“PACE yourselves” - Dirty Three frontman Warren Ellis gently advised the crowds on the opening night of Welbeck Abbey’s inaugural No Direction Home Festival.
They were wise words for the veritable three-day magical feast of music, comedy, film, food and entertainment which no amount of torrential rain or mud could spoil.
A new venture from the creators of the End of the Road, this was a festival for all ages judging by the thousands of people who flocked to Welbeck’s stunning grounds at the weekend.
After a soggy start, new indie kids on the block Django Django drew one the the biggest crowds of the weekend to the beautiful Lake Stage on Friday night and got everyone dancing with their ravey, rhythmic indie-pop.
Australian instrumental band Dirty Three continued to raise the crowd’s spirits with their infectious energy, while The Low Anthem’s wistful Americana sounds brought some warmth to the cold night air.
Saturday morning brought with it yet more rain and bluster but the party atmosphere continued as people headed for brunch from the excellent choice of food stalls while children bounced about in their wellies at a whole range of craft and games workshops.
As the sunshine made its first appearance in the afternoon, crowds basked by the main stage to the familiar Welsh tones of Euros Childs.
Euros, the voice of psychedelic Welsh indie band Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, played a mix of solo songs and old favourites - charming the audience with his enchanting story-telling song style and jingly jangly guitar.
Riding the crest of the wave of her debut album, Geordie songstress Beth Jeans Houghton was always going to be a favourite at No Direction Home.
Her soaring vocals, complimented by all male backing band the Hooves of Destiny, echoed across the lush landscape at Welbeck, providing the perfect score to a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys captivated the crowds with his inimitable sense of humour, warmth and energy - even with Skylon, an extended 15-minute fantasy about flying with an actress on a hijacked plane.
And then it came on Sunday - all-day sunshine and with it a festival at its quintissential British best.
It was smiles all round as Slow Club took to the Lake Stage, bulking up their sound with two guest members.
Since starting out as a two-piece in 2006 Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor have become firm favourites on the Sheffield music scene and their drum banging harmonious style certainly seduced the festival crowd.
The Unthanks with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band captured the essence of British summertime music with bewitching melodies that moved the audience to tears.
Saving the best till last and not letting a broken ankle stop him was the sublime Richard Hawley.
Helped to the stage by his son, he then proceeded to deliver one of his best gigs to date, with an electric set of new material from the excellent Standing on the Sky’s Edge mixed with timeless classics - all interspersed with his trademark Sheffeld banter.
The audience’s demands for an encore led them to The Ocean, bathing Welbeck’s night sky in haunting and lush waves of sound - the perfect finale to a perfect festival.
Long may No Direction Home continue.
* No Direction Home organisers have confirmed next year’s festival will be held on 31st May to 2nd June.
Festival director Simon Taffe said the weekend had been ‘truly amazing’ and plans were well underway for next year’s event.
“It reminded us of the excitement we felt when we started the End of the Road Festival, that first time when you see that other people are enjoying the music, films and setting as much as you are,” he said.
“Welbeck is one the most beautiful places in England, and we can’t wait to go back.”
Early Bird tickets, priced £89, are on sale from today - numbers are strictly limited.
Visit http://nodirectionhomefestival.com/ for more information.
by Chantal Spittles & Hayley Gallimore