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Peakender '19

At 11pm on Saturday I am perched on the small stone wall of a Bakewell residence by the open boot of our car. My partner has fabricated a roll of blue paper, like that seen in primary schools, from somewhere to try and wrestle my wellington boots from my feet. I am stubborn. I am unhelpful. I am drunk. My boots are removed and deposited in the back of the car. My next memory is waking in a bright bed & breakfast room at a guest house opposite Bakewell showground.

As our heads try to revive enough to make our way across for breakfast, the memories of the day before are touched upon. The delicious currywurst in both meat and vegan form, the sight of disgruntled campers fetching buckets of water, the beer heavy meet the brewer events from brewers in varying states of hangover, my reaction to discovering Jarl had gone on the cask bar and my partner’s reaction to the price, dancing to Whitney Houston in the muddiest of fields at dusk and then trying to remember the very short journey home that led us to that stone wall.

And it was time to revitalise to try and do it all again.

I was suffering through another turgid footballing display from some team in West Yorkshire when the rain was falling heavily over North-West Derbyshire on Friday. Had it not been for my masochistic devotion to this sport’s team I would have been amongst that crowd of sufferers, braving unseen levels of rainfall for a pint of Jaipur.

It meant that we arrived at Peakender 2019 on the Saturday after scrolling through the mud referenced messages on social media, some filled with discontent, about the event. The main Twitter page for the event had tweeted rather ominous words from their own account - "We are still going ahead today" - suggesting the festival had been in doubt at some point. 

Arriving just before noon when the festival had already been ongoing for a day was quite the experience. We were already on our first beer and first bit of festival food as sore heads were still emerging from tents in search of the coffee van. Everybody is hungover. Everybody had a good Friday. Everybody starts conversations regaling the various struggles they had getting up in the morning. Every meet the brewer begins with an apology for the way they are feeling. Everybody appears to resume drinking in the day with a tentative Schofferhofer Grapefruit. 

And it is wet. The new-for-2019 food village area is under various levels of standing water, as is the performance area. The main path to the main bar has churned up under the footfall and become a mud bath. The drinking tents are the only areas where one can stand on solid ground. 

I've never been to one of the country's large music festivals but I have seen the reports over the years; of people becoming mud goblins within the wash-outs. The journey to Peakender '19 had begun with me watching a couple of videos posted of an Ed Sheeran gig in Roundhay Park Leeds that had become a muddy pit. So, even somebody with no experience of festivals in large rural fields is well aware that when the rain falls you probably need to pack some wellies. 

So I just can't understand anybody being disgruntled about a little mud. We have worn our wellies on our last two visits to Peakender and not needed them. We wore them in 2019 because, guess what, it is still a festival and this time we happened to need them. Wading through the showground site for two days was not an issue to us at all. Maybe it is because of where we live, I don't know, but when I see people muttering to themselves about the state of the ground, whilst trying to make it to the toilet wearing FLIP FLOPS... heaven forbid... I don't know... 

Anyway, beers in hand we headed over to talks with Lost & Grounded, followed by Abbeydale. The likes of Rooster's and North Brew Co would feature for us as the weekend went on. They are great little punctuation points throughout the day. We met with old friends. We made new friends. We headed to the new micro pub in town. We had a nap. We drank Jarl. We drank more Jarl. We danced in the puddles to a wonderful mixed instrument covers band that I forget the name of. We danced in the mud until the sun set in the Peak District. 

There are so many beers and so little time. I didn't try half as many as I wanted as Jarl was on for a surprisingly long time but anybody who complained about the choice is looking for something that this festival is not. 

In terms of the growth in 2019 , the problems with the queues at the bar that clouded 2018 had been addressed - and then some. Having different bars and different areas for the food created a different feel and made the event feel larger. There was never a queue for the toilets. 

Minor gripes would be the sheer volume of the bands on Sunday that led to us spending much of the day at the other end of the field muttering "That music's too bloody loud" like pensioners at a wedding. We also missed the alternative entertainment (we love Steve Faulkner and the Red Barrows!) though assumed they were cancelled as the performance area was under water, which would have been sensible. 

I don't write much about individual events and festivals but something about Peakender two years ago stirred me too. It did again in 2019, especially when I saw some of the more ridiculous complaints. Britain is well known for its inclement weather and the mud at our festivals is just as infamous. Finding fault in that is ridiculous especially when everything around you is so special. And Peakender really is special. 

If you can't laugh at your partner wrestling boots from you whilst you unreasonably and drunkenly complain about nothing in particular then you will always find fault in other joys. 

As much as I loved Peakender '19 I don't think I'd go back as it was too muddy and there were too many bloody Thornbridge beers. Oh wait, no, it is already the first holiday I'll be booking off with work in 2020. See you then. Pack your wellies though, you know, just in case. 


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