Nestled in the hills of St Germans, Cornwall is Port Eliot Festival. Formally known as Elephant Fayre or Lit Fest, Port Eliot is fast becoming one of the most creative and upcoming festivals of the year. With the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Harper Simon and Jakob Dylan performing at the festival over the years, it’s quickly turned into one of the hottest spots in the UK for emerging creative talent.
A super easy 20 minute drive from Plymouth, or a convenient 20-30 minute journey by train, Port Eliot is the perfect local festival for those who want a slightly different festival experience. With some of recent history’s best festivals being focussed almost exclusively on the music, Port Eliot breaks the mould with a focus on art, theatre, dance and comedy. You can visit the Bowling Green to sit and listen to Ralph Steadman or Dom Joly talk about their life and art, or you can visit The Park to watch some stand up comedy by Shaun Hughes or Sara Pascoe, or just enjoy the dance and theatre troupes that can be found around the grounds, dressed as forest nymphs and mermaids.
Don’t get me wrong though, there’s always the low hum of music coming from various tents. With the line up playing host to indie folk Villagers, post punk ladies Stealing Sheep, local beys Fishermans Friends and DJ Andrew Weatherall, you can be treated to stages next to the water, right by the house, hidden in the woods or sprawled over a hill, drenched in sunshine.
The location is mind bogglingly beautiful. You’ve got Port Eliot house and the nearby church, two domineering Grade I listed buildings, as well as the rich expanse of the local grounds which are home to several outbuildings and exquisite natural landscape on the edge of the estuary, which plays host to Brunel’s nine arch Romanesque viaduct.
Now, unique music, idyllic setting and immersive creative vibe aside, Port Eliot is pretty fucking posh. Myself, Dom Moore and good pal Emily Dymond enjoyed a game of posh name bingo with the winner coming in hot with Guthfrey, Cassius coming in at a close second. You could buy contemporary cast iron chimineas, handmade rainbow shoes and Prosecco a steal at only £16 a bottle. That being said, I’ve got no problem with hanging around in the realms of the upper middle class. My friend Alanna managed to win a picnic for 10 courtesy of Rick Stein’s son, Jack. The bubbly was flowing, slabs of meat, salads and vegetables adorned the table and as a special treat, we were introduced to electric daises. Known as the toothache plant, they were traditionally used to numb the mouth for amateur dentistry. Your lips and tongue tingle likened to sherbert, sour lemons and popping candy. A really unique experience and a suitable end to the festival.
Sat on that hill, surrounded by cushions with a full belly and a light head, I understood what Port Eliot festival really is. Everyone is friendly, polite and talkative, I only overheard two fights, and one was over the queue at a Portaloo and another about how one man’s partner just wasn’t supporting him in his pursuit for creative enlightenment. It’s very relaxed and people are encouraged to get knee high in the muddy bed of the River Tiddy. The food options available are incredible and I indulged myself accordingly, bonding with my friend Phil James over Grumpies pies, two blokes from Cornwall, making meat and veg pies served with mash and gravy. The whole affair is very relaxed, security isn’t hot and heavy which I think worked in the festival’s favour. You’re trusted to not be a dickhead and in my experience, it totally worked.
For a unique experience, a taste of local goodies and a chance to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, Port Eliot is the place to be. I had such a fantastic weekend, and I can only hope that I’ll be given the opportunity to go back again next year.