Sun rises on the first Festival Micronation


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The Independent Culture

Festivals are the ideal time to don rose-tinted spectacles. How many people have lounged contentedly in a sun-kissed field, enthused by peace, love and warm cider, and considered “why can’t life always be like this?”

There’s something perfect about the generosity of spirit of festival land which makes you feel like you’re immersed in a somehow better society – and now the organisers of Sunrise, held in Thoulstone Park, Wiltshire, are playing up to the theme by declaring their event as a whole different country.

“We’ve decided to become a ‘Festival Micronation’,” explains Sunrise director Dan Hurring. “Micronations are small countries that nobody else recognises, but which declare their independence anyway. We’re even going to have fun with customs and visas on the way in.”

All festivals are already microsocieties in many ways. “Organisers have to act like a government – you need to keep people safe, feed them and ensure hygiene. Sometimes you get considered the bad guys because you’re laying down the rules,” says Hurring. “But this micronation is set on a stunning lake, with a magical forest – so it will be a very pretty place to be.”

Sunrise has won awards for its parent-pleasing qualities, and their country will certainly be child-friendly. “You need good access, lots of open space, plus great covered areas and quiet places to keep everyone happy,” says Hurring. “It can’t be too ‘in your face’. People need to know that if their kids go out of sight, they’re not in danger. We take pride in our family vibe. From birth to toddlers to teens, we’re designed with family in mind.”

This year’s kids’ zone, Storylands, is billed as a ‘Never Neverland of Eternal Youth’. Staffed by pixies, it will feature a theatre tent, skate ramp, bouncy castle and the ‘Magical Forest’, where young and old can swing and slide among the treetops and visit a fire temple. Storytelling ‘whispering wood folk’ will walk among the punters. There will also be music from Dub Pistols, The Beat, Jaymo & Andy George and The Neville Staple Band. “People come here for both the bands and the amazing site – I reckon it’s around 50-50 between the two,” says Hurring.

Sunrise began as a 7,000 capacity event in 2006, launching during Glastonbury’s fallow year. “We grew quite quickly and we’ve clung on,” says Hurring. “I think to some degree, people are tired of very big festivals, which can an exhausting survival experience, and expensive. Smaller ones cost less and are nicer, cosier experiences. They are often private parties that just grow and grow. There are a lot of creative people out there who are willing to try to create something really special, and they’re doing it despite the economic climate.”

Sunrise festival runs from May 30-June 2.