Mud baths to fireworks, stunning views to great live music - the perfect summer festival near Bristol

Matthew Barnes (right) literally having a mud bath with friend he’s met at Valley Fest near BristolMatthew Barnes (right) literally having a mud bath with friend he’s met at Valley Fest near Bristol
Matthew Barnes (right) literally having a mud bath with friend he’s met at Valley Fest near Bristol | Matthew Barnes
‘For headliner Bananarama I positioned myself behind five dancing bananas’

The rain may have poured, but it did little to dampen the spirits at Valley Fest - the most instagrammable festival of the year with stunning views right across Chew Valley Lake near Bristol, plus some quite brilliant live music and family fun.

I arrived on my bicycle from Bristol at the sold-out event on the Friday, meeting friends and immediately heading to the Lake Stage where Cut Capers started the three days off for me.

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It was a good start as they had the crowd going first with their song Get Movin’ (feet dont fail me now) before Smooth & Turrel offered their very own ‘Northern Coal’ music having travelled seven hours all the way from Gateshead to entertain the growing crowd with funk soul which had  hay being flung around as they took the energy level up a notch.

Next up was a familiar band to me in the shape of Ishmale Ensemble. “This is why I’m here” one fan shouted as singer Holysseus Fly got people turning and looking at each other as if to say how good they were. I then flew across to the Yard Stage to see yet more of Bristol’s finest and celebrated artists Doreen Doreen. They are hilariously entertaining and I’d struggle to think of better music at a festival as the sun came down. Gloriously marvelous.

It was then such a luxury to nip across to see Soul II Soul, which had the crowd at fever pitch for Back to Life. Drinks slipping all over the place. It was a perfect end to my first day at Valley Fest.

Known as the best-tasting music festival in the South West, I was also keen to sample all of the food - and Valley Fest didn’t disappoint. Each day I started with a delicious  coffee from Origin. Friends of mine were lucky enough to have booked well ahead of time to have feasts with Josh Eggleton, from Pony and Trap. But the highlight for me was the Sri Lankan street food stall. So good I went back twice in one day.

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Saturday saw the rain hit the festival pretty hard - it was so heavy at one point it was ridiculous, but it didn’t stop us though. I saw one man jump face first into the mud and countless others with no shoes on. A big shout out to the man seen dancing with and upturned chair on his head as the rain was at it’s heaviest.

On Saturday, BCUC stole the show. The seven-piece band from Soweto, South Africa blew me away. Their driving drum beats and soul. I was in shock at how good they were and that seemed to be the consensus all around. The driving rain even added to their performance.  The Ollium took to the Yard Stage after being introduced as ‘the best band ever’ - no pressure! They played songs that seemed to last forever but you didn’t want them end! “Let’s folk rock out!” they screamed, so I obviously did.

Bristol’s finest and celebrated artists Doreen Doreen - she was hilariously entertaining (Photography Ania Shrimpton)Bristol’s finest and celebrated artists Doreen Doreen - she was hilariously entertaining (Photography Ania Shrimpton)
Bristol’s finest and celebrated artists Doreen Doreen - she was hilariously entertaining (Photography Ania Shrimpton) | Ania Shrimpton

If The Ollium folk rocked out then  Scouting for Girls indie popped it out. The Kooks then came on and smashed it out of the park as the sun fittingly shone bright. Groove Armada then killed it on the Arcadia Stage. This was a late night, but it was more than worth it.

Sunday eventually brought sunshine. The Murmaration Chior was the best way to start a Sunday. Their voices delivered over beatboxing gave me goosebumps all over, and their 90s rave mashup was a highlight of the festival. I’m glad I met one of the band in a konga whilst watching the astounding Suntou Susso.

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Groove Armada created quite the scene at Valley Fest (Photography by Chris Cooper/ ShotAway/ www.ShotAway.com/ #shotawaydotcom)Groove Armada created quite the scene at Valley Fest (Photography by Chris Cooper/ ShotAway/ www.ShotAway.com/ #shotawaydotcom)
Groove Armada created quite the scene at Valley Fest (Photography by Chris Cooper/ ShotAway/ www.ShotAway.com/ #shotawaydotcom) | Photography by Chris Cooper/ ShotAway/ www.ShotAway.com/ #shotawaydotcom

Sunday afternoon meant fancy dress at Valley Fest with the competition this year being Fleetwood Mac costumes to celebrate  tribute act Fleetwood Bac’s set on the Lake stage. The view as I stood back and looked down was stunning with the sun lighting up the lake. Everyone was singing and dancing to Go Your Own Way. How could they not?

The Allergies were yet another perfect time, perfect place band. The sun was out and their funk-soul-latino-jazz really got the crowd moving and sliding away as yet more cider was spilt and mud was flung around. Ibibio Sound Machine then spread even more funk and smiles.They all, especially singer Eno Willams, looked so happy to be there, it was infectious. Eno’s performance was astounding, she had me spinning around, hands in air. I think I attempted a muddy moon walk at one point.

Headliners Bananarama on the Lake Stage with Chew Valley Lake behind them - perfect end to the festival (Photography by Ania Shrimpton)Headliners Bananarama on the Lake Stage with Chew Valley Lake behind them - perfect end to the festival (Photography by Ania Shrimpton)
Headliners Bananarama on the Lake Stage with Chew Valley Lake behind them - perfect end to the festival (Photography by Ania Shrimpton) | Ania Shrimpton

For headliner Bananarama I positioned myself behind five dancing bananas with felt quite surreal at the time and pretty hilarious. They shot through hits. It was one of those times when a band played popular songs that you didnt realise they had written. Maybe my Bananarama research was lacking? Obvious highlights were Venus, Robert De Niro’s Calling. A crowd of all ages and all fancy dress were soaking it all up. We then turned around to see a spectacular firework display. A fitting end to a festival I look forward to going back to next year tas they plan to mark the 10th birthday!

Tickets for next year’s festival go on sale tomorrow (August 17), and will be found by clicking here.

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