St. David’s Day fell on a Saturday this year. This proved too tempting for Green Man Festival to resist. As regular attendees will know, even as their yearly summer festival has grown from a day-long jolly for a few hundred people to a four-day event for 15,000, they’ve never lost touch with preserving the culture of its location. Hwyl is a celebration of alternative Welsh culture in the heart of London, and it’s as effortlessly brilliant as anything Green Man puts together.
Today succeeds in delivering Green Man magic in miniature, concentrating everything great about the main festival into the space of a single day – albeit with an even stronger focus on Welsh culture than usual. With acts like The Gentle Good and 9 Bach, we’re offered a gorgeous dosage of native tongue, with their newest material proving that Welsh language music is currently as vital as anything from across the contemporary folk scene.
Elsewhere we see a typically brilliant blend of old festival favourites and admirably bold programming. The Pictish Trail (pictured above) are possibly the only act to have played the main festival ten years straight, and tonight’s roaring set validates their regular invitation. And at the top of the bill was an inspired move: the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, taking us through a surprisingly progressive retrospective of the last half century. It’s the slightly off-pulse sort of booking which Green Man is so good at – shaping their events as actual experiences, rather than how they read on a poster to shift tickets.
Of course, the things which elevate the event from good to gushingly amazing are the continued attention to detail, and the wonderful people which Green Man gathers together. Little things like sound installations in the toilets (a patchwork of field recordings from the main festival site), roaming circus performers, craft workshops to make lovespoons, and free Welsh Cakes on arrival all make up the rich, colourful, welcoming atmosphere of a Green Man event.
And as with the main festival, the incredible mixture of ten-pints of cider recklessness, and complete family friendliness is unparalleled. During The Valleyers’ brilliant set – injecting the first jolt of rhythm to the day – the under-fives get absolutely fabulous, paving the way for the adults to move their feet much earlier in the day than Cecil House is probably used to seeing. All of these good things come into complete alignment during the Twmpath (the Welsh word for a ceilidh), which I maintain might just about be the best disorganised organised fun a hall full of people could call for.
The whole thing is a shot of unbridled joy, brimming with relaxation and stimulation in a way which only Green Man seems able to blend. Hwyl was another success in a history of brave risks – whether that’s the summer boat parties, hosting city-wide treasure hunts, or refusing to compromise the size and nature of their main festival weekend. Nonetheless, today’s event was an especially bold love letter to Wales, hosted in the heart of London. But Green Man knows it has a deservedly committed audience, and it knows how to put on a properly good party. And just like everything that Green Man touches, that’s exactly what Hwyl was.