Cool Britannia festival was everything you could imagine from a smaller scale British festival. Plonked in the middle of the idyllic Knebworth Park, and with the beautiful Knebworth house as the backdrop, Cool Britannia couldn’t have been placed in a better location. Not only that, the mixture of artists, music genres, and even a pub on-site, meant it was bound to be a fantastic weekend!
Iconic acts inspired by an epic era!
The Festival was really easy to find, and as a venue was perfect! The festival was easy to navigate around as people were on hand to help you as soon as you arrived. Whether showing you where to park, where campsite was, or simply the best place to find a silly hat, all the staff were really friendly and helpful!
The main arena was a great size. There was plenty of space to sit, have a dance or lie in the sun. It’s always nice to feel you are not sitting or having to stand on the corner of someone else’s picnic blanket due to lack of space!
On a practical note, there were plenty of clean toilets with toilet roll and hand sanitiser (EVEN ON DAY 3). There were also plenty of bins dotted about, but yet people still just leave their rubbish where they stood. It’s such a shame – come on people get a grip… just bin it!
The Camping and Glamping
Being lucky enough to go with someone with campervan is always a winner. This time around, I paid for a campervan pitch at Cool Britannia. And I have to admit – it has really made me consider buying one!
The pitch size at Cool Britannia for the campervans was brilliant. They were clearly marked and easy to park in. What surprised me was that even though it was ‘sold out’ there were quite a few spots available it seemed. Perhaps some poor campers had fallen victim to car trouble… who knows. Campervan passes were not cheap mind you. I paid about £90 for the campervan ticket and if you wanted an electrical hookup, it was a further £100. That being said, if you were in a group, you would only pay for one camper and split the cost. So I suppose it depends on how many of you are going to stay in it!
There were hot showers and portaloos in the campervan area, as well as plent of water points. All the little extras made for a great and really comfortable weekend. I will definitely be going back to Cool Britannia in a camper that’s for sure!
That being said, the general campsite looked great. Located only a short walk from the main car park, and festival action, flat ground, and with plenty of space… what more could you ask for? As well as regular camping, there was also glamping – a small number of T-Pee tents were available, which after staying in at Bournemouth 7’s, I would highly recommend if you can afford the slight extra expense.
The VIP Area
There was a fantastic VIP area at Cool Britannia. As I was Press, I was lucky enough to be given access to it. Having VIP meant access to slightly posher toilets which are always a welcome relief from the standard portaloo style toilets at a festival.
There were wooden tables to sit and enjoy the music, or tuck into whatever food you had decided to buy that day! The tables had a great view of main stage and over the arena. This meant you could sit comfortably with a drink and watch fantastic live music in the sunshine. A perfect way to spend a weekend in my eyes.
There was a huge, Tee-Pee style tent, with comfy sofas and chairs in if you wanted to escape the festival for a minute or get away from the rain or sun. VIP was perfect to meet and chat to new people, enjoy a drink and enjoy sitting comfortably for a bit. I met some fantastic people in the VIP area, some of whom were experiencing their very first festival!
VIP also had an undercover VIP bar, which served cocktails, cider, beer, wine and soft drinks. This was perfect to avoid having to find a bar in the main arena, or to skip the queues are the normal bars.
What I thought would have been nice, would have been a themed or quirky cocktail bar in there. Perhaps a bar in a V.W camper or something along those lines. The bar was pretty understated and could have been made to feel much more exclusive/special. As a little extra, blankets or throws at the tables would have been nice in the evenings. I understand people might take them, but they would’ve been a nice when temperatures dropped. Especially for all those that didn’t have their beer jackets on.
Overall, the VIP area had a lovely atmosphere and everyone was really friendly and chatty. This only added to the already calm and welcoming nature of the festival.
