HAWARDEN ESTATE, FLINTSHIRE.
16-17-18 SEPTEMBER 2016

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The Good Life Experience was founded in 2014 by four friends, broadcaster and singer Cerys Matthews, her husband, arts consultant Steve ‘Abbo’ Abbott and founders of homewares brand Pedlars, Charlie and Caroline Gladstone. The festival came about as a response to mass consumerism and all that it entails; phones, social media, box sets, fast fashion, laptops, internet shopping… Post 2008 with the return –to an extent- to post war austerity, people have begun to think differently. They want to make things with their hands, to reconnect with the simple things and escape from mass consumerism. There is a real hunger for craft and The Good Life Experience has done something about it.

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One of the core passions of the four founders is supporting and promoting traditional British craft, and one of their promises for 2016 is to at least double the number of workshops and demonstrations on offer. This year festival-goers were given the chance to watch demonstrations and take part in workshops from a hugely skilled and talented group of craftspeople and makers, including a blacksmith, a potter, an enamel maker, carpenters, butchers and much more. All of this was wildly popular; indeed demand for classes far out-stripped supply and each craftsperson was overwhelmed. Alex Pole, the blacksmith at The Good Life Experience 2015, declared “It’s great that you are getting out there and telling people about this type of thing – it helps us craftspeople no end! I have been at the forge for just over 22 years now and it’s extremely exciting that finally it’s getting some main steam attention”. Plans for this expansion of the Makers’ Row area of the festival are already well underway, and the call has gone out to the very best craftspeople up and down the country.

Festival co-founder, singer, author and broadcaster, Cerys Matthews –who has the most listened to digital radio show in Britain- will again curate an unbeatable and eclectic music line-up, and there will be even more top chefs, outdoor activities, culture, yoga, books, campfires, foraging, craft workshops and talks on offer. In short, the Good Life Experience celebrates everything that goes into making life really good. This year the festival more than doubled in size with 4500 attendees, and whilst it expects to grow again next year to a sustainable level, there are absolutely no plans to become huge and it is committed to remaining a small and intimate festival.

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The Good Life Experience 2015 saw unforgettable performances from Wilko Johnson, Revolucionarios Cubanos, Murray Lachlan-Young, and Catrin Finch, and lots more. Big Boss Man and Public Service Broadcasting rounded off the Saturday night with incredible performances that got the whole festival jumping. Festival co-founder Cerys Matthews is set to put together another excellent line-up of both legendary performers and newcomers too.

On top of the outstanding musical performances, The Good Life Experience makes a meaningful connection with The Great Outdoors. Last year’s festival saw countless talks with experts from a wide range of fields. Highlights included a campfire-side talk by adventurer and educator Ben Fogle, a more than 80-strong mushroom hunt with renowned forager Roger Phillips, a naturally navigated walk with Tristan Gooley and inspirational campfire cooking displays from Fabulous Baker Brother Tom Herbert, Genevieve Taylor and Trish MacCurrach, and much more. Axe and outdoors experts Best Made Co came all the way from New York City for the second year running to host an exhibition tent, host a shop and give inspiring axe workshops. The Good Life Experience also offers delicious and locally sourced food and drink provided by the Hawarden Estate. On top of that there were amazing cooking demonstrations and campfire displays from festival favourites Tom Herbert,Valentine Warner and Wahaca’s Thomasina Miers, to name just a few.

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The Good Life Experience prides itself on being a festival like no other. There is no VIP area, and the festival is hugely dog friendly and family friendly, with children being given the opportunity to get messy and run free. Last year saw Ben Fogle, Thomasina Miers, festival co-founder Cerys Matthews, and other popular names, taking part in all that the festival had to offer with their families. There truly is something for everyone, with all of the talks included in the ticket price, and the majority of activities going free. You can enjoy endless free rides on the vintage fairground, take part in child-friendly climbing, abseiling, axe-throwing and archery, listen a whole host of inspiring talks, learn how to whittle a spoon and watch amazing musicians perform late into the night – all in one weekend. There is good news for families in 2016 as the age limit for children to go free has been raised from 9 to 12 years old, and the upper age limit for youth tickets has risen from 16 to 17 years old.

We will bring you further posts with the line up and acts in the short future. For now why not visit the festivals website and buy some tickets and get involved.

