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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Festival Review: Green Man

The soggy Brecon Beacons is the perfect home for the fertile Green Man; where wading through the mud is only half the fun!

Written by Amelia Wells


Naomi Campbell wears Vivienne Westwood (1993), viagra approved illustrated by Krister Selin

It isn’t very often that a specific fashion designer is singularly celebrated for their contributions to fashion; when the V&A presented the Vivienne Westwood retrospective in 2004, fashion fans were delirious at the opportunity to revel amongst the creations of our most fashionable Dame. This month, the team at Selfridges reopen the Westwood archives and present a glorious exhibition devoted entirely to Vivienne Westwood’s revolutionary footwear.

What began as a calm stroll into central London on a bank holiday Monday soon descended into chaos – it was absolutely heaving (and to those of you shouting OF COURSE IT WAS YOU BLOODY IDIOT at the screen – yeah, I know). A text to remind me I was going to a party at Shoreditch House as early as 6pm didn’t help either, so me and the other half legged it down Oxford Street to catch the exhibition, and thank heavens we did.

Located in the chic Ultralounge on the lower ground floor of Selfridges (where previous exhibitions and pop-ups have occurred, including the brilliant 100 years of Selfridges display), the room features long rows of glass cabinets holding a huge selection of Westwood footwear from over the years. The black walls are sparse, with a few large images from advertising campaigns and of Our Viv herself dotted here and there, and a show reel of some of Westwood’s awe-inspiring catwalk shows at the back of the room, featuring a soundtrack of sexed-up national anthems and punk hits. It is, however, row after row of shoes displayed like the crown jewels that capture the imagination the most.

Ordered chronologically, the exhibition charts the literal rise and rise of Dame Viv’s footwear, from surviving examples from SEX and Seditionaries, (including leopard mules worn by SEX shop assistant Jordan) right through to Propoganda pirate boots (worn mostly by the gays and people from Leeds) and pairs seen at the most recent fashion weeks. The most interesting comparison drawn when you’ve seen every pair is that there isn’t much of a comparison at all – similar shapes and themes are echoed through the ages, and these shoes have been consistently daring and innovative.

There must be over 100 pairs on display, all of which are a delight to view, but here are some of my favourites:

The exhibition is supported by Melissa, the wonderful Brazilian-born ethical label that champions Melflex®, the recycled plastic phenomenon that uses sustainable and environmentally friendly production processes. Beginning with plastic versions of iconic Vivienne Westwood shoes, the collaboration has grown to include many of the archive styles on display at the exhibition (re-imagined in plastic, of course).

Exhibitions of this calibre, celebrating our fashion designers and presented so brilliantly, don’t come around very often. So if you’re in London and anywhere near Selfridges, do check it out – you won’t be disappointed.

Until 22 September, admission free.

Get all the important details here.

Photography by Amelia Wells.

So it turns out, cheap the grass is greener where you water it, and Green Man certainly was abundant with green green grass and wet, wet rain. Many were the wishes written on the wish tree which went along the lines of ‘an anorak. Please!’ Among them, mine. Who, heading out to a festival in August, remembers to take a rain coat? I had my sun cream, poi and a bag full of Bourbon biscuits, but no wet weather gear. Should have remembered that Wales, actually, is pretty notorious for being ridiculously rainy, and the Brecon Beacons even more so.

Our priority on Friday morning then, was to seek shelter. We passed a couple stood under a tree, tearing the wrapping from a pair of plastic ponchos with their teeth, and begged to know the source. They pointed across the already inches deep in rainwater road to a thick hippy jacket stall which was certainly cashing in on the rain that weekend. Plastic ponchos: £2. And so equipped, we set off to enjoy the festival.

Only having the faintest clue who was even playing over the weekend, and being too cheap to purchase a £6 programme, we spent our days cadging information from unsuspecting audience members, foolish enough to have their programmes in plain sight, and bumbling from place to place, exploring the ins-and-outs of the beforested set-up. One of the first things we discovered was a giant transparent bubble, in which figures flashed torches up, down and around through dry ice while beeping noises implied a containment area, possibly one which might be inhabited by…aliens? We never found out though, and were told this was only a dress rehearsal and to come back later. When they might have found what they were looking for. We didn’t, since what we were looking for, was music. Which we found! Eventually.

