By James Shelton
It is Friday lunchtime... 2nd June ... in Norwich. This time last week I was sat in heavy traffic on the M25 making my way to Surrey to meet my brother, Matt, before heading cross-country to The Big Retreat Wales. The ‘planner’ in me was feeling pretty frustrated. The festival had kicked off at midday and we were a very long way from Pembrokeshire.
I had booked our Big Retreat tickets a few days earlier, after an 11th hour change of heart (we were actually supposed to be attending a Mindfulness for Men weekend in Devon). A promotional email had dropped into my work account, courtesy of Red Dragon Flags in Swansea, telling of a new festival happening over the Bank Holiday. “A Weekend of Doing Lovely Things in a Lovely Place” was the message and, once I’d seen the view from the Old Castle Terrace, I was sold on the idea.
After meeting Matt in a little commuter town called Egham, where I’d lived during my university years, we crawled out towards the M4 past Wentworth Golf Club, where thousands were headed to see the PGA Championship in full swing. It was after 4.00pm now and the whole effort was starting to feel a little questionable.
After more tail backs on the M4 and a stop-off for some chicken, we were eventually pitched up and ready to camp just as the clock struck midnight. We bedded down to the sound of The Killers being sung by a group of fellow campers. It all felt a bit bizarre but, having safely travelled across not one but two countries, we were excited for what the rest of the weekend had in store.
After a storm of epic proportions overnight, we were up and ready to roll out our yoga mats and sample what the festival had to offer. And we weren’t disappointed.
Our festival experience was packed with yoga (from hot pod to hatha), unusual exercise classes, hearing about making raw chocolate and gin, an early morning canoe adventure, listening to live music, eating delicious food and drinking cold beer. Just what the doctor had ordered for two brothers spending some quality time together.
The variety that organiser, Amber , managed to lay-on in the festival’s first year was really impressive. But what really made it was the friendliness of everyone we met. As it was the inaugural Big Retreat it was clear that many in attendance had some kind of connection to Amber or to the locality. We of course had neither, but were made to feel very welcome. We made new friendships, which we hope to maintain, and left feeling energised by the whole experience.
See you all again in 2018!