As with most festivals, food is a very important part of the whole festival experience. Cool Britannia had some fantastic food on offer! They had a great variety including vegan wraps, falafel, Chinese, pizza, burgers, hotdogs, curry, steak and much more! I have to admit, I had the same burger twice over the weekend – YES IT WAS THAT GOOD! Loaded with pickles and heaps of mustard… yummy!
Drinks-wise, prices were as you would expect. Roughly £6 for a drink seems to be the norm for festivals these days. They had beers, ciders, wine, cocktails and soft drinks to choose from so there was plenty of choice for everyone. The cider and beer came in cans, which I loved! It meant they didn’t automatically give you a plastic cup with every drink. Cans are easily recycled and are a lot less prone to spilling that a flimsy, single-use, plastic cup.
Of course me being me, I brought my own reusable metal cups! I had one from MedoCup and one from Green Eco Shop. I always recommend taking your own cups to a festival. Not only does a metal cup mean you can reuse it over and over again, it keeps the contents cooler for much longer.. so really it’s a win-win!
The onsite pub (The Rose and Crown) was a nice touch and was a unique quirk about Cool Britannia. It had pub-style wooden tables at the front and an upstairs sitting area views over the arena.
Labeling itself ‘a festival with iconic acts from an epic era’, it was bound to have a fantastic lineup. It really didn’t disappoint. Music was played across numerous stages over the weekend, all of which had a totally different identity and vibe.
Cool Britannia had a lineup that gave everyone a sense of nostalgia, and really provided throwback moments for most people. Personal highlights included: Fun Lovin’ Criminals, The Coral, Basement Jaxx, Jo Whiley, James, Phil Hartnoll, Goldie and Soul II Soul. The list could continue!
Saturday, main stage, sun shining, cider in hand… We saw The Bluetones and what a way to start what was to be a fabulous weekend of music. Playing hits like ‘If‘ (which they aptly named on stage ‘ The big song with a little name‘) was the perfect start to the weekend. They got everyone feeling good, dancing, smiling and singing along. They definitely set the bar high for the artists that followed and created a fantastic atmosphere.
Later was Soul II Soul, who brought a totally different flavour when they came on. With two Grammy Awards under their belt, you were never going to have a bad show from them. Their epic vocals and classic songs made for a fantastic set which you could tell everyone was thoroughly enjoying.
Later in the evening came Jo Whiley, who pumped out the 90’s classics and I think contributed highly to my insane step-count from the weekend with all the dancing I did during her set. I could have listened to her all night, and I think others felt the same. Book her for an all-night set and no one would have complained. She played some absolute bangers and was probably one of my highlights of the whole festival!
Saturday night closed with a bang when James took centre stage. With Tim the lead singer coming on stage looking super casual, it set the tone for a really relaxed and candid set. They were just enjoying playing their music. No frills, no desperate attempt to modernise or change things up, they played an incredible and honest set. Tim even decided that jumping into the crowd was a good idea. They really included everyone in their performance which only added to their epic set!
Later that evening, listening to Goldie, I found myself dancing amongst tons of confetti and a whole bunch total strangers in the Ministry of Sound tent, absolutely loving life. There was a totally different feel in here, it was a real party vibe. It felt like one of those amazing house parties you always wanted to go. The one where more and more people just turned up because they could hear the DJ playing a banger! Everyone was dancing together, and there was a real sense of unity in the tent. People were having dance-offs, admiring each other’s questionable moves and generally having a great night.
Sunday was an equally epic day of music. It started strongly with Babybird, Dodgy and Echobelly taking to the stage from 14:00 onwards!
Then came the cavalry – starting with Fun Lovin’ Criminals who absolutely smashed it! I have never seen them live before, and I absolutely loved them! You forget how amazingly talented they are as musicians. When you just listen on Spotify you don’t think about how much skill it takes to play as they do! The sheer number of instruments on stage, and hot they got everyone dancing, moving, and singing along showed how amazing their set was!
