Kindred Spirits: Loving ‘The Good Life’

The Good Life Experience is a celebration of fun and discovery, music, food, books, ideas, workshops, The Great Outdoors! Now in its 4th year, the Festival is held at the Hawarden Estate – home of Charles and Caroline Gladstone – in North Wales. They teamed up with Cerys Matthews and Steve Abbott to create a gathering that encapsulates the ‘good old days’, when making, mending, music, laughter, openness, sharing, feasting and togetherness ruled our hearts and minds. The festival is less an event, more of a mood and a spirit. Describing it is impossible because it is personal … immersive … something to be lived and relished. Here is a collection of thoughts and words about our Good Life Experience.

The beautiful Hawarden Estate … opened welcomingly … nature, ready to nurture … wind whispering in trees … intrepid campers, bring-all-you-can-carry campers, those “if you think I’m going to be in a tent without a 11-tog quilt, you’ve got another think coming” campers. Children and dogs welcome … what about auld fellas with beards and their pretty Irish wives? No worries … everyone welcome … everyone instantly a part of things, somehow integral. The beguiling mood of welcome is for everyone.

A festival of late-Summer warmth, but early Autumn chill … this is a gathering of like minds, kindred spirits, souls at one with the essence of the occasion, the intimacy and the inclusiveness. No VIP area … rubbing shoulders with the ‘stars’ – those at the ‘front of the class’ welcoming to those who stand to marvel at their words, deeds, skills and openness … feasts, finds and foraged botanicals lifting the spirits … new faces mingle with familiar ones … Instagram buddies emerge from the ether to make themselves known, to stop orbiting in the electrons for some precious moments of human interaction … recognising faces – being recognised … a humble deli in rural mid-Wales striking a chord with respected foodies … our spirit of sharing and advocacy at one with the mood of this Good Life …

Moments of serendipity – a table shared with Mel Shand, artist-in-residence, the haunting voice of Brian Briggs (of Stornaway fame) providing the siren call to the hauntingly beautiful poetry of Paul Henry … dancing like loons to Pictish Trail, discovering the compelling energy and rhythms of Ezza who brought North Africa to North Wales … ‘Claw’ – chips with crab, a late life discovery to make the mouth water … speakers providing calls to arms – Dan Burgess, whose ‘Good For Nothing’ initiative is the perfect model for a world that needs to find ways to give; there is a simple truth to Dan’s assertion that “the future is local, we can network for the rest” … Mark Shayler railing against conventional thinking … the With Love Project going extra miles to meet makers and producers with passion and purpose … a book launch with a difference where the urge to smoke copies of Tom Herbert’s ‘DO Wild Baking’ feels natural, energised and creative … Liam from NomNom Chocolate pops up serving cocktails, Chas Gladstone and his family immerse themselves in every aspect of the gathering, Cerys Matthews relishes the stage performances with the giddy enthusiasm of the music lover she is, eyes sparkling with the excitement of performance flowing from her curation … The Mighty Booth lending its prop box and unique photo booth memories to raise some cash for charity … the Dog Nanny, bringing those welcomed and much-loved pooches to heel … crafts, hands-on workshops, demonstrations – learning to ‘do’ as well as to watch and learn … sundowners at Forager’s Gin Bar … sunrisers courtesy of Coaltown Coffee and an aeropress … crazy invitations to breakfast, a pan full of bratwurst stopping hangovers in their tracks …

This is a festival which feels personal, almost impossible to describe … it’s an immersive moment in time, a call to arms for a better way of doing things, a finer way of being … it’s not pretentious; quite the opposite … a gathering of folk with common purpose and an intention to learn and share and do … folk seeking out a good life, one worth sharing, worth experiencing … and for 3 precious days, we found our Good Life Experience.

Book me right in for some more of that please!