Hertfordshire welcomes back its quirky boutique festival. Founder Alex Trenchard tells us what's in store
“It started out as just a small event for 500 people, who were friends or friends of friends…” says Alex Trenchard of the humble beginnings of Standon Calling, the Hertfordshire festival which celebrates its 13th birthday this summer. “That first year we had such a great time and I loved the addictive buzz of being able to organise something that gave people so much joy. I well and truly caught the festival bug and haven’t got over it since!”
Although much has changed for the festival since the early days in terms of scale and ambition, the location – a sprawling rural estate in Hertfordshire owned by the Trenchard family, remains the same. And what a location it is: nestled in the valley of the River Rib, replete with woodland, rolling meadows and a heated outdoor pool (which festivalgoers are encouraged to hop into), it’s a stunningly pretty backdrop for the weekend’s revelry.
For the 2018 event, which runs 26 to 29 July, the organisers have pulled in a blinder of a bill including big names like Bryan Ferry, Paloma Faith and Goldfrapp, alongside a raft of other entertainment and fun to seek out over the course of the weekend. The theme, or ‘story’, is The Future, which will be made up of four worlds: Utopia, Dystopia, Cosmos and Earth 2.0. “Expect some brilliant set pieces at the festival exploring these potential future worlds, along with amazing costumes at the annual costume parade which we want everyone to get involved with,” comments Alex. “Every year we are so impressed by the creative talent out there!”
The organisers are big on going the extra mile to create those little moments of mischief and magic which make a festival extra special – and with whispers of costume parades, aerobics with Mr Motivator, rockaoke and hot tub parties, it sounds like this year will be no exception. The all-time best surprise they’ve orchestrated was back in 2006, according to Alex, when gleeful festivalgoers were ushered into a hidden woodland party.
“We closed our main stage at midnight and pretended that the show was over and cut the lights,” he says. “We then infiltrated the crowd with fairies in black cloaks who removed their cloaks, revealed their fairyness and beckoned the audience down a secret path into a fairy glade in a circle of horse chestnut trees. There were fireworks, a band called The Early Years played... I still remember the joy in people’s faces. I haven’t wanted to do anything else since!”
The masterfully curated music is one of the festival’s biggest draws, and it will be delivering the goods once more this year with an eclectic line-up which ranges from current chart-toppers like Paloma Faith to cult favourites like Django Django and Goldfrapp, all the way through to bona fide legends like Bryan Ferry. In addition to big names they’ve got a knack for selecting artists on the cusp of stardom, so be sure to look beyond the main headliners and check out acts like Ibibo Sound Machine and Dream Wife. For late-night partying they’ve got some of the biggest names in the game stepping up to the wheels of steel, including 2manydjs, Hot Chip and a whole stable of drum and bass DJs from the Hospital Records label.
When you need a bit of a chill, there’s comedy from the likes of Seann Walsh and Lucy Porter on offer, as well as plenty of kids’ fun including a live Horrible Histories show. Elsewhere, rejuvenate yourself at the Wild Wellbeing Camp, home to wood-burning hot tubs, saunas and a pamper zone, or pet the pretty pooches at Standon Calling’s much-loved annual dog show. You can even play at being a rock star on the Rockaoke stage: just choose your song and belt it out to the crowd, accompanied by a real-life live band.
The food’s a cut above your usual festival fare, with options including a pop-up by London burger heroes Patty & Bun to check out, plus steamed bao, maki, Filipino cuisine and more on offer.
“People should come because it’s fun!” says Alex, just in case you need any more encouragement. “There are huge headliners, the best in emerging music talent, delicious food, a great family programme, comedy stars and a proper weekend of countryside festival escapism where you can spend quality time with the important people in your life.”
Sounds good to us!
Festival founder Alex selects his must-sees for this year’s event
“I’m really excited to have a local act, George Ezra, headlining the festival on Saturday night. Goldfrapp will be a stand-out moment supporting Bryan Ferry on Sunday night – any other year she would have been a headliner. I’m a big fan of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Jarvis Cocker, and we have both of them for a rare UK outing. The Horrors are always amazing, and new talent such as Pale Waves, Shame, Marmozets, Gengahr, Dream Wife, Confidence Man and Nelson Can will all be outstanding. Any of them could become someone’s favourite band from the festival this year. I love that sense of music discovery at a proper weekend festival and hopefully we offer that in spades.”
What: Boutique festival with headliners including Bryan Ferry, Paloma Faith and George Ezra
Where: Standon Lordship, Hertfordshire (just under an hour from central Cambridge)
When: 26 to 29 July
How Much: £159 for an adult weekend ticket