Following them was Gabrielle, whose voice was still as mesmerizing as always. She brought a more mellow and chilled tone to the afternoon which was really enjoyable with a drink in hand. The only thing I did think was that she should have perhaps played before Fun Lovin’ Criminals. They were always going to be a hard act to follow. I would day the flow from them to her was a little off. They were buzzing and provided this amazing energy, which was then somewhat subdued by Gabrielle’s more chilled and relaxed set.
Later in the evening, we saw The Coral. If you haven’t heard of them, think quintessentially English rock band and that’s them! The fact they had previously toured with The Arctic Monkeys only added to the excitement of seeing them. Their set was amazing, they played classics like ‘Dreaming of You’ and ‘In the Morning’ which took everyone back to an evening, they had undoubtedly drunk too much red wine and were sat in their local listening to cover songs!
Then came the the headliner, the act I had waited all weekend to see… BASEMENT JAXX! One word for their set… WOW! They played some absolute club classics. There were no frills, no epic staging or props, just cool graphics, two guys and a set of decks. It was absolutely incredible. Everyone was having a fantastic time, including the security stage staff. They even created a dance routine and were clearly having a great night too. Their whole set was just unreal, and was the perfect way to close out the main stage of the festival! Topped all that off with an epic firework display, their set was genuinely on fire. I couldn’t have had a better time listening to their set if I tried! EPIC EPIC EPIC.
Activities and Extras
Between acts, or if a band wasn’t to your taste, there were plenty of other things to get involved with. Although not as much on offer as other smaller festivals I had been to, there were some fun activities and extras dotted about . That being said, with the line-up that Cool Britannia had, how could you tear yourself away from the music if I’m honest!
The circus/freak show was amazing. I went in thinking it might be very ‘child focussed’ and I was wrong. They did have more PG and family-friendly shows, however, they had different performers throughout the day. I saw a girl walk up a set of stairs made of blades and a man fit his entire body through a tennis racket, all in all, it was pretty amazing. Through the gaps in my fingers whilst I covered my eyes, I saw a sword swallower, which made me feel a bit wobbly I have to admit. It was a really fun show and added another element to the festival.
There was also a mobile karaoke van, which was totally free to use. Now, I have to admit I don’t like karaoke and karaoke doesn’t like me… I can’t sing to save my life, so left it to everyone else to enjoy. Hilariously, there was a camera in the van, so everyone outside could hear and see those inside singing away. It was a laugh watching from the outside I have to admit!
As with most festivals, there’s always cool places to buy silly hats, ‘shit shirts’, and enough glitter to make a magpie weep. Cool Britannia was no exception. There was a great little parade of shops selling all sorts of goodies over the weekend! There was even a Barnardo’s charity shop which sold clothes and camping equipment plus fancy dress, shoes and wellies. I love when charities have a stall at a festival. Some of my favourite festival items have come from charity stalls. Plus, everyone that knows me, knows I love a charity shop!
If thrills and funfairs are more your thing, then Cool Britannia wouldn’t have disappointed. There were plenty of rides at the festival, although they came at an additional cost, they were a nice little extra. I have to admit, they played some banging music at the rides!
One thing I did see but didn’t really venture into was a kids tent. Not having children makes it hard to know/experience this side of a festival. However, I did see a lot of bubbles, diablos and other games sprawled out across the floor of a tent and outside play area, so I could imagine that it would have been kid heaven during the day!
One thing worth mentioning is the fireworks! They were amazing! I think people underestimate how much work and expense goes into putting on a fabulous firework display. Cool Britannia pulled out all the stops! The fireworks throughout the weekend were amazing, but the finale display during the Basement Jaxx set was just next level!
Would I go again?
It was a fantastic weekend filled with banging burgers, amazing live music, lovely people and one (or two) drinks! I really enjoyed Cool Britannia and I will certainly be going back for more – so see you in 2020!
Although all thoughts and opinions are my own, this was an affiliated post with Cool Britannia Festival and Noble PR who provided me with Press accreditation for the festival. Thank you to Cool Britannia Festival and Nobel PR for their support!
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