Dumfries & Galloway
On Thursday evening, as the sun perched bright between fluffy cotton clouds, a convoy of peculiar shaped vehicles meandered along a single-track road amongst sheep clad rugged hills. Horseboxes, circus vans and furniture removal trucks, each converted in an ingenious manner rumbled along through the backdrop of the setting sun on a mission to one collective port of call. The destination was Knockengorroch Meadow, the location of Scotland’s premier hippy festival, nestled in the Galloway Hills.
Fresh-faced and clad in multi-colours, Leprechauns and pots of gold, the Knock revellers slowly entered the site and chose their favourite spot to pitch up for the weekend. Buzzing with the anticipation of this year’s Rainbow-themed weekend, inspired by the original International Rainbow gathering of 1997, which spurred the beginnings of the annual Knockengorroch Festival.
The Fraoch Bar, fully stocked with Williams’ Brothers beers and Thistly Cross cider opened its doors on Thursday night with Samson Sounds opening on the Cabaret Stage, a five-piece afro-dub collective from Glasgow, who played the perfect high energy reggae-meets ska-meets funk set to blast open the beginning of what was to be the Mother Nature of all festivals. And as the beers flowed, old friends met up for the first of the festival season with big bear hugs, smiling faces and happy laughter.
Friday morning’s midges were out in force with their razor-sharp tiny teeth and angry wee warrior bodies. Armed with a smothering of Citronella and bacon butties, we fought off the savage attack and made our way down to the site where the festival was beginning to rise and warm up. After a chilled morning basking in the May sunshine, we took to the Bo’ Airigh Main Stage for Muckle Spree to dance bare-foot in the grass. This duo, Michael Muir and Ollie Rigg, fuse traditional folk with a contemporary digital spin, using powerful loop pedals, a diverse range of string and wind instruments, driving melodies and a strong jazz/funk influence.
The Bristol Branch were to follow, and being of Orchestra Del Sol ilk, were not to disappoint. A seven-piece Latin American band (none of who were from Bristol) effortlessly blasted citrus audio bursts with a Brazilian flavour, oozing a sunshine soaked fiesta atmosphere. Boasting an eclectic range of lyrics, from canoeing, agricultural drought, prostitution … and some happy stuff… they had the hippies swinging their dungaree-clad salsa hips and jiving to the Latino beats.
Going indoors, the Sheiling tent was introducing Gypsy Roots, a fantastic reggae-rock, punk-gypsy band with a super tight drummer and great funky rhythm. An enthusiastic crowd boogied to each song with familiarity and expectation for this much-loved band.
Yoko Pwno gave yet another outstanding festival performance. This contemporary energetic band filled the Friday night Sheiling tent, packing the floor song after song, as they merged traditional Scottish folk music to a backdrop of drum and bass and electronica. With the keyboards and fiddles backed by the drums and electronica we were taken on a magical journey through a psychedelic musical soundscape. One of the best bands to be heard on the Scottish festival scene.
The Dunbar female rap trio, Bitta Disgrace, Pimpses Asha and Sweethardt Dowt are the three badass sassy, saucy girls who blew the top off the Sheiling tent on Friday’s performance. An absolute delight to watch, their fast, punchy lyrics satirize and destroy male hip hop clichés in their own witty comedy style over banging beatz. An incredible performance with a group with huge potential.
With hundreds of revellers knocking on the door of Knockengorroch festival the time has finally come for the first festival instalment of Scotlands summer season. The first most notable part of the journey to Dumfries and Galloway is the breath taking scenery you encounter driving down the Moffat road, through Crawfordjohn then into New Cumnock. Passing through farmsteads and rural countryside you emerge at Dalmellington, the small village 14 miles from Knockengorroch farm. As the sun shone down on Friday morning we could only hope that this ray of sunshine will continue to spill its warmth over the compound that is to be Knockengorroch Festival. With the winding river that encirCLes the grounds and the natural barriers of the hills , this is one of the most beautiful sites for a festival you could ask for. This place has a magical and mythical energy to it and with the birds singing sweet songs outside your tent, well, that’s just the icing on the cake…
The variety off workshops, educational areas, food stalls, landscaped chilling areas and music is tenfold, with so much on offer there is no time to be waste. There is a much more family friendly and artistic feeling to Knockengorroch as the years have passed which is something i feel they have always strived for , maintained and focused on. Bustling bodies, running children, warm fires, happy chatty revellers and continuous laughter was a common sight throughout the entire weekend. The other wonderful thing about Knock”s is that the size of the festival has remained the same over the many years it has been running and with this they have kept that unique sense of community.
With live acts such as Benjamin Zephaniah, Griogair Labhruidh, The Honey Farm, Milvus Milvus, Elephant Sessions, Dizraeli, Omar Afif, Irie Yo-Yo, Sea Bass Kid and many more exciting acts this was sure to be a weekend full fond memories. If i was to high light a few a few acts then the maverick of modern words and poetry that is Benjamin Zephaniah and the Revoluntionary Minds . Benjamin”s love off words and the power they hold are clear within his lyrics and music. The way words are constructed and used take on a different life when Benjamin creates his magic. Powerful messages that embody a sense of reality that is apparent in everyday life and in every culture. Moving and thought provoking Benjamin and the Revoluntionary Minds bring an energy and spirit that incaptivates everyone that is present.
