Where? Pylewell Park, Hampshire
What? This stylish and beautiful arts and music festival is held in the grounds of privately owned Pylewell Park in the New Forest. Music last year came from the likes of Tom Odell, Izzy Bizu and Martha Gunn, with comedy performances from Ed Byrne, Simon Evans and Paul Tonkinson to name but a few. Keggie Carew and Eimear McBride are amongst the stellar line-up of authors attending last year’s event.
Where to stay? Howard’s House, Teffont Evias, Wiltshire. Built in 1623 from attractive mellow stone and tucked away in an unspoilt Wiltshire village deep in the Nadder Valley, Howard’s House blends into the landscape, reassuringly timeless and quintessentially English. A hotel since 1989, it offers an oasis of calm away from the bustle. In the glorious flower-filled garden, protected by an old topiary hedge, and with a lovely terrace and croquet lawn, the only sounds you’re likely to hear are birdsong and the knock of mallet on ball. Head chef and co-owner Nick Wentworth uses only the finest, freshest seasonal ingredients, skilfully combining them to release their true flavours in delicate, imaginative dishes. Doubles from £190.
Found out more in our round-up of the best small & boutique festivals of 2018.
Review of the Curious Arts Festival 2018:
We are no longer curious about the Curious Arts Festival. We are fans. We are converts. And this time next year, we will be regulars. The New Forest Pylewell Park-located arts and music festival is small but perfectly formed. All set within the grounds of the stately home (of which you can be a guest for the duration for the ultimate festival experience), all the action in packed into one circular arena, with the main stage set just outside, and the camping area sprawling down toward the Solent with plenty of space so you can be as close to (or removed from) the action as you please.
Daytimes at Curious Arts Festival can be spent in all manner of ways, from pop-up pottery workshops or life drawing sessions, to literary talks or acoustic music sets. There are plenty of kids’ workshops throughout the day, but you’ll mostly find young ones (the truly wild wearing strap-on animal tails) making their own fun, as they allow their curiosity to lead them through the site, scattered with old-fashioned lawn games, bath-tubs full of ball-pit-balls, trees strung with musical instruments and a cinema tent for film screenings.
The food and drinks options are excellent, with a sit-down offering at the Curious Canteen, and quick bites worth going back for seconds at, (which we did at Mac to the Future’s mac ‘n’ cheese stand,) after trialling the excellent Tibetan curry, delectable Iraqi street food, and healthy fruit lollies that were tailor-made to keep kids happy. The bar was fully-stocked with Curious brews and ciders, but things got truly weird at the Hendricks stand, where delicious gin blends were served amongst madness and mayhem in the form of cucumber-covered recorder playing, penny-farthing riding and bowler-hat-throwing.
As day turns to night, things take a turn for the traditional (in festival terms) as the music tent comes to life with a line-up of live acts, with John Newman delivering an outstanding headline set on Saturday that moved even this crowd, (surely the most civilised of festival crowds in the country,) to get down. After hours offerings (if you don’t have kids to get to bed) include DJ sets and poker tournaments, before you stumble a few hundred feet back to your tent for some sleep, ready to do it all again. But not before a refreshing dip in the Solent straight off the beach, just a few minutes’ walk from the campsite. There’s nothing like open water swimming to shift a hangover.