Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Posted by Bethan Holt, Fashion Junior at Large

You might have heard about Port Eliot, the festival which takes place in a nook of Cornwall valley round the grounds of Port Eliot house, just beside the village of St Germans. The one which creates an exodus of London's creative and media community. The one which is really inspiring and beautiful. But until you've actually experienced Port Eliot- like I did this weekend- it's hard to understand exactly what is so special about it. It is a festival like no other but definitely the absolute definition of festival. Not only are there familiar faces around every corner, from Christopher Biggins riding about on a flower bedecked golf buggy to Dominic West chilling by the river but there is also something going on at almost every moment of the day from the early morning wild swimming and yoga sessions to 3am guilty pleasures DJ sets. The frustrating thing is, you can't do it all. 

My weekend included, but was not limited to,  dancing to a ceilidh band, a trip to the circus, cabaret Britney Spears, bhangra, gypsy jazz performers dressed as Elvis, dresses inspired by interiors, flower arranging, a folk band who gave their audience pop corn and crisps and encouraged us to make paper planes, history lessons and existential thinking thanks to a 20s jazz, Gypsy brass, English Folk and Trinidadian Calypso inspired fivesome. There was so much more it COULD have included had we got up earlier and been in more of a military mindset. There were so many workshops going on which I'd have loved to have done, such as Anthropologie's silk printing and ceramics, but most of them involved arriving at 9am to register which is a difficult feat to accomplish after a night of gin drinking and dancing.

It's not just the schedule which makes Port Eliot. The house- a proper example of decaying but beautiful aristocratic living- was open to view for parts of the day during the festival. Little touches like the Macbook left open atop an antique desk and pictures of the St Germans' much loved whippet Roo made it a million times more real than your usual stately home visit. If you needed a quieter moment, or a nice spot to sit with a drink then there were the vast and oh-so English river banks and rolling fields. A final West Country tip, we popped into the Thermae Bath Spa en route to Port Eliot for some pre-festival pampering and it was brilliant- a great way to get a spa experience at a rather reasonable £25 for two hours of steaming in variously aroma-ed rooms and bathing in the thermal rooftop pool. Bliss. Sadly, the festival is taking a break next year but ink it into your 2013 diary right now. 

Here's a tumble of my Port Eliot scrapbook....
The view from our tent- no luxury yurts or winnebagos for this Fash Junior
A grandly dressed tent
Murals inside Port Eliot house

 In the Wardrobe Department where the likes of Louise Gray, Fred Butler and Piers Atkinson were on hand all weekend to provide dressing up inspiration.

Milliner Stephen Jones sketches hair designs...

And Bumble and Bumble bring them to life.

Mary Katrantzou was there to speak with Love magazine's Alex Fury about her career to date, her unique aesthetic and the triptych of dresses which she created after a visit to Port Eliot house with Sarah Mower.

Sarah Mower (in Katrantzou jacket), Alex Fury (in Katrantzou trousers), Mary Katrantzou and Port Eliot's organiser, Cathy St Germans. They are posing with three of the four Warren sisters (Octavia, Aggy, Imogen and Bea) who modelled some of Mary's dresses during the talk.

Mary's triptych of dresses hanging inside Port Eliot house

The estate has a beautiful orangery which ousted the festival's Michael Howells curated flower show. Entrants were asked to celebrate the Jubilee and/or the Olympics...

 The main Park Stage where plenty of evening action took place...

Mobile tea dancing- a man with a car and a boom box travelling around the site hosting mini tea dances. The One Minute Disco was also hugely popular and by Sunday people were running towards it as they saw the van coming to blast out a tune for 60 seconds at a time all around the festival site.

 Silk printing and plate decorating in the Anthropolgie tent...

A word of warning, there are children everywhere at Port Eliot. If you're adverse to their presence at festivals, this one's not for you. Many of them were to be found rolling in the mud baths which appeared at low tide...

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