Food, Days Out and Travel stories from Brighton, London and the Rest of the World


Festival Guide 2014 - Port Eliot Festival by Rosie Davis

~ Port Eliot Festival, photo by Michael Bowles ~
~ 24th-27th July ~
Port Eliot Festival
Port Eliot Estate, St Germans, Saltash, Cornwall, PL12 5ND
Weekend camping tickets £165 + £7.50 booking fee

 I hope you have recovered after my last preview as Love Supreme brought a whole lotta funk, jazz and soul into the South Downs. Pimms and Grand Marnier all shaken together with a shot of Soul II Soul and a large swig of De La Soul had three generations raising their hands up in the air and becoming hip-hop fanatics. Definitely a grand finale for the end of a triumphant weekend, I am sure we will see Jazz FM and the Love Supreme team back next year.

Now it’s time for something further south, across three counties and into a part of the world that feels like a million miles from England. I’m taking you across the Tamar Bridge and into Cornwall to St Germans, the home of Port Eliot Festival. Imagine a Grade I listed house and gardens filled with cabaret, music, literature, writers, artists, foodies and creative minds all congregating in this one heavenly spot. 
Well, you can now stop imagining and live it at this creative arts festival.

~ Port Eliot Festival, photo by Michael Bowles ~
Port Eliot house is the historic seat of the Earl and Countess of St Germans and the family have lived at the house for hundreds of years, this is still a family home, offering a personal touch to this annual gathering of creative personalities. Port Eliot Festival isn’t the first festival to have inhabited these grounds, back in 1981 a colourful and vivacious festival called the Elephant Fayre set up camp. It integrated all performance art but in 1986 the festival had to come to an end and pull down its tents and flags for good.

Emerging from the ashes of its predecessor came Port Eliot Festival, an idea conjured up in 2003 by Lord St Germans, but this time there would be a literary twist. Writers, poets and journalists were invited to read out work that other literary festivals wouldn’t even look at. The participants were asked to do something different with words, and they took this to new levels adding a performance element to their recitations, which led the way for future Port Eliot Festivals.

Port Eliot drawing room, photo by Michael Bowles
As a lover of books and everything about them, from the layout, to the design, the cover to the texture of the spine, I couldn’t help but find a gold nugget of joy in Port Eliot Festival. For me it brings all of the components of a book to life with the accumulation of talented artists and performers creating your perfect publication. From this year’s line-up my choice of author for my book would be Salena Godden, a female powerhouse known largely for her Book Club Boutique in London and her collections of poetry and short stories. Photographer Martin Parr would illustrate the text with his iconic style of photography, although at this year’s festival his main medium is film, where he will be screening ‘Turkey and Tinsel’.  The book design and fabric would be chosen by the founder of the original Biba, Barbara Hulanicki, and on this occasion she will be outing her pen to paper for a drawing master class for children aged 7-13.  And last but not least, what better way to accompany a good book, than a glass of bubbly and a delicious meal, possibly cooked by Russell Norman from Polpo and sound tracked by the harmonious sounds of Luke Sital-Singh. Now that is what I call a book, I mean festival!     
Louise Gray in wardrobe dept, photo by Fiona Campbell
As a Brightonian (although that could be disputed as I have emigrated here from Cornwall!), I believe fellow Brightonians will be drawn to Port Eliot Festival for its combination of scenic location and flamboyancy. There is a wardrobe department where you can choose an outfit, accessories and a hair style for the Saturday evening; various music stages, as well as a Food and Fodder stage. Catch Martin Parr's film at The Paradiso Round Room Cinema and afterwards why not wander towards the Ways of Weirds, where Salena Godden will be stepping up on stage as well as Nikki Wyrd, a lady greatly involved in group magical practices and occult conferences.

Camping here is a treat not a chore. The parkland has views of the Cornish countryside, the river, hidden mazes and walled gardens. If nylon, poles and pegs aren’t your thing then there are tipis and yurts and glamping choices galore. There is also an option to roll off your inflatable bed and get involved in activities such as kayaking, sunrise yoga, thai chi, screen printing workshops and knitting.

There are still tickets available, so if you are feeling spontaneous there are trains specially arranged for the festival that will stop at the quaint St Germans train station. Hop off and follow the sign to the pedestrian gate and you are merely a stone’s throw away from Port Eliot Festival.  
Port Eliot Festival, photo by Michael Bowles

By Rosie Davis
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