Our first escape since the beginning of our new world order subdued by Covid-19 started on the platform of Gunnersbury station on a Saturday afternoon in June. We were on our way to The Estate Festival, set on the Turvey Estate, with the promise of good music, weather and food to be enjoyed with a touch of glamping glamour. A combination of carriers would possibly take us to Milton Keynes before the last stretch by taxi to the festival, we chose the Overground to Euston and the Avanti service to Milton Keynes, setting the tone with its streamlined fast-paced Italian styled coaches.
In so many ways, we have had to respond positively to the new challenges and adversities facing us, changing our way of life in a collective effort to keep people safe whilst trying to maintain the necessary basics of our social fabric. What joy, then, to feel a breath of fresh air and sunshine allowing us some freedom and frolics in the way of a summer music festival, even if we had to adhere to minimum requirements of social distancing. Indeed, on arrival, we felt that this only added to the special atmosphere of guests enjoying this new, rare occasion for carefree days in the countryside.
So here we were, at a boutique, socially distanced VIP festival with hexagonal plots, each large enough for a social bubble of six and equipped with sofas, deck chairs, umbrellas and tables (all made from recycled cups and plastic) perfect for relaxing, socialising and dancing. And credit to organisers, table service was seamless as it had to be, with designated bars bringing delicious food and drink directly to festival-goers. In addition, as promised, no queues, no crowds, just music. Nestled in the countryside, this resort promised the perfect balance between luxury and nature, breathing in the fresh, clean air and watching all of our worries float away, experiencing the great outdoors like never before.
But complementing this unusually tame festival herd of humans, we spotted another breed on the other side of the festival boundaries. The security was quite adamant people should stay within their periphery, but we couldn’t resist getting a bit closer to take a picture of the sheep grazing in peace in green pastures, seemingly not bothered with the humans occupying their territory for a while. Only when the music got a bit forceful would they distance themselves for a while moving further away on this idyllic pastoral scene. This observation, in turn, conjured up memories of a much-loved baroque aria from Bach’s Hunting Cantata, Sheep May Safely Graze, although the music on show here was of a different stock.
The night passed quickly as the DJs presented their mixes one after another, Sam Divine, Low Steppa, followed throughout the summer by a list of 25 others passing on the festival music baton, amongst them veterans like Pete Tong and Fat Tony with other more recent entries on the scene of dance music. Guests briefly were tempted to advance closer to the stage, but it only took a friendly reminder to re-establish the bubbles. So this was glamping, combining rural idyll with at least some of the convenience of a luxury hotel, far enough from London to feel the benefit of relaxation, nature and adventure, yet within easy reach by public or private transport, a new way to enjoy a festival with social distancing adapting to our new life and the summer of 2021.
We decided to have a reasonably early night following the after-party in the Boat House. However, not everyone followed suit, making it a slightly less peaceful night in the early hours. However, this is all part of the atmosphere, and all behaved well guided and guarded by a very efficient team of security officers, always in sight. The following morning, the excellently cooked breakfast set us on track for a lovely day, visiting the picturesque village of Turvey before returning home to Chiswick. There we got a glimpse of Turvey House, a Grade I listed Country House, set in 150 acres of surrounding parkland off the river Great Ouse and built 1792 but heavily remodelled in the mid-1830s into the neoclassical style as it stands today.
This is the new way to enjoy music in a socially distanced festival, still with a lot of fun and a touch of glamour!