2016’s festival looks bigger and better than ever with some truly talented acts and artists lined up for your enjoyment over the weekend. Here are a small selection of them:

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Modern Studies are a chamber pop band from Glasgow-via-Yorkshire.  Evoking the British landscape, their songs are played on analogue synths, cello, double bass, drums, guitars, a wine-glass orchestra and, at the creaking centre of things, a Victorian pedal harmonium. They consist of Edinburgh singer-songwriter Emily Scott, plus Pete Harvey – cellist and arranger for King Creosote – and Rob St John. The late magazine The Word gave the lowdown on Rob’s music: “A Lancastrian singer-songwriter with the profundity of Ian Curtis, Nick Drake and Stuart Staples, whose songs animate geography like Luke Haines does history.” The band join the Caught by the River stage line-up.

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Entrepreneur David Hieatt founded eco-friendly clothing company Howies, which led to him starting The DO Lectures which each year invites a set of creatives to give lectures on their business or idea, inspiring others to go out and follow their passion. His latest venture, Hiut Denim, was founded to bring jean manufacturing back to Cardigan, a town that used to make 35,000 pairs of jeans a week before the factory shut down. The Hiut factory now makes 100 pairs of jeans a week and employs 15 people. At The Good Life Experience David will talk about Hiut: Do One Thing Well. And what it takes to do that. More here >>

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Ant Oram is passionate about cycling. He is a graphic designer who has been designing for the last 20 years for a broad range of clients from MTV, Nintendo and howies to name but a few. His love of the outdoors and cycling lead to him setting up Anthony Oram Prints and Auxiliary Outside Projects both of which will be returning to The Good Life Experience in September along with his latest project, Break Fluid, a top quality, easy to brew coffee which is perfect for a life lived in The Great Outdoors.

Ant also brings with him some of his favourite outdoor brands and people. He will be joined in his tent this year by Middle of Nowhere, The Bicycle Academy and Gather Outdoors. More on them here.

[Photo by Andrew Denham @ndrwdnhm]

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The Garden Oven Company back to the festival this year. The pizzas cooked in their wood fired ovens last year are now the stuff of legends, having totally sold out by the Saturday night, such was the enormous demand. This year there will be more pizzas -and they’ll be prepping a lot more dough- so make a bee-line, you just need to follow the smell of mozzarella and woodsmoke.

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The festivals meaningful connection with The Great Outdoors is something that sets them apart as a festival. There is so many things to try, from axe throwing to archery to abseiling and more. This year they welcome a great number of experts who will give talks and demonstrations from a wide range of fields, including foragers, adventurer Ben Fogle, paddle makers, a tree climber, master axe makers Best Made Co, all the way from NYC, bushcraft from Axe + Paddle, wild runners Jen + Sim Benson, a Coracle Regatta and so much more. And on top of that, the exceptional line-up of chefs from Tom Herbert to Thomasina Miers will be cooking over our campfire. This is a weekend to try everything, learn some new skills and let your children run a little bit wild. Take a look at the full line-up of speakers, outdoor activities and craftspeople here.

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Luis Fernando Habanos have been growing tobacco and making cigars in Los Palacios, Cuba since 1910 in the world’s finest tobacco growing region of Pinar del Río. Returning for a third year to The Good Life Experience, Luis Fernando brings a taste of Cuba to North Wales.  See a traditional Cuban cigar maker at work rolling tobacco leaves and learn what makes a good cigar. If you’ve never tried a cigar before, this is your chance to do so in a beautiful setting.

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Roli Jones has spent most of his life working life working with wood – from repairing the last cruck frame building in Monmouthshire to helping to rebuild a hundred foot long hundred year old 3 masted schooner (The Kathleen & May, originally built at Connah’s Quay, now residing in the Albert Dock, Liverpool). He also runs courses in survival and bushcraft, including survival stands for the Royal Marine Commandos. At the festival Roli will introduce people to the historic use of axes and demonstrate various skills, including forming a square beam, hewing logs, log splitting with wedges and sledge hammer, and making trenails (wooden nails). He will be running workshops throughout the weekend and invites festival goers to bring their own axes along to have a go.

We hope to see as many of you as possible to the festival and stay tuned for more previews of the amazing things the event has to offer!

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