The Good Life Experience with Cerys and Charlie
The second edition of The Good Life Experience takes place on the Hawarden Estate, North Wales between 16 - 18 September this year. A rare opportunity to escape the humdrum with a weekend of discovery, fun, music, food, books and the great outdoors.
We spoke to Co-Founders Cerys Matthews and Charlie Gladstone about the festival and Wales.
Cerys Matthews and Charlie Gladstone, Co-Founders of The Good Life Experience Festival by The Good Life Experience
Visit Wales: What makes The Good Life Experience different to the other festival offerings in the UK?
Cerys: The big addition is the idea that we want people to leave having tried out a new skill, adding a bit of physical activity to the usual line up of music, literature and food.
Charlie: It has a different mix of aspects to it. A lot of festivals tend to be one thing with something else tacked on, so you'll get a music festival that has a bit of a food element to it or some sort of literature element. We try to be equally serious about all four of the aspects and what we set out to do was to set up something genuinely different.
Visit Wales: Was there a specific activity that surprised you with its popularity last year?
Cerys: Well, the axe throwing really pricks up people’s ears. When we first thought we could do this, I was wondering about the insurance, but that was all fine. The abseiling, the archery, the axe throwing, all went down really well. All these activities are free as the festival offers great value for money for all ages, especially if you are coming with a load of kids who you need to feed 24/7 and keep entertained.
There was one activity that took us all by surprise that we hadn’t even considered, because the festival is on farm land next to the farm shop on the Hawarden Estate, there's pick your own blackberries, pumpkins, pears, that sort of activity throughout the year, but in September it is harvest season. So, as soon as the kids started to arrive they were wandering around the site getting familiar with it and noticed a maize field. They were making a maze in the maize field and then cutting the corn heads off and putting them on the various fires dotted around the site, sitting down, cooking and eating them. They were making their own adventure and cooking their own tea!
Charlie: I was probably the only person that wasn’t surprised by the success of the axe throwing and even the people that organised it said that it was the one aspect that really surprised them. We had queues of 30 people from the minute the doors opened until it was dark. That didn’t surprise me at all because I think the axe is at the root of all mankind. It’s the earliest tool known to mankind and it’s a powerful symbol that we all hold somewhere inside us. Give anyone an axe and they will hold it, look at it and feel it in a particular way. Everyone wanted to have a go and everyone was thrilled by it. You'll never ever see anyone throwing an axe who doesn’t laugh when they hit the target.
The thing that did surprise me is how unbelievably friendly and supportive all of the guests were. We sold 2,000 tickets last year. We started from absolutely nothing with no grants or corporate sponsorship. We had nothing and it was really a big risk for us emotionally and financially. You just felt that every single person there, wherever they were from, could be your friend and that was lovely and you don’t always feel that at a festival.
The Good Life Experience Festival by The Good Life Experience
Visit Wales: Has the location helped to inspire the tone and atmosphere of the festival?
Cerys: Totally, because it’s on the land of William Gladstone, the most successful Prime Minister of all time. Mr Gladstone was very well known for his thinking that all gentlemen no matter their walks of life should go out, use their body and have some physical activity. He also had a passion for axes, and at that time many of the houses around the country would have had a souvenir chipping from one of Mr Gladstone’s axe chopping down sessions. We don’t want to propagate the idea of celebrity and souvenirs, that’s not what the festival is about. But the axe element and the fact it is on William Gladstone’s land, whose ethos was “It’s not the love of power, but the power of love” and power for the masses. So it is a brilliant place to have a festival and salute this remarkable man as well.
Charlie: I hope so, but I think the main focus of the site is our farm shop and that has been something that we built from scratch eight years ago. The local reaction to it has been unbelievably positive and we have about 7,000 people a week come through the doors and I think that raises the tone as it’s a good shop and it’s a proper bit of the community. I have an ambition that Hawarden could and should be the best village in Wales to live in. Why not? Against very stiff competition, but having the festival there brings all these amazing people to Hawarden and all the amazing guests should help with that.
Visit Wales: What do you love most about Wales?
Cerys: Wales' people. We have a very honest outlook on the world. Also a love for great poetry and singing and the great cultures of the world.
Charlie: The thing I like most about Wales, is an easy one, it’s the people. I've always found Wales to be a place bursting with friendliness and creativity. Certainly the part of Wales that I know has this brilliant mix of metropolitan and rural and it’s very comfortable in its skin and I’ve always felt, in my adult life, that the people of North Wales are just genuinely interesting, friendly and engaging.
Visit Wales: Do you have a favourite Welsh beach?
Cerys: I have a favourite Welsh beach, it’s not a golden sand beach, it’s full of slate actually, but I will always have a connection to it. It's been the 'go to' for generations of my family and every time I go down there I have to write the name of my great aunt Glenys onto a stone and skim it into the water, because I knew that she did it and her mother did it, so now I have to do it. It’s down in Trefin in Pembrokeshire.
Charlie: Point of Ayr, because I absolutely love that lighthouse. It’s just one of the most extraordinary beaches. It’s weird that it can be either humming with people or virtually empty.
The Good Life Experience is 16 - 18 September at Hawarden Estate in Flintshire, North Wales. Adult tickets priced from £69. For more information visit www.thegoodlifeexperience.co.uk