The Big Chill 2011 – Festival Review.

Posted on 12 August 2011 by Glenn Tucker

The Big Chill 2011 – Festival Review.

If you are looking for a festival that includes Sunday night riots, toilet tipping and tent burning, kicking your way to the front of the crowd with an elbow or two in your face as you go along and trudging through a newly decorated field of plastic cups and condoms on your way back then The Big Chill is the last place you should go.

This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy a good rock festival with all the above but when I first thought of what a festival should be I imagined more of a family friendly, hippy approach with alternative treatments, niche bookshops onsite and strangers gathering around campfires in the evening. Lo and behold, The Big Chill 2011 had all of these.

Unfortunately we missed the Friday night performance by The Chemical Brothers, arriving around lunchtime on Saturday, but were lucky enough to setup camp and get down to the noticeably clean arena (thanks to the kids picking up branded cups in exchange for 10p each) with more than enough time to get our bearings and start the day off with a quality Mojito from the Bacardi tent.

The site itself was huge with plenty to see and do, including a separate area for families and children that was heavily guarded, and despite our best efforts to gain entry with our press passes we were turned away.

Instead we paid a visit to the Enchanted Garden, an area for alternate therapies including Reiki, Hypnotherapy, various deep tissue massage areas and even tea and sauna tents but most importantly they had a hot and spicy cider truck which was welcome treat as the weather was not the kindest with wind, rain and only small amounts of sunshine making an appearance. The Enchanted Garden also contained an Art Trail; open from 9pm till 2am which we explored much later in the evening and consisted of various audio visual displays and ambient lighting, clearly designed for those not just drinking alcohol but an interesting addition nonetheless. I can’t say it was not amusing watching people hang their thoughts on the tree that instructed them to share their mind apples.

The first performance we caught were Metronomy on the main stage (the Deer Park Stage) and next was Jessie J who performed brilliantly despite having to sit down for her whole set due to an injury. The sound quality was fantastic for both of these and for all other acts we caught too, including a newly gained favourite of mine, Kraak en Smaak.

Normally I would expect a festival site to quiet down after the main act but The Big Chill had plenty going after hours including a killer set by Kissy Sellout and a packed Bacardi stage. With the guest area tents open till 5am with fire bowls all set out to keep the chill away we thought we would be out for the rest of the night but even after a quick rest and recovery we made an unforgivably early retirement at only 2am.

Sunday morning brought some early sunshine and as we made our way back to the main arena we couldn’t help but notice how clean the grounds were looking once again. Not a single cup, can or bottle was left in sight and already families were out enjoying the day.

Unfortunately the weather did not hold out and the temperature dropped as we took cover in the psychedelic White Rabbit Lounge, a space for chilling and, by the looks of most people there, leaving your mind at the door and fetching it again on the way out.

Once the worst of the rain had passed we made one last brave effort to catch a couple more acts including British reggae group Steel Pulse. If the sun was shining they would have fitted in seamlessly but unfortunately I was finding it hard to identify with their upbeat groove as I watched the breath form in front of my face. The North Mississippi Allstars Duo were the final act for us, bringing a Southern Blues sound to the Malvern Hills which would have been a lot more enjoyable once again, in some sunshine.

Overall The Big Chill festival was a hit and delivered on every level. For families it was safe, clean and Friendly. For the individual it was engaging and exciting and for a group of three it was exhausting but exhilarating and is definitely on my list of festivals to visit in 2012.


The Big Chill – Back view of the Main Stage