Scotland’s very own Eden Festival turned 8 this year and, fittingly, drew in a record crowd of 8,000 revellers. According to organisers, the festival is ‘a three day celebration of music, dance, colour, culture and community built on an ecologically sound set of principles’. Its interests are social as well as environmental; it is organised by Galloway Arts Community Interest Company, a not-for-profit organisation run by the local community. Set in the beautiful Raehills Meadows in Dumfries, for the weekend of 9th – 12th June, the site is awash with stunning floral decoration. Eden festival is small and intimate – you are likely to see the same faces over the weekend – and yet there is never a dull moment. A trip into The Snake Pit, Eden’s night time area, throws up a labyrinth of winding passages to be discovered, leading to tents which seemingly lack any sense of time. You can explore a forest of Chinese lanterns, rope swings and hammocks; a bridge overlooking the site; a drive in cinema complete with hollowed out cars. SO – don your glitter and your baggiest elephant print trousers as I relive the highlights of Eden 2016: a weekend of colour, adventure, and psy-trance.
The weekend opened with an impressive line-up to coax festival goers into the spirit of the weekend. The John Langan Band set the tempo at the main stage, initiating enthusiastic dancing with their Balkan-inspired gypsy folk. Next up were Gentleman’s Dub Club, also delivering an energetic performance to an even larger audience; warmed up and ready to skank and sing along to their hit ‘High Grade’. A comparatively relaxed set followed from King Charles: confident – borderline cocky – yet soulful and stirring. However, Friday night was primarily one for the dance fans: the ‘Ghilli Du Dance Emporium’ tent boasted a line up of Toddla T, DJQ and local favourites Mungo’s Hi Fi to carry us into the night. The tropical tent was strung with thick layers of bunting and greenery, featuring trippy projections and lashings of strobe. Meanwhile, jungle legend Congo Natty smashed his headline set on the main stage before a buzzing crowd. His bass-heavy set mixed jungle, reggae and grime, and MC Iron Dread sustained the energy throughout. Bursts of fire sporadically lit up the main stage to the awe of wide eyed revellers.
Saturday day began as a relaxed affair, with tonnes of workshops and crafts on offer – from bracelet making to belly dancing, hula hooping to mindfulness. In the afternoon, it was time to shake away the cobwebs of last night as Eden favourite Mr Motivator took to the main stage to orchestrate a mass workout. He then umpired the annual Eden Olympics, which included a giant tug of war. The laid-back atmosphere continued into the night with the trip-hop sounds of Skye and Ross from Morcheeba. An alternate option was the Gypsy Disco: a cabaret of dance, circus and comedy set to a live DJ. Mungo’s Hi-Fi appeared again with Eva Lazerus at Boardwalk – a bike-powered stage which relied on brave audience members’ pedalling to keep the Reggae beats flowing. From there it was back to Ghilli Du for Ed Solo, whose usual electronic sound was broken up by the breakstep garage beats of Deekline to incredible effect.
We climbed over the campsite’s fence and into the icy river that ran beside it: a great way to wash away the previous night’s sweat and glitter. Back at the main stage, a mass ceilidh provided an opportunity to make the most of dry weather. Cult hits Colonel Mustard and the Dijon Five proved their ability to get the crowd going with eccentric, upbeat singalongs. Later, things got funky with Afriquoi’s afro-beat infused sounds. The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show played to a packed out Furry Chillum tent, from a stage shaped like a bus. Charles’s set climaxed with his own remix of Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, which thrilled a more-than-tipsy crowd. Asbo Disco brought the bass-heavy sounds at Ghilli Du for the rest of the night. Rather lost amidst all the dance sets, however, was a mellow, soulful set from mainstage headliner Andreya Triana – surely deserving of a larger crowd – as the sun set on Eden festival’s last day. As the night reached its peak, we journeyed to The Lost Disco where Cream T kept the 70s funk and soul classics going until the early hours. Edinburgh students: think Hey QT set in a forest of fairy lights, with a double dose of glitter. Needing a change of scenery and a place to catch our breath (as much as you can in a tent thick with hazy fumes), we washed up in the Vishnu Lounge. Decorated like an Indian wedding tent, featuring hot chai, hammocks and bathtubs sunken into the ground, the tent helped festival goers to drift into the early hours of the morning. Finally, we warmed ourselves by the Stone Circle fire and watched revellers emerging from dance tents, surprised to see daylight. And so our colourful and crazy weekend drew to a close.
Eden Festival is far removed from the big-name, big-brand commercialism of other festivals that dominate the scene. It is more intimate, friendly and captivating: festival hedonism with a conscience. SO – If you want to dance way past the early hours, Eden will welcome you with open, sweaty arms. If you simply want to sit and watch the Garden of Eden go by – and, trust me, you will see some sights – Eden has a sunken bathtub with your name on it.