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FESTIBELLY might go down as one of the most successful university projects ever.
Nestled in the corner of a field just outside the New Forest , at the end of what is normally a quiet country lane, the two-day music festival began life as a piece of coursework submitted by two young music students.
Andy Bell, now 25, was one of them.
He said: “We’ve got 2,000 people here this weekend but it started out much smaller.
“I was at the London College of Music and we threw a birthday party in a field here.
“Then Tom (Boardley) and I were talking and we said we could do a little festival here for our coursework.”
Andy and Tom, also 25, have developed Festibelly considerably since the inaugural show in 2008, but it has lost none of its charm.
More than 50 acts were served up at the weekend, including the likes of super-cool band of the moment Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, as well as stand-up comics and top DJs such as Radio One’s Rob Da Bank.
And yet for all this Festibelly retains an intimacy that sets it apart.
Andy said: “We want to grow but we also want people to keep bringing their families.
And because we’re close to Lymington we can’t go all night long with the music.”
Partygoers pitched tents in the same field as the main stage, and with the children’s play areas a stone’s throw from the bar, the proceedings had a close-knit, family atmosphere.
James Harrington, 34, from Southampton , arrived on Saturday with his wife and their two-yearold son. He said: “Me and the wife used to go to festivals all the time and they say it’s family- friendly but they’re not really suitable, but here it works fine with the kids.”
Family-friendly it may be, but this was no Disney production.
Notorious ex-drug baron Howard Marks enthralled revellers on Saturday at the Massive in China tent, performing his critically acclaimed one-man show.
Influential London MCs The Ragga Twins have been making it their business to pack the dancefloor since 1982. It was business as usual at Festibelly, as partygoers showed their appreciation with their feet.
At the Terrapin Station tent, Edinburgh four-piece Bwani Junction snapped revellers out of their hangovers early on the Sunday afternoon. Lead singer Rory Fairweather said: “Yeah it’s really cool here, we’d love to come back next year. Although we don’t really know what’s going on – we didn’t finish last night’s gig in Edinburgh until midnight and we drove straight down!”
Despite Saturday’s rain, there was no Glastonbury-style mudbath and the festival is marking itself out as a rare gem – a successful, big-time party, without the mass market branding and eye-watering beer prices. This is one coursework project that gets an A for effort.