Portmeirion, Gwynedd, Wales, LL48 6ER
Weekend camping tickets (Friday arrival) £160.00 + booking fee
Weekend camping tickets (Thursday arrival) £175.00 + booking fee
When I was five years old I woke up one morning remembering a dream that had taken up my sleeping time. Two weeks ago (26 years later) I was sat in a pub telling someone about this same dream, the man’s eyes widened and he asked me if I’d ever been to Portmeirion. I shook my head. What I described was an aqueduct (with Ivor the Engine on it and a dragon), which I now know to be near the village, and then I described how I strolled along a beach, its shape, and its surroundings. I had described Portmeirion.
In the 1960s Patrick McGoohan trotted across our TV screens being chased by a giant white balloon. The bizarre, yet hypnotizing programme was The Prisoner. Set amongst the eclectic architecture of Portmeirion the location became as famous as the white balloon, and the main character’s name became so synonymous with the setting that it became the name of a festival, Number 6. Portmeirion is now the annual home to this arts and culture festival with a three-day programme that weaves in and out of the rainbow coloured buildings of the town and the surrounding natural landscape of north Wales. You will find yourself on a private peninsular on the southern shores of Snowdonia, with the River Dwyryd passing by.
Portmeirion was built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. He wanted to show that a development did not mean destruction of the natural environment. The village was built in two stages, 1925 to 1939 and 1954 to 1976. The first stage mapped out the town and some of the most iconic buildings were constructed. The latter half resembled a classical or Palladian style. Some buildings were salvaged from demolition sites, fitting in with Clough’s description of Portmeirion as “a home for fallen buildings”. Clough had a vision, and that vision still stands strong. Portmeirion is now owned by the Second Portmeirion Foundation, which is a registered charity. They have partnered up with the team behind Festival No.6 to keep Clough’s motto alive: “Cherish the Past, Adorn the Present, Construct for the Future.”
The architecture is undoubtedly a centrepiece for this festival. Performances are strewn across the village and the buildings are available to rent, as are the hotel rooms, and you are immersed into the history and vision of Portmeirion. Events will take place on the Italian Piazza, The Stone Boat, The Town Hall, highly acclaimed restaurants and the woodland. In the Castell Park area you will find the Street Food Village, Comedy Tent, Studio 6, The Late Night Pavilion and a array of other canvas venues.
I can’t help but look at the photographs and be taken aback by the pure beauty of the site, but the festival’s team hasn’t just relied on the setting to sell the tickets. The team have created a line-up that has hand-picked performers from a range of genres and ages. Comedians, musicians, writers, chefs and intellects will attract an audience that may not have previously heard of this exquisite village. The musical side of this festival not only branches across a multitude of genres but also eras. Current favourites such-as Tune-Yards and Kelis are on the bill, as well as Neneh Cherry and the Pet Shop Boys. Jimi Gordon, Jon Hopkins, London Grammar and Beck are also making an appearance. For the ravers the festival has The Late Night Pavilion, one of two dance tents. Here you will be able to catch tunes from Laurent Garnier (3 hour set) and Todd Terje as he steps in front of the decks to bring you a live show.
While previewing this year’s summer festivals, I noticed that there is an ever-growing connection between established and new festivals, the focus on food. Appearances from chefs and the inclusion of banquets have become of equal importance to the musical line-up. The Festival Number 6 organisers are putting on long table banquets with Bryn Williams and Aiden Byrne. There will also be street food and a Welsh food market, dinner at Clough’s restaurant and The Hotel Portmeirion, if you want to add a bit glamour to your weekend.
If none of the above has appealed to you so far then how about the next part of the line-up. Take yourself to the cinema to watch Shane Meadows’ ‘The Living Room’, featuring a live performance from Gavin Clark. Spoken Word has become an integral part of many festivals and over the weekend you can hear The No.6 Dylan Thomas Tribute featuring Kevin Allen, Rhys Ifans and Murray Lachlan Young. Catch a glimpse of Charlie Higson, Julian Cope, Salena Godden, Stuart Maconie, Matt Everitt (known to BBC 6 Music fans) and Tim Burgess presents Tim Peaks, the Charlatans front man’s pop-up cafe. You can also laugh your socks off in the comedy tent with James Acaster and Josh Widdicombe. If you want a bit more action perhaps the Carnival No.6 will have you dancing and singing or maybe try a Paddle Boarding session.
It is now the end of the festival season and my festival guide 2014. I hope you have enjoyed it, because I definitely have! Now do me one favour, get on that Virgin Train and arrive at Festival Number 6 with a camera filled with film (I’m old school), and take some photos to show me!