“Just tell those small voices in your head to be quiet. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. You have one life and you need to tell yourself ‘I’m going to give it a shot’. There’s nothing more beautiful than a human voice that is rough but full of emotion.”
I am touched that singer, author and broadcaster Cerys Matthews – whose melodic and captivating voice I have long admired – is taking time out to give me a bit of a confidence boost when it comes to finding my own voice.
We’re actually here to talk about her up and coming festival, The Good Life Experience, happening in North Wales next month (September). The festival aims to celebrate all things great outdoors, including the joys of a good old fashioned sing song around the camp fire.
But when I ask her what she would say to encourage someone like me, with my “terrible voice”, to have a go at singing, I find her response incredibly touching.
There’s no hurrying me on to tell me all about the array of things people can do at the festival. No, my favourite broadcaster sets about giving me a pep talk, telling me that if I fancy having a go at singing then I should just get stuck in and sing with gusto, pushing aside the negative voices in my head.
“If you surround yourself with singalong chums then nobody is going to mind if you are rough around the edges. I think that’s how it should be, rather than voices being auto tuned. I love the rough, natural sound of the voice, warts and all,” says Cerys.
Campfire sing songs
And so it is with Cerys’s seal of approval that I promise myself that I will join in with any singing opportunities that come my way in the future. One such opportunity will hopefully present itself at the The Good Life Experience from 16-18 September, when the comforting smell of wood smoke draws festival goers from across the country to enjoy the hypnotic dancing flames and the company of likeminded people.
The Good Life Experience takes place in the stunning surroundings of the Gladstone family estate in Hawarden in North Wales. It is Cerys’s very own festival, founded out of her and her friends’ love of everything outdoors related.
And I can vouch for the fact that it’s the perfect antidote to our digitally dependent lifestyles. At its heart is the premise that we should enjoy the simple pleasures in life, from live music and poetry to sleeping beneath the stars and foraging for our own food. Did I mention that most activities are free once you get in?
It’s fair to say that when my partner and I visited the Good Life Experience last year we did not want to leave. And one of our abiding memories was the glorious smell of woodsmoke and the utterly chilled out atmosphere, with just the right balance of things to do and places to chill out and switch off from the nine to five. Oh, and it’s also pet friendly, with pooches of all shapes and sizes welcomed onto site.
Toe tapping music
The festival, now in its third year. brings together lovers of outdoorsy activities, from leather working and blacksmithery to sketching and mosaic making, along with a heady dose of inspiring talks and workshops, good food, fine beer, toe tapping music and hip swaying dancing. And one of Cerys’s all time heroes, mushroom guru and forager Roger Phillips will be making a welcome return to lead a foraging trip.
“The festival is hand curated. Everybody is there because they are passionate about something,” adds Cerys, who co founded the festival with former punk singer and now artist manager Steve ‘Abbo’ Abbott and the founders of homeware brand Pedlars and farmers, Charlie and Caroline Gladstone.
Music will be as diverse as the phantasmagorical array of tunes played by Cerys on her Sunday morning Six Music show, ranging from Gordie ‘Crazy Legs’ Mackeeman to Mari Samuelsonand the 12 Ensemble, who will perform Max Richter’s Vivaldi Recomposed.
For out and out foodies, campfire cooking demos by the likes of talented chefs Thomasina Miers, Tom Herbert of the Fabulous Baker Brothers and Bill Granger should tempt the old tastebuds. For the kids, the kids’ cafe where adults are banned makes a welcome return, with kids taking orders, cooking and serving food. Meanwhile, for budding adventurers and explorers there’s a chance to listen to adventurer and educator Ben Fogle.
And for the kids, and the grown up kids, there are free vintage fairground rides,including a helter skelter.
Cerys adds: “I love it when we go back to Wales and watch the children climb the cliffs, roly poly down the hills and generally get soaking wet and covered in mud. This festival is perfect for that!
“The best bit for the kids at last year’s festival was making a straw slide and smashing literally hundreds of pumpkins – all free and no rules. They looked into my face with their rosy cheeks and said it was the best weekend they’d ever had and slept like logs. We can’t wait for this year.”
Bard of Salford
It is fair to say that an awful lot of good stuff will be jam packed into one weekend, so it’s wise to plan ahead and work out what your must see and do activities will be. Highlights for us this year will be a turn by the legendary performance poet and Bard of Salford Dr John Cooper Clarke, a no doubt soul stirring performance from Flint Male Voice Choir and a talk by popular children’s author Michael Morpurgo. Oh, and you may well find us indulging in a spot of ‘chocolate meditation’. How could we resist that one.
An adult weekend non camping ticket for The Good Life Experience costs £69, with an adult weekend camping ticket priced at £99. A youth weekend non camping ticket costs £34.50, with a youth weekend camping ticket priced at £64.50. Car parking costs £10. For more info check out the website.