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Festival Review: 'The Dragonfly Festival' words & photos by Helen Black, Kate Potter & Joelle Robinson

The Dragonfly Festival hidden in the heart of the Swedish woods has to be one of the most inspiring and beautiful festivals around this year and is destined to become even more special in it's coming third year. We took an early morning flight from London Stanstead to Gothenburg with Ryan Air (if you book early enough tickets are just a few quid) and arrived at Ekehagans Forntidsby. The small village and bronze age venue and the campfire intimacy renders this an event worth enduring Ryan Air for. This is also evident by the gorgeous scenery as you touch down and the timeless dinky airport that is Gothenburg City. The journey to the festival is a bit long and arduous, but it’s worth it when you are there. The campsite is very basic but we managed to bag a prime site with a bit of shade, rocks and access to the stream (with our own private view of the occasional Swedish skinny dippers). The whole long weekend costs less than £50 including camping....so weigh that up, it beats most UK festivals and you get to truly escape. Although it has to be said the British contingent is a strong presence at this festival, helped along by the fact that everything including the compering is all in English.

On the down side the food provisions in the festival itself were a bit too vegetarian and minimal for us (we are told this will be sorted out next year) however, no sooner than you can say Steak Tartare, you will be directed to a small supermarket down the road which will curb the hunger pains and you get to do your own open air cooking. We enjoyed sizzling the bacon in the rain over an open fire (the weather ranged from rain, sun to cold...much like UK really). The music however is what we really all go for and it definitely didn't disappoint. We were overwhelmed by the amazing line up consisting of Little Dragon, Wildbirds and Peacedrums, John Smith, Semaphore, Beth Rowley, John McGurgan and many other awesome musicians and artists.

The main stage was set in a prominent white tent near the entrance of the site. HQ has some decent toilets and cashback facilities. The festival site consists of winding paths, a lake, bronze age huts, dug out canoes and campfires. There, nestled in the woods we found the rather wonderful mossy straw thatched hut that housed the cinema showing films on loop everyday, the highlight of which was One Giant Leap, a visual and musical masterpiece about two guys and their journey to record musicians all over the World. We then followed the path further along past the therapy huts offering hand Reflexology and Zero Balancing among other full body treatments. Finally we arrived at the memorable and intimate acoustic hut. We heard some mesmerizing sessions there as it filled with smoke. Many of the performers on the main stage offered an intimate second chance to be seen in the acoustic hut during daytime unplugged sessions. Sophie and friends organised jam sessions at the end of the acoustic sets by rounding up fellow musicians. Smallness, up close and personal was the key to the success of this festival. We really hope it stays that way.

Day One: The line up for the main stage on the first night was eclectic and included Jack Cheshire among others. The highlights of the main stage were Nedry (Uk / Japan) and the unforgettable electronic music of Sweden’s own Little Dragon. This was followed by kicking sets by UK DJs Louis Finch, Mr Johnny Southside and Jim Woodbridge at the Bronze Bar until 3am. We had such a good time we had a state of full amnesia the following day with strange dreams of wading through a pigsty in the dark (yes we shared the party with pigs), three in a tent and hobos by the fire. It has to be said the only medication available is alcohol, a copious mixture of neat spirits bought from the airport duty free and the more safe options available at the bars. Well, when you are camping in the great outdoors and the cold the rum goes down pretty quickly and London is forgotten.

Day Two: The second day of the Festival was a Saturday and saw the arrival of more locals from various parts of Sweden. Various workshops were held during the day including drumming and Swedish Dragonfly tales. The highlights on the main stage were Semaphore, Beth Rowley, the much loved John Smith (easy now) and the explosive Wildbirds and Peacedrums. Then (our very own) Last Days of Decadence rounded off the night with 1920s style fancy dress code and wild speakeasy vibe at the Bronze Bar. What a nice night, remembered it all.

Day Three: Last Day of the Festival - Uh-oh!

During the day at the acoustic hut people queued up to see John Smith who later played alongside Beth Rowley’s Blues unplugged set. Wonderful. At night the main stage heard John McGurgan’s haunting melodies followed by Sweden’s Buffé Brutale mix of Klezma and Balkan music to stomp and clap to. The night was brought to a close by full paced Ska band the Liptones after which everyone stood around the lake near the Reggae picnic area to watch the wooden sculpture of a dragonfly burn. DJs finished off the night at the Bronze bar and then some people partied on until dawn wherever they found themselves to be. Hmm, best not too much said about the rest if the night but watching the blue mist rise above the lake behind the orange embers of our fire treated by acoustic music and sharing tobacco and morning liquor was just one of those timeless, placeless moments.....it could have been Memphis Tennessee if it hadn't been for the cold. God Bless small festivals.

Last Day: Going home

We left a day after the festival ended. Packing up after staying up all night to go home was sad, but we were also looking forward to showers and some home comforts. We all had a memorable time and it was great to have such close encounters with the musicians themselves. The festival is only in its second year, so there is a really friendly relaxed vibe with everyone mixing together. The journey home was again fairly arduous as the bus was late and hence we missed our train. We just managed to get to Gothenburg airport on time along with what seemed the rest of the non-Swedish element of the Festival, who by now we had made friends with. We hope the Dragonfly festival is long-lived and we look forward to seeing it grow.

Helpful information:

On a practical level it's BASIC. Be prepared, take equipment, as much as you can squeeze in your suitcases (15 kg max!). It’s also important to know that there are no cash machines, so you will need to get cash in Gothenburg to last you until you can get to the festival site where you can get cash back, as long as you have ID at the festival HQ. Bring liquor for the 'tent life'.

This is a very child friendly festival in terms of atmosphere and would make a perfect first festival for your little ones, and an even better first festival for anyone in their teens. It's safe, it's contained and it's wholesome with just enough madness to make it really special.

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