Cool Britannia Festival

Iconic acts inspired by an epic era!

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, with a fab mixture of artists, music genres and even a pub on-site, it was bound to be a fantastic weekend! 

The Venue

Cool Britannia was really easy to find, and as a venue was perfect!  The site was really easy to navigate around, and there were people on hand to help from the moment you arrived. Whether it was to show you where to park the car, how to get to the campsite or campervan area, or simply show you 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 toilets and all were clean with toilet roll and hand sanitiser (EVEN ON DAY 3!). There were also plenty of bins dotted about the site, but yet people still saw the need to just leave their rubbish where they stood. It’s such a shame – come on people get a grip… just bin it!

The Camping

Being lucky enough to go with someone who owns a campervan is always a winner, so I paid for a campervan pitch at Cool Britannia this year. 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, but 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 as well, it was a further £100. That being said, if you had a group of you, you would only pay for one camper and split the cost… so depends how many of you are going to stay in it I suppose! 

There were showers and portaloos in the campervan area as well as water points and the usual facilities which were great and made for a really comfortable weekend. I will definitely be going back to Cool Britannia in a camper that’s for sure!

However, that being said, the general campsite looked great. It was located only a short walk from the main car park, it was pretty much flat, there was plenty of space, and it was near all the action of the main festival… 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

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There was a fantastic VIP area at Cool Britannia, which as Press, I was lucky enough to be given access to. Having VIP meant access to slightly posher toilets which are always a welcome relief from the standard portaloo style toilets at a festival.

Not only that, there were lovely wooden picnic tables where you could sit and enjoy the music, or tuck into whatever food you had decided to buy that day! The picnic tables had a great view of the arena and main stage which meant you could sit comfortably with a drink and watch some 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… It was a great place to meet new people, have a chat, enjoy a drink or two, and just sit comfortably for a bit. I met some fantastic people in the VIP area, some of whom were experiencing their very first festival!

Also under the cover of those fantastic tents, was a lovely VIP bar, which served cocktails, cider, beer, wine and soft drinks which was perfect to avoid having to go and find a bar if you were sitting in the VIP area, or if perhaps queues are the normal bars were slightly longer than expected.

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. I felt the bar was pretty understated and could have been made to feel much more exclusive/special. I also felt as a nice little luxurious extra, blankets or throws at the picnic tables would have been nice in the evenings. I understand they would worry about people taking them, but they would have been a nice touch to have when temperatures dropped 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 which only added to the already calm and welcoming nature of the festival.

The Food/Drink

As with most festivals, food is a very important part of the whole festival experience and 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, about £6 for a drink which seems to be the norm for festivals these days. They had beers, cider, wine, cocktails and soft drinks on offer so there was plenty of choices and always something for everyone. The cider and beer came in a can, which I loved as it meant that 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, 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 pup (The Rose and Crown) was a nice touch too and was a unique quirk about Cool Britannia which I loved! It had pub style wooden tables out the front, and a fab upstairs sitting area which had a great view over the arena.

The Music

Labelling itself as ‘a festival with iconic acts from an epic era’, it was bound to have a fantastic lineup of artists and lyrical geniuses… and it really didn’t disappoint. Music was played across numerous stages over the weekend, all of which had a totally differnt identity and vibe.

Cool Britannia had a lineup which gave everyone a sense of nostalgia, and really was a throwback moment for most people. Headliners and personal highlights included: Fun Lovin’ Criminals, The Coral, Gabrielle, Basement Jaxx, Jo Whiley, James, The Bluetones, Phil Hartnoll, Goldie and Soul II Soul… the list could continue!

Saturday

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 which 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, but 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 lead singer Tim 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 and 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 to 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

Sunday was an equally epic day of music and 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 just don’t think about how much skill it takes to play as they do! The sheer number of instruments on stage, and the way they got everyone dancing, moving and singing along just showed how amazing their set was!

Following them was Gabrielle, whose voice was still as mesmerising as always. She brought a much 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 and the flow from them to her was perhaps 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 big names such as 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 biggy, the headliner, the act to close out this already epic lineup, the act I had waited all weekend to see… BASEMENT JAXX! One word for their set… WOW! They played some absolute club classics, and there was no fuss, no frills, no epic staging or props – just really cool graphics behind them, two guys and a set of decks and it was absolutely incredible. Everyone was having a fantastic time, including the security staff at the front of the stage who had 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 off with the fireworks, their set was genuinely on fire and 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 was plenty of other things to get involved with at Cool Britannia. 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, I don’t know how you would have torn 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. Then, 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. However what was funny was that 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 any festival, there are always cool shops and stalls to buy silly hats, ponchos, ‘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 selling everything from clothes and camping equipment to kids fancy dress, shoes and wellies. I love when charities have a stall at a festival – some of my best and favourite festival items have come from charity stalls, and everyone that knows me knows I love a charity shop shopping trip!

If thrills and funfairs are more your thing, then Cool Britannia wouldn’t have disappointed. There was a good choice of rides at the festival and although they came at an additional cost, they were a nice little extra, and I have to admit, they played some banging music!

One thing I did see but didn’t really venture into was a kids tent. Not having children myself it’s 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 and 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?

Hell yeah!

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!

X
TFB

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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