The Green Man pub area seemed a decent sort of place to hang out in the rain for a moment or two, and we heard Hail the Planes go through their sound check, the guitarist asking for a ‘little more talent in his monitor’. Mellow folk is all very well in its place, but when that place is getting progressively damper, one soon wishes to move on.

Einstein’s Garden was tucked away neatly behind a magic door in the high stone wall and contained many wonders! On the solar powered stage near Peaceful Progress (a chilled out organic café tent) we found the animal man, courtesy of Party Animals, was passing around frogs and lizards and snakes while chatting at double-speed about the difference between venomous and poisonous creatures amongst other interesting facts. Did you know it’s impossible for a snake to eat a human because of our shoulders? However, we will still suffocate inside the snake’s neck. The more you know! We poked our noses into the teeny Cinema Shed, this year showing TED talks, which was almost always full thanks to the rain (and the TED talks. Probably.), browsed the book stall, hooped with GIANT hoops, followed the molecule trail and watched other people try to recharge their mobiles through cycling. Also, for £10, you could make your own hook on a forge! Tools for Self Reliance had a child-pedalling-powered forge and an anvil whereupon you could smelt some iron and bash out a hand-tool. The organisation itself sends old and unwanted tools to rural areas in Africa for the use of locals and the reinvigoration of the local economy. Around the tent they had a piece of string with the journey of the crates hung upon it; every instance of transport tax and *cough*bribes*cough* detailed so that you know just how difficult and expensive it is to transport these crates. They’re based in mid-Wales, so if you fancy having a hammer away at something solid for a good cause, check them out!

After a brief nap, we dove back into the festival atmosphere (drizzly. Grey.) and were welcomed with a nice bit of Caitlin Rose. Since the Mountain Man had been held up, the lovely Nashville lass had been bumped to the Main Stage from the Green Man pub stage, and lucky for us! Her mellifluous voice was hypnotising as she recounted her past heartbreaks to the rapidly increasing and soggy crowd. Feeling the need to explore a little further, we found the Chai Wallah tent and The Boxettes! The Boxettes! We love them. Five girls, no instruments, all voice. Oh, and the female beatbox world champion, Bellatrix. Not only were they ridiculously talented, but chatted warmly with the audience, and each other, between songs, bringing a real friendly vibe to the tent. We wanted to, and did, dance to the beats, but it seemed like they were on too early in the day to really get the crowd moving.

The Chai Wallah tent was home to some awesome sounds over the weekend, and overhearing someone at the end saying ‘There need to be longer gaps between the main stage bands so we can spend more time at Chai Wallah!’ just confirmed that a lot of bands performing there, my favourite (of the entire festival!) being The Boexettes, deserved a MUCH larger audience. I would have thought them suited to the FarOut tent which became the dance tent at night.

Speaking of which! Solely based on the fact that their name is Fuck Buttons, I dragged my friend to the FarOut tent and listened to the electronic glitch perfection that is the Bristol-based two piece fucking with some buttons. Does that ever get old? I think no. Definitely glad we made the trek up the increasingly muddy and slippery hill for that one. The evening saw us back at the Main Stage for Beirut, who sounded pretty much exactly like they do on their albums. Slightly removed from enjoying myself as some chap was trying to chat me up by telling me that I was more attractive than my friend, and offering to buy me a drink if I called his mates “girly fairies” for getting down with some country dancing. Just a tip: trying to chat up a girl and yet implying that being ‘girly’ is a negative trait? Just…no. So, we skipped Beirut and traipsed through the mire to FarOut to enjoy DJ Yoda and Hexstatic who played some dirty dubstep to the backdrop of funky video graphics. Plenty to do AND see! We danced ‘til about four in the ay em before dropping soundly off to sleep and waking pretty late the next day.