Now we come to the all female trio that is The Honey Farm. Emerging from Dunbar this rap trio have taken Scotlands music scene and turned it upside down within the last few years. It is so refreshing to see a young female band taking to the stage with a fearless and empowering presence. With the Honeybadger DJ by their side, Bee, Gael and Gracie deliver a set full off direct, real, true, honest, in your face lyrics. They say it how it is, no barriers, no walls and pretentious bullshit. They say what we think and see it how as it is and Its about time too. The Honey Farm have stripped back what we have been missing for years within the music scene and how pulled the trigger and realeased some great songs with hard hitting facts about life as a woman, teenager and not forgetting the youth that is man. The energy, warmth, love, grattitude, innuendos and humour are intoxicating. I have high hopes for The Honey Farm and predict that if they continue on this road they have buit for themselves they are sure to go a long way.
Saturday afternoon begun with a magnificent Mutleys cheese, basil and pesto crepe, washed down with Nikita’s Traditional Lemonade Cordial, which were devoured hungrily around the fire pitt. Barefooted, guitar-strumming hippies entertained the hardcore all-nighters and the bleary-eyed late risers who were warming their cockles together by the fire as the drizzle begun, by belting out some classic camp fire tunes, old and new. Everyone joined in, including the friendly fire stewards, and it gave yet another a reminder of just how special this wee hippy festival really is.
We wandered through the Meadow, past the food stalls, rainbow installations, workshops and trader stalls packed with interesting and diverse wares and all manner of activities. The Mkeco Nature Workshop, run by Mona Kastel, an Edinburgh based Ecoscenographer who specialises in ecological conscious design, offered the chance to explore our connection with nature and what it means as humans, in a captivating and sensorial interactive workshop.
There was a drop-in recycling workshop at the Sheiling tent, which made all manner of creative and original things, such as masks, badges and musical instruments from recycled junk, in a fun atmosphere. There was a diverse range of different workshops on offer throughout the weekend, from yoga classes or Brazilian dance, life drawing to palm reading, spoon carving or story writing, making Knockengorroch such a rich and diverse International festival with genuinely something for everyone.
The Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers took to the Bo Airigh Stage on Saturday afternoon, delivering a mind-blowing theatrical performing art of layered percussion, powerful and passionate, with a gritty, energetic style, which easily demonstrated the ease of their experience as the UK’s longest running Taiko drumming collective.
Moving on to the Shieling Tent, we were introduced to Milvus Milvus, a Glasgow based band who delivered an incredible set, fusing 80s New Wave with contemporary minimalist techno and electronica, to an enthusiastic, bouncing crowd. Benjamin Zephariah, the Rastafarian poet was Saturday’s highlight, owning the Main stage with his incredible stage presence and delivering stylish and powerful dub-reggae protest lyrics, from his latest album Revolutionary Minds.
We danced late into the night with the legendary Edinburgh connoisseurs of all things exotic, Samedia Shabeen, who brought the boogie onto the dancefloor and jam-packed the Knock Taigh tent with the sweet sounds of afro, dancehall, Latin America, and all things tropical from every corner of the planet. The success of this DJ collective who have travelled the world with their immersive late-night tropical soundtrack was evident from the riotous enthusiasm and packed dancefloor, whilst sealing Knock’s reputation as a colourful mix of vibes to flavour every taste-bud.
As Friday turns into Saturday and Saturday into Sunday the heavens decided that the earth needed to be dampened and the rain come down like an over flowing waterfall. It poured and it poured. Down it came with no end in sight. The one thing at Knockengorroch you maybe guaranteed is rain but it does not dampen spirits as many off the mud dancing revellers embraced it and engaged in a ritual rain ceremony.
With the Shieling tent offering up Mungos Hi Fi and the Knock Taigh Tent hosting Samedia Shebeen these were the places to be after hours. The tropical and african sound of Samedia”s trio dj”s was to hot hot to handle. Powered by North Fire Sound and full to capacity everynight the Taigh tent had no space to give. With rain drop like sweats balls dripping from the tent ceiling we were once again caught in a world of dance, movement and good vibes. The Sunday night instalment of Mungos Hi Fi and Kenny Knots is a must at any festival.
The build up is an uplifting experience that has never swayed in the many many years that Mungos Hi Fi have been gracing our floors. A true icon of the sound system circuit they never fail to deliver. Deep rooted cultured tunes with heart and soul and with lyrics that push the boundaries there is no better way to close the first festival of the year . With another successful Knockengorroch Festival done and dusted, i think we all leave with a sense of contentment and warm hearts and not forgetting some wet and sore feet. Happy days with good times ahead…..
Words, Photos & Memories by
Raymond Speedie & Teri Welsh