When I say that swimming in the river, a talk about tree climbing, and dancing with mine and Ms markontour’s parents were the among the highlights of this year’s Port Eliot Festival, don’t think it wasn’t a vintage year for this little, eclectic Cornish festival. Almost everything we saw hit the spot. But for this big-city-hopper, you can’t beat combining great music with the lovely British outdoors, especially if your nearest and (wonderfully eccentric) dearest are in tow.
Headline Acts: Beth Orton, Jeremy Hardy, Dawn French
Contemporaneous events: Labour leadership election; counter-coup in Turkey
Authors festival credentials: camping with Ms markontour plus respective management (copyright C. Hammacott)
Luke Wright (5*) – Oh wow! Performing his incredible new long-form poem, ‘Meet Jonny Bevan’, & a council estate that is turned into festival venue for hipsters, this was an hour-long monologue of absolute perfection. Blistering. Proud to have started the standing ovation that engulfed the entire packed venue. (7pm, Bowling Green, Saturday).
Darren Hayman (5*) – the Hefner frontman (discover them if you haven’t already) performing his wonderous new concept album ‘Thankful Villages’, relating tales of those fortunate places which returned home a full complement of First World War volunteers. ‘When Will My Heart Be Still’ will surely be on this year’s Festive Fifteen. (12.30, Caught By The River, Saturday)
Charlotte Hobson – talking about her fascinating first novel, The Vanishing Futurist, a diary of a British governess caught up in the 1917 revolution & a Bolshevik supporting avante garde group inspired by collectivism. I bought it immediately for holiday reading, but now that I am on vacation I realise I didn’t bring it with me.. (2pm, Walled Garden, Friday)
Jack Cooke – inspiring us all to climb trees, as he was paid to do for a year. I loved the story about climbing an ash tree in central London to find a lawyer on a higher bough enjoying his lunch. Now I have his book, thanks to my Mum, expect many a markontour blog from treetops. (10am, Idler Academy, Saturday)
Jeremy Hardy – I’ve seen the News Quiz stalwart’s current show three times now, since he was trying it out at markontour’s local theatre-pub in Walthamstow and it just gets better, even if you know what is coming. Best line: “Alastair Campbell – OK, your’e depressed, but you could have made country music not excuses for war”. (5.30pm, Park Stage, Sunday)
The Magenetic North – Hannah Peel, whom we have previously enjoyed singing with her music box at Port Eliot, doing a great turn with a band, singing about Skelmersdale and the Orkneys. (9pm, Caught By The River, Thursday)
William the Conqueror – described as a troubadour & conveying shades of Kurt Vile at times, but mostly putting a smile on the face of a later-night audience comprised equally of exuberant teenagers and forty-somethings free of their kids. (11.30pm, Ace of Spades, Thursday)
New Faber Poets – “This is just to say / I have texted lying down / And dropped my phone on my face / No-one is perfect.” I didn’t write down who said it, unfortunately, but I believe they also referred to “ambivalent weather”, which I also loved. (Noon, Caught By The River, Friday)
Gavin Pretor-Pinney – wearing a scientists’ overalls and talking to ‘The Science of the Sky’, the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society did experiments that went bang, used the shapes oil makes in a frying pan to explain the impact of rising heat on cloudes, & generally told us all about those white fluffy shapes up above. Has a manifesto that includes “We pledge to fight blue sky thinking”. (4pm, Round Room, Friday)
Meilyr Jones – not quite the intensity of his late night Crows Nest gig at Glastonbury, but the Welsh wizard did manage to introduce his whole band twice. (8pm, Caught By The River, Saturday)
Wild Running/Swimming – is it acceptable to include a morning jog in a festival review? Anyway, it was fun to run through the woods with 20 other early risers, thanks to Sim Benson’s friendly instruction. And this y (8.30am, The Woods, Saturday)
Letters from Arcadia – two regular CBTR correspondents discussing madness & fishing. Dexter Petley was sent to an asylum because of a childhood love of poetry. His next-door neight lived “upside down”, with the kitchen upstairs & bedroom on ground level. Best line: “One day Dad came home with a fishing rod instead of a headache”. (1.15pm, Caught By The River, Sunday)
Mitch Benn – singing “I’m going to have to learn Minecraft if I’m ever going to talk to my children again’ & other such enjoyably resonant nonsense. (4.30pm, The Park, Sunday)
Black Kat Boppers – got the whole family dancing in the chilly evening air. (10.30pm, Walled Garden, Saturday)
Dawn French – cleverly interviewed by Miranda Sawyer, Cornwall’s comic legend chatted engagingly about her life and provided a fair portion of laughs. (7pm, The Park, Friday)
James Flint – reading from his newly finished, but not yet published, first novel ‘Midland’, an exploration of both the region where I grew up & middle-age. (10am, Walled Garden, Friday)
Mostar Diving Club – enjoyed in passing, I want to see this bunch of multi-instrumentalists again. (1.15pm, Walled Garden, Friday)
Michael Bird – using a blackboard to describe the St Ives’ Artists & benefiting from once having broken down outside Patrick Heron’s house. Fun learning. (11am, Tiddy Tent, Saturdy)
Barney Hoskyns – reflections on Dylan and The Band’s reclusive days in Woodstock. (5pm, Idler Academy, Saturday)
Clare Longrigg – explaining how long-form journalism works – you need to explain not only that they drank tea, but what variety it was & how your subject held the mug. I only scored this 3 at the time, but I have thought about it a lot since, so I reckon it was a grower. (11am, Idler Academy, Sunday)
Aldous Harding – asked us “what if the birds aren’t singing, they’re screaming?”. I don’t think I quite had the patience to get the depth of this performance. (2.30pm, Church, Sunday)
Beth Orton – I love Beth Orton & her comeback performance at Port Eliot a few years ago was one of my favourite gigs of all time. But while her new album has garnered rave reviews, it really struggles live. We stayed to the end, but most of the crowd missed the wonderful acoustic guitar section that lifted the whole gig. (10pm, The Park, Friday)
Special mention: My Dad. For many things, but particularly this gem of a protest that he is on a diet, when turning down the offer of a chocolate biscuit: “I’ve given up all sweet things.” Pause. “Except Ruth (my Mum), of course”.
Here’s what you could have won – I wished I’d seen ‘My Old Man’ at Caught By The River, the bloke from the blog site dedicated to sharing thoughts and memories about yer old man.