A 5 hour drive with a backpack on my lap, a sweaty collapsing tent and the hottest day of my life…
Before university, electronic music only played around me on European beaches or slightly pricier clubs. The festivals I attended before have been indie music festivals, where it really mattered which specific acts I got to see, and past midnight I could still tell the artist apart.
Gottwood is a small and intimate festival in Holyhead, as far North in Wales as you can go without getting your feet wet. When I say small and intimate, I mean we camped the furthest away from the main site as we could and there was not enough time for a smoke while travelling between the two. My friend, the token northerner of the group, kept running into home friends at every stage, and the three scousers camped next to us seemed to pop up at every food stall we were at.
What I loved
It has definitely made me a big fan of smaller festivals, alongside the horror stories of big festivals such as Reading or Parklife.
It has been one of the first times I felt okay walking on my own through a festival site, on an evening where I hit up the medical tent for the first time ever (sleeping on a yoga mat instead of an air mattress did unspeakable damage to my back). The festival was walkable, with security patrolling around and a tent with a drug-interaction table. The stages themselves were surprisingly polite, most people dancing in their space, leaving enough space to breathe.
If you are into electronic music as a general rather than a specific genre, this is the festival for you.
I am slightly clueless as to the different BPMs and breaks and samples, turning to my more knowledgeable friends during every set I enjoyed to ask “what genre is this?”, but there was a an hour of music for everyone. From bumpy jungle, to breaks, to drum and bass and an MC telling everyone they will need “more stamina”.
What could be improved
There were a few things that could have gone much better. For starters, the bars would not serve water, which is not a big big deal as there were quite a few water points. But, as the temperatures reached 20 Celsius and there was a thick layer of sweat between my head and bucket hat, I’d have liked to know that before queuing for 10 minutes after a set.
Some of the stages had queues and a one-in-one-out policy. The Barn, a mainly indoor stage inside a, you guessed it, barn, had a smokers area with toilets and a water point just outside, so security would let you get hydrated and come back in without queuing. However, one of the other entry only stages would not. We found this out as during the headliner we tried to go toilet.
My friend stepped one foot outside, realised this and tried to come back to join us, which security would not let her do. As we could not leave her alone most of the group ended up leaving and missing a headliner we were there an hour early for. The security man too was overwhelmed on his own, people who were not aware they could not come back in getting angry, shouting at him and pushing past.
Gottwood 2023 was an intense weekend, between the drizzle of the rain and the ringing ears, but I would recommend it to anyone wanting to dip their toes into an electronic music festival. Good music, good food, alongside the right company and a pretty and compact-site. The negatives were definitely out-numbered, and I would love to return, although maybe when I move somewhere closer.
Photos as part of the author’s personal gallery.
For more details for next year, visit the festival website: https://www.gottwood.co.uk/.