Featured Review: Houghton Festival
We’ve been excited and intrigued about this one ever since its announcement back in December last year. With a license permitting twenty-four-hour music, located on the Grade 1 listed Houghton Hall, and a line-up curated by fabric resident Craig Richards, those lucky enough to get a ticket to the sold out debut festival knew they were in for something special.
Arriving on site on the Thursday evening and being greeted by the impressive views of the Hall fuelled the excitement to explore the scenic grounds and multiple stages that had been teased in Houghton’s visually enticing promo videos.
The grounds, nestled in the woody Norfolk Countryside, with a scenic lake surrounded by many stages, art installations and yurts made for a site that encouraged exploration and discovery. On top of this, a lack of phone signal and unfamiliarity of the new site fostered an atmosphere in which festival-goers could wander and stumble across new areas to dance, relax and enjoy the views.
Each stage was understated and at the same time spectacular, blending into its own corner of the woody grounds to create what felt like your own intimate rave at every area. One of the stand-out stages was the Quarry, a deep pit with steep sloping banks surrounded by woodland. With the deep bowl holding the sound perfectly, no matter the time of day, the Quarry was a place to go and lose yourself to sets from the likes of drum & bass legend Calibre, to an eclectic set from Move D closing the first night blending a mix of house, techno and disco tunes.
Houghton set out with a vision for long sets, sun rises, sunsets and an eclectic selection of high-quality electronic music. It certainly achieved all four, with music playing twenty-four hours from Friday to Monday morning and a clever schedule that avoided your typical big headline clashes each night. Dedicated ravers were free to make the most of the all-day license and the nine musical stages.
Highlight sets came from Ricardo Villalobos b2b with Craig Richards at the Pavillion on the Sunday morning over the course of eight hours, taking committed ravers on a journey as the sun rose over the festival’s very own lake. Raresh playing a sunrise set in The Warehouse, an open air hanger, was also a spectacle. And, Gerd Janson provided anthem after anthem at the Pavilion on the final night of the festival, closing with an Alma & Mater edit of ‘Born Slippy’ leaving the crowd filled with euphoria as the festival came to an end.
Overall, Houghton was the perfect location to host some of the best names in electronic and dance music. The naturally artistic setting and clever staging took the atmosphere away from your typical festival and closer to that of a free rave. Although first impressions did feel like a Russel Group away day, the logistics of the festival felt seamless (apart from the understandable queue to enter the Quarry) and you were spoilt for choice in terms of music every hour of the day over the course of the weekend.
It is hard to find a significant fault with Houghton – I know myself and others knew at the time we were witnessing something special, and that’s why we can’t wait to see it return for years to come.
THE FESTIVAL IN REVIEW:
- Incredible stages and sets.
- Unique festival site with DJ areas and stage set within the landscape.
- Twenty-four music license.
- Large queue to get into The Quarry.
Organisation – 10.0 | Music – 10.0 | Food & Drink – 9.0 | Site Setup – 9.0 | Attention to Detail – 10.0 | Creative Content – 10.0 | Value for Money – 10.0
Overall Score – 68.0/70.0
Guest written by Chris Houghton-Brown. Photos by Jake Davis (fb.com/hungryvisuals).