Limetree Festival celebrates its 5th year, located in the rural area of Grewelthorpe, near Ripon in North Yorkshire. Anyone who has been to Yorkshire can guess that the site of Limetree is green, hilly and beautiful, due to this particular county in the UK having a vast amount of space. I certainly got a spacious feeling entering Limetree Festival and most definitely enjoyed the drive though the scenic country roads. Festivals during the August bank holiday range from the historic Notting Hill Carnival to the popular Leeds festival running at the same time as Limetree. It doesn't really matter though as Limetree has been created as an alternative festival to Leeds and is in fact a reminder of how festivals used to be. Married couple Sean and Karen Birdsell have been running the site since 2008 and their vision was very much to create a Big Chill of the North.
I myself grew up in Yorkshire and returning to Ripon (as it had indeed been long time since I was there) immediately reminded me of how beautiful this area is, in fact a great spot to have a festival. I was also struck by how professional the organisation was, as many smaller festivals I'd been to hadn't been quite as well as organised as this. The area itself has apparent energy lines that run through it and certainly adds to the traditional ethos of festivals, bringing a more open and conscious element to the place. I was also surprised to see and meet so many people from different parts of the UK, visiting Limetree, as I never realised how much the word had already spread about this festival. I guess with so many festivals these days, people are willing to travel to get what they want and there's no doubt that many who were here this time had been before. The main character of the people for me was certainly about happy buzzing people, all ages, really happy to have a festival that they could feel a part of and experience something that no other festival could deliver.
What creates the connectivity and community that occurs at Limetree Festival is that Sean and Karen's vision is not about competing with big festivals but about creating a good experience that only independent festivals seem to create. Financed themselves and organised to maintain a consistent vibe they have decided to keep the numbers to a limited capacity, around 2500, so the atmosphere is consistent with their ethos. The ethos is about environmental awareness, support to the surrounding area, love of real music, facilities for family, integration and openness, interesting food and workshops to entertain. The connection to the community definitely brings a loyalty and opportunity for many. That combined with beautiful surroundings, a committed crew to making it work and a personal touch, certainly gives you a unique experience at Limetree Festival.
It was my first time to Limetree and I was informed the site had expanded compared to previous events. The five year mark is always a unique position for the life of any festival and the jump to expand the areas is an indicator of more that Limetree can accommodate for in the future. It did create a spacious feeling compared to other festivals that I'd been to. In fact it was very laid back and ample opportunities to see everything you may want to see. The stages included The Green Man Stage, Jason Rae Stage, JB World Music Tent, Queer Inspace, Sorted Dance Tent, Yorkshire Gig Guide Tent and the start of the Dance Music Therapy area. There were also smaller happening going on with live unplugged areas, smaller tents, the Kreative Kidz Area, a stone circle, workshops and healing areas. It certainly created many things for one to do, all within easy walking distance and something for everyone.
The line up truly represented a mix bunch of innovative, individual and classic artists. The line up is Sean's baby and indeed created by a true music fan. Limetree 2011 consisted of major 'old school' acts such as Celt Islam, Transglobal Underground, Andy Smith and Carleen Anderson, to emerging talent such as Submotion Orchestra, Jilly Riley and Ariya Astrobeat Archestra. The newly created Dance Music Therapy area had a plethora of great talent, such as a host of residents from Back To Basics and connected affiliates, DJ E.A.S.E and many more. What's really cool is that there's plenty on the line up that most wouldn't recognise due to undiscovered local talent as a feature of the line up and emerging acts soon to break through, ensuring you will definitely learn something new at Limetree. I was pleasantly surprised to see loads of acts I'd never heard of before and truly blown away at the level of quality undiscovered music. Result!
The food was good. There were all sorts of flavours from local producers and shops, as well as world dishes. I tasted Jamaican and Tibetan food that was quality and saw stalls providing pork pies, hog roast, fish and chips and plenty in between. In fact a nice variety without the ridiculous ques. There were also shops to buy supplies at a reasonable price. Regarding other things on site were cool workshops that could teach you how to DJ and yoga events to keep the whole family occupied. Plenty of choice in addition to the music.
Overall I can really see why people return to Limetree festival, as I'm definitely going back for sure! Certainly highlights of the festival were Submotion Orchestra whose performance was sublime and definitely noteworthy. In fact Ruby Wood is truly making a name for herself and performed with Extra Curricular and as Noah & Ruby too. The performance of Musiquariums, an underground music collective from Leeds, whose emerging venue and support for the festival is a part of Limetree, and performed a great show revealing more to come from this outfit in the future. I particularly enjoyed seeing China Shop Bull for the first time and thought Transglobal Underground were amazing! The highlight for many is The Limetree Family Affair, where many of the musicians from the festival get together to perform the last gig of the event, and is truly unique to the Limetree experience. What's clear is that there's plenty for people to get involved with at Limetree Festival and chances to perform throughout the festival.
It did feel like a proper festival, whether it was to do with the energy lines or the people, but the vibe was quite stirring and emotional for sure. For any Northerner it's brilliant to have that on your doorstep. I would definitely say that Sean and Karen have succeeded in creating a Big Chill of the North, certainly to the same vibe when the Big Chill started. It's great to go to a festival and learn something and its definite credit to Sean and Karen for providing so many people with the opportunity to progress and develop their endeavours. This is definitely felt by the punters who go, who definitely make new friends and are assured of catching up the following year. It's great to get a slice of something relatively unknown that has the potential to grow. Indeed the word is spreading about Limetree Festival and for me anyway, means I've got somewhere to go that I'm sure will be quality. Thanks!