When I was asked to come along to a small Psydub festival in its first year Anthropos was not at all what I expected.
Parking up near half a mile away from the festival site, I unloaded my stuff and began the muddy walk up the hill to the site. The box office staff were friendly, as were the security and other punters, but nothing stood out yet, excepting the relative difficulty of the climb in the rain. As I clambered and slid I worried about what I had got myself into. I shouldn’t have.
Anthropos is something special. As soon as I arrived at the campsite I was surrounded by people, who, seemingly exclusively, gave off consistently good vibes. I did not see one negative interaction take place, whether it involved a steward on the 7th hour of their nightshift or a raver 70 hours into the party. Not only were people kind and empathetic, but also talented, with punters and off-shift crew launching into circus tricks or singalongs with ostensibly no prompting.
The festival opened with a drum circle, sitting in the cold, a beat slowly developing, and becoming more complex as more people put their own elements into it, growing to a crescendo, during which, five costumed figures representing the four Elements and Ether entered the centre of the circle. These figures then performed a piece of theatre, ritualistically lighting a fire that would burn in the centre of the festival for the duration of the event. As they lit the fire, a beam of sunlight burst through the clouds and members of the crowd screamed like a Dothraki horde. This ceremony was surprisingly only slightly inhibited by the fact that only one performer spoke loud enough to be heard behind the front row. Perhaps they should consider microphones next year.
This difficulty in observing what was going on was repeated with the Saturday night fire performance, the crowd crushing in too close and blocking each other’s vision. This, however, was made up for by the sheer quality of the performers, with them far exceeding what would be expected in a dedicated circus.
On the raving front, the main stage was fantastic with a powerful, crisp sound system hidden in a beautiful patch of woodland. Named the oak stage, dappled sunlight fell upon a natural bowl in a slight clearing. Highlights from this stage included Fire Farm (Thanks for the best guitar solo this festival Stuart!), tearing up the main stage with a gloriously aggressive set of Psy-Punk and Hedflux for an epic late-night set stuffed with psychedelic sounds.
Leaving the main stage and heading off into the wood one discovers that this festival isn’t just about performance – it also has serious visual art chops. The work of dozens of artists over a period of weeks showed in the beautiful job they have done decorating the woodland. Installations, both small and large covered the space in between the Oak stage, and the smaller chill Ash stage, creating the feeling of being in a magical liminal place, half-way between nature and civilisation.
The woodland was not the only place where art could be found; close to the campsite a geodesic dome was set up, and inside was held the work of several extremely talented psychedelic artists. Being able to first look into the gallery and then attend a lesson from one of the painters exhibited was a highlight of the weekend.
Almost all of the problems of this festival came from its layout; the difficulty to see and hear certain events could probably be rectified by moving them, as could complaints from caravaners that they were too far away from the main site, which led to them feeling excluded. In addition, while during the daytime the toilets were nicer than those of most festivals, at night, the lack of lighting in them led to them rapidly degenerating. The festival bar could also, unfortunately, be only described as fairly priced by a billionaire, but on the plus side was thus never busy. One must also consider that the festival was entirely vegan and plastic free, which if you are like me, a carnivore who regularly loses their water bottle, is problematic although whether this is negative depends on your own diet and skills.
Despite these tiny problems, Anthropos is a magical festival, clearly built from love and having everything that makes a small event great; good tunes, fantastic people, and a beautiful environment. If you like psydub, hippies or circus tricks then Anthropos will be your spiritual home.
The Anthropos Festival website says tickets for next year will be available soon.