Pic: Aron Klein If you could design your perfect festival - site, bands, crowd, vibe, the whole thing - then it would probably end up looking something like Somersault 2014. Billed as a 5 day summer camp in North Devon and in its launch year, no one knew quite what to expect but on a sun baked weekend it felt like 15000 people were unanimously loving it.
Let's start with the location of Castle Hill in Filleigh, a beyond beautiful estate with a river running through it, picturesque stone bridges, a folly and of course the wonderful old-yellow Palladian house. Somersault took full advantage of the romantic setting to work its magic so that there was a rave in the woodland, think 500 year old oak tree lit up in purple with a giant mirror ball swinging from its branches, a wild wellbeing retreat in the glade, a boutique camping village with unrivalled view of the main house. At night with lanterns strung through trees the site had a slightly surreal, fairytale feeling. During the day people swam in the river or went on excursions to Croyde Beach and Exmoor. The concept was that as well as being a music festival Somersault was also a summer holiday and that's exactly how it felt; going back to base in the late afternoons and seeing wetsuits hung up to dry and surfboards slung against tents. Yoga freaks mingled happily with cider swillers, joggers ran through those sprawled in front of the main stage waiting for the music to begin. Jack Johnson and Ben Howard were the perfect choices of headliner for a first year festival. Jack delivered a Saturday night set that had the whole crowd on their feet dancing and singing along. During the day he was seen at the Pearl Lowe gypsy tea party donning a hat and tweed jacket at the fantasy photo booth then taking his turn on the trapeze back at the main site (see below). By contrast Ben Howard's closing set on Sunday was full of such evocative love songs I even saw one surfer moved to tears. Food was a highlight - both the amazing shared feasts hosted by culinary stars such as Andy Appleton from Fifteen Cornwall and Nathan Outlaw (Fifteen's seafood risotto starter is well up there in last meal status) and the stalls featuring top knotch everything from Breakfast Club bacon baps to Sam's legendary burgers and the Smokery's pulled pork. Bubble tea for the teens (definitely an acquired taste) and after-dark Mojitos for the parents - it was all there. Below: main stage by Langley Children were kept busy with hula hoops and glitter showers, the giant trapeze, circus shows, wild swimming and, crucially, returning all the empty plastic glasses to the bar where they were paid 10p a glass. Come Monday this meant a site that was far cleaner than you'd expect and happy kids with pockets jangling full of change. At night there was a pervading party atmosphere wherever you went. Music at the Chai Wallah tent (see main image) was so good it was almost impossible to leave and by chance we discovered Musical Bingo at the Variety Tent - essentially an entire crowd dancing on haybales, the stage, any makeshift podium they could get their hands on and shouting out the choruses to classics from Bonnie Tyler through to The Clash. After a few ciders this is where you wanted to be. Perhaps it was the predominantly surfy music fans, the magical setting or the upbeat, jokey security staff but there was a feelgood vibe here like none I've ever encountered at a festival. When I went to reclaim my daughter's mobile from the info tent they told me 6 wallets had been handed in that day all with their cash still intact. And that kind of sums up the first Somersault Festival. Although it sold out Somersault still managed to feel like a well kept secret and those of us who were there felt lucky we'd found it.