As if being a radio DJ, a musician, a mother and an author didn’t keep her busy enough, Cerys Matthews is also a festival supremo.
Three years ago, she and three friends decided to put on a festival with a difference – one that rejected big-name headliners and heavy branding in favour of authenticity, simplicity and old-fashioned values.
This September's Good Life Experience in Flintshire, Wales will be the fourth, and just like the previous three you can expect an eclectic mix of music, live-fire cooking, talks, and workshops taking in everything from Wild West hoedown dancing to hand-carving spoons.
As the summer festival season cranks into gear, we speak to Cerys about the Good Life Experience philosophy, why we all need to slow things down for the odd weekend, and what Skepta (probably) listens to on the weekend…
I think it was Michael Eavis who said that running a festival never stops, and that keeps playing on my mind. But we wouldn't do it if it weren't a labour of love – we just feel there's nothing like The Good Life Experience out there. We want to take away the pressure of the commercial world, and make everything about the festival bespoke, hand-curated and all there for a reason. That means no VIP area and no huge corporate financial underpinnings; we're totally independent, and we want people to be part of the festival with us, learning skills and having experiences rather than just watching and being entertained.
We get patronised so much of the time as an audience. We're treated as consumers rather than human beings, and the smoke and mirrors of celebrity and the marketing of brands is everywhere. We have brains inside our heads – use them, don't be led by the nose just because you've been told something's the new thing. Just say 'I like this because I like it'. The beauty of this world is that we all have opinions and we don’t have to follow like sheep.
This festival cannot work by just getting headliners in; it has to be hand-curated, with people who are passionate about whatever they do, and i think that's why it works. It's the same with my radio show – I could be playing some fiddler from Donegal next to Jimi Hendrix, but it's about the platform you create for music to be music, and for the audience to make their own minds up.
It's a weekend away from the pressure of the workplace and the schedules of modern life. With the aid of our beautiful gadgets, we're all working more intensely than ever before; it's a weekend of complete and utter opposition to humdrum life. If that means sitting on a hill knitting, joining a Bulgarian choir, throwing an axe, abseiling down a tree, or just sitting in a field drinking craft beer and listening to Wilko Johnson, then so be it.
It would be foolish to hanker over old-fashioned life, but it would also be foolish not to acknowledge some of the beauty in doing things yourself, being independent, and making mistakes. There's a feeling of empowerment you get when you've climbed that tree, spent a day carving a spoon, danced with a Cuban dance master or rolled your own cigar.
Instead of spending money to get a mass-produced product that'll make your life work faster and more efficiently, take a weekend where you can cook on a fire. You wouldn't want to do it everyday, but knowing you can is the thing. I want my children to make memories the way I did: to run wild, roll down the hill, get mud in their hair, make a fire, make a maze in a cornfield. I want a safe place for them to do that, and that's exactly what we're trying to do with the festival.
Will my kids be going? Oh god, yeah. My 13-year-old daughter's a London girl – she's into Stormzy and grime, she's going to Wireless festival, she’s on Snapchat and Instagram and all the rest of the stuff that's the norm for her generation, but she turned around to me and said "that was the best weekend of my life". When she said that, I was like: "Skepta didn't wasn't there but it was still ok. That's good." I think he's above our budget right now, but we hope to get the people that Skepta probably listens to on the weekend at our festival instead – the originators.
I've been lucky, because or the first 20-odd years of my life my job was touring, and that took in a lot of cities, a lot of continents. It's different now, but I still love travelling; last year we went to Beijing and Xi'An in China, and we're hoping to go to Taiwan this year. When I put myself in situations where I can't speak the language and don't know the food, that really gives me a thrill, and it feeds into the same thing as the festival – the world is so full of wondrous things that aren't commercial, and there are so many different things in people's cultures that fascinate me. Travelling will always be in my bones.
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The Good Life Experience takes place at the Hawarden Estate in Flintshire, Wales, from 15-17 September. Adult weekend tickets cost from £104 (or £134 with camping). For more information visit thegoodlifeexperience.co.uk