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Review: Parklife!

'All the people, so many people and they all go hand-in-hand through their Parklife!' The verdict on Compton Verney's one-day outdoor countryside festival. We tasted Warwickshire gin, watched folk and some, erm, duck herding...

Not to be mistaken for the Blur song, Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park’s third one-day Parklife! festival on Sunday June 25, successfully combines English country fete and chilled folk festival. You can totally get one with nature in the beautiful parkland and Capability Brown landscape overlooking Compton Lake, the eco-art instalment The Clearing and gardener Dan Pearson’s remaining wildflower meadow.

The Clearing

Leaving Glasto behind on the telly we arrived just in time for the very British art of ‘duck herding’, as border collies took it in turn to round up puddle ducks to cross miniature bridges, enter pens and go up and down see-saws.  Hilarious. Very Beatrix Potter, and very cute.

The festival is a true celebration of the countryside with everything from Wild-West horse-riding to falconry, Morris Men, and even ferret racing.

Kathryn Roberts ( her partner Sean Lakeman is there too behind the speaker!)

Over at the Music Stage we watched award-winning folk duo Kathryn Roberts on hay bales. Kathryn opened the set with a question: “Have you sniffed a ferret yet?” She had apparently! “I can’t wait to tell my neighbours how I’ve spent my afternoon,” she laughed. The married couple had travelled up from their Dartmoor home with their nine-year-old twin daughters.

Kathryn & Sean – twice winners of BBC2’s Folk Awards for Best Duo in 2016 & 2013

A few months back I caught Elbow’s Guy Garvey raving about this husband and wife team on his BBC 6 Music radio show. They more than lived up to expectations with their mix of personal stories, traditional folk tunes such as The Robber Bridegroom, and self-penned songs, including 52 Hertz about a lonely whale who sang out of tune and advice song A Song To Live By, which she wrote for one of her daughters, from their 2015 Tomorrow will Follow Today album.


Also on the bill were foot-thumping fiddle playing act Folklaw and Blondes with Beards from Stroud. The big sandpit, behind the stage, proved a very popular gathering point for exuberant toddlers.

There was plenty to see and do elsewhere, with a pop-up film studio and local crafters in action demonstrating their skills including artist and wood sculptor Robert Cox, Martin Damen, from Great Bourton, north of Banbury, who makes hand-carved spoons and bowls and Warwick-based traditional basket chair seat maker Richard Cook, of The Odd Chair.

The animal petting area – a Bearded Dragon, tortoises and giant snails.

Mooching around the artisan stalls we bought some homemade gingerbread for mini Muddy from one of our lovely Muddy Award finalists, Taste of Country in Shipston-on-Stour; and due to Mr Muddy’s obsession with pickles and chutney tasted and bought an assortment from three different local producers – Cotswolds-based The Little Pickle; Warwickshire’s The Chilli Tree and Leicestershire’s Hedgerow Products. Here’s our stash of goodies.

We indulged in a spot of gin-tasting, rude not to, with the friendly duo from award-winning Cotswolds Distillery (made in Warwickshire!) and mini Muddy made an architectural plaster cast rose inspired by Compton’s Adam Hall.

Robert Adam Flower Plastercast workshop

You could dress-up as a Georgian and have your photo taken, play old-fashioned games like Hook-a-Duck and make a rose button hole with trained florists. The RSPB, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon’s Friends of the Earth and Chedham Yard all had stalls, too. It was incredibly well organised, everything ran like clockwork and you couldn’t help being blown away by the fantastic setting, restored Grade-I listed Georgian art gallery, and just the feeling of wide-open space.

Critically-acclaimed art exhibition, Creating the Countryside, has just ended and the eye-popping summer exhibition celebrating optical art –  Seurat to Riley: The Art of Perception – one of the first of its kind in the UK opens on July 8 until October 1. It will feature more than 90 stunning works by 23 artists, including Bridget Riley and Georges Seurat.

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