Green Man Festival 2021 was an overwhelming experience – a cautious yet giddy step back into the norm as one of the only festivals to get the go ahead post-lockdown. It was a weekend that will never be forgotten for its momentous feeling of relief, delight and gratitude. But could it be topped? Well, everyone, I’m pleased to say the shackles were off this year and Green Man’s 20th Birthday was euphoric!
It says it a lot when a festival is consistently acknowledged as the best the UK has to offer, aside from the city that gathers at Pilton Farm each June. The organisers of Green Man Festival have been honing their craft each Summer, carefully yet tirelessly working to ensure it’s an event that caters for all. Small yet significant alterations are made each year, be it the addition of an extra cabaret bar ‘Wishbone’, the momentous Pride march, a fine-dining experience or even the slight movement of the Walled Garden Pub so that more punters can enjoy both a pint and a view of the stage. Many return year after year after year, and it’s noticeable how much the team care for these regular punters and their families – inclusivity and community really are key here. They know what works, but they’re also not afraid to introduce an increasingly dynamic and diverse lineup of sensational artists.
Genres bounced from stage to stage over the weekend, with a glorious concoction of psych-folk, electronica, sub-Saharan desert blues, glam-rock, psychedelia, Americana, goth-pop and everything in between. Sets from Tune-Yards, Dry Cleaning, Ty Segall, BCUC, Kae Tempest, Mdou Moctar, Black Country New Road, Melin Melyn, Valerie June and Cate Le Bon were all particularly superb. And lest we forget the embracing of some true legends, including Zamrock pioneers WITCH, Scottish indie-rockers Arab Strap, 82-year-old soul legend Ural Thomas and of course, the one and only Kraftwerk, who handed out thousands of 3D-glasses for a dazzling show that saw one of the biggest crowds ever amass at the Mountain Stage.
Metronomy’s festival-opening set was sensational and a truly magnificent way to kick-off the birthday party vibes. Katy J Pearson’s rescheduled Saturday afternoon slot was simply sumptuous and Public Service Broadcasting’s last-minute show, standing in for the illness-struck Low, was absolutely mind-blowing. Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler’s secret set in the Green Man Record Shop was equally wonderful and not one to be missed. It was however, a firm favourite that stole the show and ended the weekend in the most stylish of styles. Acknowledging his debut performance many moons ago at Green Man 2011, Michael Kiwanuka expressed his love and gratitude for a festival that has welcomed him back with open arms many times, before headlining this weekend in 2022. He is an artist that gets better with each and every album and performance, and this one was beyond brilliant – a truly fitting way to bring the 20th birthday celebrations to a close.
Green Man Festival is a celebration of diversity, equality, proud-Welsh nationality and the creative triumphs of music, artists, crafts, literature, food, booze, comedy, charity, drag, science and our future generations. It’s also a place where one can feel welcomed, comfortable, reassured and at peace with oneself, in the most beautiful of settings.
And as the weekend ended with that most special of rituals, the burning of a particularly intricate Green Man this year, a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ rang from 20,000 jovial and content festival-goers, echoing across the Black Mountains and rising up with the flames and embers into the night sky. Green Man – here’s to another 20 incredible years.