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Photos by Tom Cox.

An estate in Wales with a lake, sea view, and sheep may sound like the ideal place for a festival. The crew of Gottwood’s three creators – Tom, Tom and Digby – proved for the eighth year in a row that it could be, filling the area with an impressive range of stages and revellers. A five-hour train from London whisks attendees deep into the countryside through valleys of gut-clenching beauty, where the atmosphere on-site reflects the wristband’s claim that the festival is a “family affair”. It’s boisterous and carnival-esque, yet friendly. A community feel is strengthened by the programme, a 94-page book featuring interviews with the likes of Bradley Zero, the story behind the tent in The Walled Garden stage, and even a quiz (“Which IDM artist owns a tank?”).

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The edges of my programme were warped – rain is a risk for any UK festival, and it was steady on Friday night. However, even the music that wasn’t under shelter cut through the haze. The crowd was unfazed (wellies weren’t crucial), and sun broke through for most of the remainder. With 10 stages to choose from, there was always somewhere above water level. Stand-out acts included Ryan Elliot, Helena Hauff and Brothers Black.

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Erol Alkan went back to back with Leon Vynehall for an alarming but riveting set, whilst DJ Tennis played it safe with a series of bangers for an entertaining party. Move D seemed to be playing almost constantly, to predictably fantastic results – he even had a Q&A praising the UK scene, following the screening of a film in the tented cinema called “If I Think of Germany at Night”. Beyond electronica, the likes of Dele Sosimi Afrobreat Orchestra and jazz artist Ishmael Ensemble graced The Lawn stage next to the lake, which acted as a hub in the centre of the festivities.

 

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Loefah was the artist on everyone’s lips on Friday, playing a jungle set to a rapt audience. dOP fired a sing-along jump-up atmosphere, and 14-strong Manchester bass crew Levelz heated The Barn with rolling MCs and DJs, stirring a protest-like buzz with renowned yet hard-hitting tunes. The curation was finely tuned; as the narrative of the weekend unfolded, the audience learnt the genre in each area, meaning the programme turned from a bible into a guideline. The most gratifying acts were stumble-upon gems such as Hizatron B2B with Metaphi, who churned together several electronic genres to craft an experimental set of sparkling efficacy. The abiding sense was one of feeling one’s way through a story, one to reread next year.

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