Joy Festival is held in the amazing grounds and woodlands of Groombridge Place which is set near the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. If you are a parent you would probably know this location with its giant swings hanging from the trees hidden on the trails in the woods, the large pirate ship in the adventure playground, the enormous boardwalk, boat rides along the serene wooded river and picnics with the peacocks in the formal gardens. In essence, the festival is aimed at its regular visitors from far and wide.
When arriving, you are warmly greeted by box-office staff in an open tent with electronic ticketing devices and by extremely friendly security marshals guiding you to parking in the festival fields. A relatively short walk gets you to the Temple of Artemis Catwalk & Fashion Marquee, where you are supposed to see acrobats magicians, jugglers & comedians, though I obviously missed them.
The main arena was jam packed with bric-a-brac, shabby chic, artistic entrepreneurs and food stalls, most of which would not be out of place in the famous street ThePantiles in Royal Tunbridge Wells. If you found yourself bored and wanting to wander, then you would have plenty to look at or feign an interest in buying. On the Saturday that I went, the weather was scorching. Walking around was probably too much effort for most as the festival crowd plonked themselves down in front of the main stage and did not budge, except for the essential trip to the champagne or prosecco parlour, the beer tents or cider bar.
Chris Difford from the legendary band, Squeeze, along with Union Music Store, Lewes curated three days of music for Joy Festival including Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook performing their At Odd’s Couple show. Their headline act on Saturday night allowed them to bring out all the hits in acoustic fashion. From Cool For Cats to Cradle To The Grave, missing out the one song I have not head them do live yet..Loves Crashing Waves.
Between them they coerced ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris into presenting some of his favourite country music artists, including Kimmie Rhodes andBeth Nielsen Chapman in a songwriters’ circle. Each talked about a song and how it came about and then performed it with the others joining in. Beth describing her hit song This Kiss, Faith Hill had a massive US hit with it, a life changer that paid for her son to go to college.
The music for the festival was presented on a few different stages including the “Bullet” stage, made from an Airstream caravan, where we saw Henri Herbert, from Jim Jones Experience, the band Millions featuring two of Glenn Tilbrook’s sons and Josh Difford’s great band. The night before Paul Young‘s Tex Mex band Los Pacaminos headlined. There was also music from Louise Goffin and Kathryn Williams.
Some of the ideas behind Joy Festival are very good indeed: the curated music, the family focus, the artisan market, the family workshops and excellent setting. Where it fell down was that no one knew when anything was happening. Sadly also, the traders did not seem to be engaged with the vision of being part of a “Night Market with over 200 shops and boutiques will keep you occupied after dark”, with most non-food outlets choosing to close at the setting of the sun.
Overall a terrific vibe with Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook, Bob Harris et al wandering around the site talking to people and taking selfies. Possibly a bit like the antiques roadshow with music and prosecco.
Review & Photography by Simon Jay Price of Joy Festival @ Groombridge Place 16th-18th June