As our head of Press, there’s no better person than Michael Barrett to tell you what you mustn’t miss. And you’ll have gathered – there’s a lot to know, so it’s broken down here A-Z. Join him on a magical, mystery, alphabetical tour over the viaduct, around the gardens and into the house, as he points out all our greatest things: from the big and beautiful to the tiny unmissable gems. Over to Mr Barrett.
Atmosphere – one of the unfailingly great moments for me is arriving at the ancient estate and feeling the atmosphere of the place. It’s a combination of centuries of history, the beauty of the surroundings, having your mates all around and the prospect of what’s to come over the weekend.
Boogie Round. When the sun goes down, head into the woods and check every hedge. Venture inside the right one and emerge in one of Cornwall’s great nightspots. The place to be as the hours get smaller and the sun thinks about coming up again.
Caught by the River – an adored Port Eliot institution, where you’ll find music that will hit you in the heart and words with a wildlife leaning, all at close range amid the most special of settings across from the Boathouse down by the Tiddy.
Dungeon – Headlining the Park Stage on festival Friday, Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon is one of the great, ecstatic celebrations of music. Charlotte and her crack band and choir jump from Prince to Britney to Black Sabbath to Can to Destiny’s Child to Joy Division and places in between and far beyond.
Elephant Fayre and Port Eliot are two very different festivals sharing a site and a spirit but separated by 30-odd years. For six years in the 1980s, the Elephant Fayre brought thousands to St Germans, presenting the likes of The Cure, The Fall, Siouxsie, Prefab Sprout and The Modern Lovers, before collapsing at the aggressive hands of the Peace Convoy. But the Elephant Fayre planted the seed that turned into Port Eliot Festival.
Fashion – Port Eliot’s place as the home for festival fashion, sees designers, artists and fashion luminaries heading to the Fashion Foundation in the beautiful Orangery. There, you’ll be guaranteed audiences with some of the more influential figures in fashion and art.
Great Outdoors – the ancient estate is the star of the show and you’re encouraged to go wild and make the most of it. Port Eliot is your opportunity to practice aerial yoga, learn survival skills, ease yourself into a Canadian canoe, learn parkour, explore the solar system, forage, hear midnight tales of witches and camp out overnight. All of the above are just scratching the surface!
House – inhabited since the Bronze Age, Port Eliot used to be a monastic port (water flowed right up to the house). Now the House is at the heart of the festival and Sir John Soane’s masterpiece Round Room is the new venue for the Poetry Stage. And, next to the House, the oldest church in Cornwall is one of the most distinctive festival stages anywhere.
Idler Academy – another festival institution, sharing the pleasures of life with a carefully-curated line-up of artists, wits, performers and characters, offering unexpected treat after unexpected treat.
Jettison your phone. Mobile reception at Port Eliot is appalling; something we’re not overly keen on doing anything about. The festival is so much better if you ditch your phone and experience everything in glorious living widescreen.
Kernow – the festival celebrates Cornwall and the South West through its line-up but another reason to relish Port Eliot is the opportunity to explore south east Cornwall. It’s easy to come and go from the festival, so the beautiful beaches at Whitsand Bay and Downderry and the Rame Head Heritage Coast are all within easy reach.
Lark’s Haven – The festival’s sanctuary of wellness and healing, where you’ll be able to give yourself over to hatha yoga, aerial yoga, Scaravelli-inspired yoga and aroma yoga, before nipping on to the waters of the Tiddy for some stand-up paddleboard yoga.
Mik Artistik – arrive at practically any venue, at any point in the weekend and there’s a decent chance you’ll encounter Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip. It does Mik a disservice to call him a Port Eliot favourite. He is to the festival as the ravens are to the Tower. And if you haven’t seen him, you haven’t been here!
Napoleon – as he sailed away to exile aboard HMS Bellerophon, Napoleon declared Port Eliot the most beautiful place in England: ‘Enfin, cec beau pays’. No other festival can claim this about themselves.
Open Fire – Port Eliot’s reputation for beautiful food is unmatched by any other UK festival. And this year, as well as gathering in the Georgian Big Kitchen, some of the most exciting chefs in Britain today will head outside to cook over fire.
Peregrine St Germans – The original, driving force behind Port Eliot Festival and also its anarchic predecessor, the Elephant Fayre. The festival will always be imbued with Perry’s spirit.
Quiet – The estate is very big, heading off into the distance in all directions but we’re not increasing the size of the audience; so, it’s always easy to find space and tranquillity down by (or in) the river, in the woods, or way up at the top of the campsite (before heading back into the festival and giving it plenty like a maniac until dawn).
River – it’s hard not to be drawn to the Tiddy, where you’ll inevitably find yourself gazing at Brunel’s magnificent viaduct with a (reusable) glass of something cold and attractive. If you come here by train from the east, you’ll traverse the Tiddy on your way in and get your first view of Port Eliot from way above.
Secrets – one of the most exciting parts of the festival is when things are done on the sly. Last year, Brett Anderson leapt up on stage to perform with Danny Goffey; in previous years Kate Winslet, Suggs and Michael C. Hall have all got involved in unexpected shenanigans. It’ll happen again. Keep eyes and ears primed.
Thursday – while you can snap up single day tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Thursday is there for weekend ticket holders only and the opening night’s Caught by the River headline show is a must-see; none other than Aldous Harding. Leading up to Aldous are roaring Dutch 4-piece, Pip Blom; exhilarating New Zealand singer-songwriter, Tiny Ruins; and beautiful folk duo, Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou.
Under the stars. Camping at Port Eliot is a pleasant experience – and not only if you’re enjoying the shining silver Airstream caravans, Yurtel bell tents or Hearthworks Tipis of boutique land. The site is beautiful and big and the perfect spot for your weekend home is waiting for you.
Vodka – Swagger down the slope past the maze and the Black Cow Saloon will slowly come into view. Possibly the finest bar in the (south) west, the Saloon serves Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka, hard sarsaparilla and Black Cow shakes amid low lights, wooden boards and honkytonk piano hammering.
Workshops – to say that workshops have mushroomed is a hefty understatement. Veering off the beaten path into Wildlings Wood will open up a world of adventure, where children can join the Fire and Steel Forest School, learn campfire cookery or walk into a weekend outpost of Aardman Studios. This year sees the welcome return of the Hole and Corner magazine ‘makers’ village’ with workshops combining craft, beauty, passion and skill.
X – We’re dead against single-use plastic. Reusable ecocups came to our bars two years ago, saving 109,000 single-use plastic cups from landfill in the process. And while we sell reusable Port Eliot metal bottles and coffee cups, we’d love you to bring your own.
EXTRA liberty-taking X: The rebellion is coming to Port Eliot! After 11 days of non-violent civil disobedience that saw thousands demanding action on climate change, Extinction Rebellion’s next stop is our Fashion Foundation. Come join the revolution!
Your festival. Port Eliot is one of the few remaining truly independent festivals. A ticket ensures that one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country becomes your playground for the weekend. VIP is a rubbish concept and here you’ll be free from roped-off special access sections.
Zandra Rhodes – this year’s festival will celebrate the golden anniversary of Dame Zandra Rhodes’s first fashion foray, including an exclusive sneak preview of the Fashion & Textile Museum’s forthcoming exhibition, Zandra Rhodes: Fifty Years of Fabulous.