that know of The Computers live performances, they will know that a high, almost electric energy is common, but to maintain that to a crowd of no more than 30 people is no walk in the park.
Alternatively, the distinct lack of one true highlight could be because main headliners Wu Tang Clan cancelled, or it could be because of the distinct change NozStock undergoes when the sun goes down. The night time sees the end to the family friendly BBQ feeling event and literally transforms into a collection of raves. The amalgamation of new faces makes it quite clear that a lot of the young adults of NozStock only come out at night.
Wu Tang Clan’s replacement, De La Soul are the start of this period, doing their best to get the crowd warmed up in the way they do best, a bit of crowd interaction, before breaking into hit Me, Myself and I encouraged many an aggressive fist pump, and despite the seemingly impossible task they had at filling Wu Tang Clan’s abandoned slot, they certainly did it well… or at least there were no grumbles from where we were standing.
This continued around the corner for Beardyman, as he wowed the crowd understandably having to remind them that, yes, every single sound not only comes from his mouth, but it’s mostly, if not all completely improvised. It’s unsurprising the size of the crowd that gathers, as it’s rare that such raw, intelligent talent is showcased so well.
The festival that doesn’t sleep! There is never a point where a distant beat can’t be heard and the happy buzz of people never seems to truly die down.
It’s clear that a lot of love, creativity and hard work goes into the making of NozStock, the many humorous signs punnily revolving around the intergalactic theme were enough to prove that… But with so many homely touches, such as the mass of sofas placed around the public arena, it’s clear that feeling comfortable or ‘at home’ is a mission that’s well and truly achieved.
[ALL IMAGES: Emma Gardiner]