The highlight of Saturday was discovering that John Cooper Clarke was performing in the Comedy and Literature tent! Which says something about the performance itself? I had assumed that it would be mostly comprised of his poetry, which I enjoy, but he only recited three or four poems, ChickenTown as his encore, and mostly tried his hand at stand-up comedy. I’m not sure if stand-up comedy is a usual part of his act, but, uh, I did not find it so funny. Sorry, John Cooper Clarke! At least you have that thing where you don’t seem to ever age to console you. Robin Ince also showed his face up there, touting his routine about the GIANT KILLER CRAB books and also taking some time to educate young women on how to get a man. There are books about it, dontchaknow? Books with titles such as ‘How To Get The Man of Your Choice’ – “because you can choose now ladies! Lucky!” Apparently cleanliness is very important in trapping…uh…gaining a man, so we were pretty fucked for that being ankle deep in mud. Oh well! At least we still had the option of going to work in a boat yard (as a secretary, presumably, rather than, say, an engineer?) in order to meet a man who owns a boat! Hearing Robin Ince read Danielle Steele’s ‘romantic’ poetry is an education worthy of Einstein’s Garden, let me tell you. (It doesn’t help that he read a poem called Jam and all I could think of was the teevee show of the same name, which is epically crude.) So. Jam! It’s…sexy? A man-trap? To be taken at breakfast after the sex you’ve had, which is NEVER MENTIONED? Hmm.

The Flaming Lips headlined Saturday and all day we were wondering if they had already played, but realised that we were just hearing teaser songs from the festival radio which was pumped out across some areas of the campsite. The radio, actually, was adorable, with the tone of someone who isn’t quite sure anybody is listening so they can pretty much say what they like, right? Except, what if someone is listening?! But then, probably nobody is…Well, slightly nervous man, we were listening. We clambered over the entrance stairs and descended into a confetti covered crowd, all reaching up to bounce giant balloon balls back towards the stage while a curly haired gent shouted “C’mon motherfuckers!’ between songs. I confess to not having heard much of the Flaming Lips but being approving of the bits I have listened to. However, being coerced into having a good time by having a stranger call me a ‘motherfucker’ wasn’t really what I’d expected from Green Man, so it put me off enjoying the show a little. BUT! He had a gong with shiny lights all around it, which made it okay in the end.

The next morning we accidentally saw Darwin Deez, another curly headed singing and guitaring man, who managed to put on a better show than The Flaming Lips by having dance routines between each song. ‘Why can’t every band do that!’ my friend cried. Well, then it wouldn’t be quite so awesome. Waking up to revenge songs always put a good tone on the day, also.
Back at the Solar Stage we watched a break-dancing workshop which some little kids were taking very seriously and, despite not taking part, resolved to become beat-boxing breakdancers by the end of the year. Or next year. At some point, anyway. What those guys can do with their bodies is ridiculous! A couple of mums were getting in on the act as well, but one of the dads gave up when it became apparent that he would have to put his hands on the floor.

The evening was dominated by ‘one-girl-and-her-instrument’ sets with Laura Marling getting the crowd to whistle along with her in the middle of Night Terror and Joanna Newsom telling the story about her drummer’s naked swimming escapades! Since we were only interested in seeing these lasses that day, we spent most of it in search of food. Being vegan it’s often slightly awkward to get fed while out and about, but hey, this is Green Man! Just outside the entrance was a vegan food cart, which did the meatiest, most filling burger I’ve tasted for a little while. Many of the stalls inside also had veg*n options in portions which were large enough to be shared and still sufficient for allaying hunger pangs. We noshed on tempurah veg, chickpea and spinach dahl, gingered rice with tofu and noodles and snacked on cardboard cups full of sundried tomatoes, olives and things, from, uh, Olives & Things.

After filling our stomachs, we naturally needed to empty them, and so, we come to the part of the festival I was most excited about; the compost loos! The last time I used these was at Boom festival, in Portugal, where they also had tubs of sawdust for the girls to be peeing in! I tell you, I got pretty close to the girls I travelled there with. The compost loos are compartmentalised, however, and basically consist of a hole over a wheelie-bin. From there, your excrement is wheeled to a place where it will be used as compost! I don’t know what happens to the poo that you poo into portaloos, but I’m pretty sure it gets covered in chemicals, rather than straw, and then treated in a chemical plant rather than having the goodness put back into the ground so that we may grow our food from it. Until next year, Green Man, eat shit!

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