As ever, The Good Life Experience intends to be a celebration of artists and artisans, debates and discovery, action and adventure, rock and roll revelry and relaxation, family fun and feasts and carnival and culture. The event takes place in the glorious, unusual, historic and setting of the Hawarden Estate against the backdrop of two castles.
The festival was founded with passion by Cerys Mathews MBE, founding member of multimillion selling band Catatonia, award-winning DJ at BBC Radio 2, 6 Music and World Service and author of Hook, Line and Singer, a bestseller published by Penguin, Steven Abbott, arts consultant and manager, and Charlie and Caroline Gladstone, founders of online store, Pedlars, award winning pub The Glynne Arms, Hawarden Estate Farm Shop, Glen Dye Cabins & Cottages and co-authors of The Family Guide to the Great Outdoors (Random House).
The founders’ curious and explorative minds and collective experience of late nights and wild adventures has resulted in a truly unique festival. Expect raucous music from all over the world curated by Cerys, axe throwing, foraging, campfire cooking sessions with world-class chefs, daily feasts, wild children, mass sing-a-longs, over 40 expert craftspeople, beer served by experts, talks by explorers, abseiling from Hawarden Castle, a free 1930s fairground, wild swimming, poetry, literature and endless How To… talks. Everything is aimed at adults and children alike; there aren’t many festivals that truly do that.
It’s an inclusive festival that celebrates friendship with open arms. Everyone who attends becomes part of The Good Life family and the festival aims to create experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. It’s also dog-friendly so the whole family is welcome.
Over the 12, 13, 14, and 15 September, The Good Life Experience will invite a host of entertainers, artists, creations, makers and thinkers to the Hawarden Estate to share their knowledge, skills or performance. The eclectic 2019 line-up includes iconic DJ Norman Jay MBE, songwriting royalty Guy Chambers, Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers, The Great British Sewing Bee’s Patrick Grant, first British in space Helen Sharman, arts/nature/culture clash Caught by the River, craft experts Hole & Corner, former Director General of MI5 Dame Stella Rimington and many more.
2019 marks the first year for the festival’s new site. Now closer to the two castles and the lake, gardens and woodlands that surround them. The organisers have also introduced a new three-night ticket option, for an extended weekend of fun and discovery.
Cerys said: ‘It was an ongoing discussion about The Search for the Good Life that led the four of us to create a festival with a difference. Our focus is on music, art, food, culture and nature. It’s a festival for every generation with an emphasis on discovery, exploration and adventure – a combination of The Great British Bake Off, meets Bear Grylls meets The Tube. It’s about passion, making memories and getting back to nature. To learn something new is what life’s all about. Once you stagnate you’re not living life to the full. The festival invites people to reconnect with life and reconnect with nature.’
One truly immersive activity, in every sense, comes from the festival’s brand new lake area, complete with Victorian boathouse and picturesque landscaped grounds. Artist, educator and outdoor swimmer Vivienne Rickman-Poole, recently listed as one of Britain’s most inspiring adventurers, heads up an aquatic programme ideal for any water babies. Vivienne, who lives in the mountains of Snowdonia and is an award-winning filmmaker, will lead small group swims in the Hawarden Estate’s tranquil lake, with each 20-minute swim immediately followed by a session where swimmers will use their experience as inspiration to create – be it a drawing, a poem, or some other form of expression through art. As an ambassador for the Outdoor Swimming Society, Vivienne knows firsthand all the elements for a pleasurable, inspiring swim – so there’ll be a lakeside fire, with marshmallows and tea to banish even the smallest hint of a post-splash chill. There’ll also be fire walking, axe throwing, canoeing and rambling around an unspoiled nature area.
Festival firsts are plentiful at TGLE. As part of a programme of new/interesting/ dangerous pastimes/sports, the team are excited to announce fire walking for this year. Guests will be able to learn and practice this amazing ancient, mind-boggling activity. Add to this flying trapeze, abseiling, archery, axe throwing and Britain’s first dog diving competition for a weekend of serious adventure.
For those who prefer learning new skills, crafting and expressing their creativity, the festival’s Makers Row will again play host to a variety of creators and traders from all over the world to introduce their wares, and give demonstrations talks and classes about their labours of love. Planned participants include print maker and illustrator Tom Frost, Raku Ceramics, floristry, blacksmith Alex Pole, the Amazing Scene Machine Model Making and many more fascinating artisan producers.
Festivalgoers can also kick back and enjoy themselves on the free vintage fairground, take part in yoga or tai chi session and get involved in all manner of creative workshops and group activities. According to its founders, The Good Life Experience is all about rediscovering simple pleasures, re-energising and reinvigorating that desire for inspiration. It’s part of the festival’s ethos that you should leave recharged not drained – and that includes the wallet. To make sure their time at the Good Life Experience is a stress-free as possible, most activities are free at point of entry and under-12s don’t have to pay to attend the weekend of festival at all.
With Cerys’ musical credentials, performance and music plays a huge part of the festival, with artists hand-picked by Cerys herself across all genres.
To list everything on offer at the festival would take almost the entire weekend, so the best way to discover is by joining the community and feeling you’re among friends. But if you’re a stickler for details, here’s a small selection: screen printing, guitar making, calligraphy, ceramics, sushi workshops, children’s cooking, bushcraft, bug exploring, pottery, natural dyeing, bike building, knife making, boat building, stone masonry, leather working, knitting, spoon carving, metal pressing, carpentry, wild running, choral singing – OK, we really have run out of time to list them all.
If you really want to get back to nature, the site is dotted with log burning fires and surrounded by fields filled with pumpkins, blackberries, apples, and pears. No need to brave the elements entirely. However:, accommodation comes in the form of pre-erected bell tents, local B&Bs and hotels, or a picturesque spot to park your camper van or erect your tent – this is all about the Good Life only!
Co-founder Charlie Gladstone says: ‘At its core, the festival can best be defined as The Search for The Good Life; a life that’s fulfilled and considered but is also fun and values the things that matter…. family, friends, a real connection with The Great Outdoors, books, proper food and drink, discovery, music that comes from the soul, great books, craft. All the things that don’t cost a great deal but that make life richer, more rewarding and better fun.’