Standon Calling, Standon, Hertfordshire

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The Independent Culture

It seems you can't turn the corner of a country lane this summer without espying the tented sprawl of yet another festival. But while most promoters seem content to peddle identikit line-ups and their sponsor's weak lager, there are some real gems out there if you know where to look.

Take Standon Calling. Around 4,000 up-for-it punters made the pilgrimage to the grounds of a 16th-century Hertfordshire manor for three days of space-themed frivolity. And judging by the massed ranks of silver-suited spacemen, assorted aliens and even a group in Clangers outfits – participation is just as important as performance.

Music-wise, the eclectic line-up had more than enough to sate the appetite of even the most jaded festival-head. Friday saw the main stage host an impressive set from the rising indie stars We Were Promised Jetpacks, while electroclash headliners Ladytron closed proceedings with a bang. Elsewhere, Chancery Blame and the Gadjo Club converted more disciples to their Balkans-meets-Dalston gypsy rock.

The long-range weather forecast had threatened to cast a dark rain cloud over Saturday but in the end the downpours were mercifully short. Indeed, Freeland's live set on the main stage, which initially looked like being a washout, was transformed with pink skies and a rainbow. Not even psychedelic gods Hawkwind, due on stage later, could arrange a light show to rival that.

With Hawkwind's set now put back to the witching hour, the majority of the site descended on the main stage for local lads Friendly Fires, who won over the crowd with a set that belied their years. Even hardcore Hawkwind fans – men of a certain age in well-worn tour T-shirts – could be seen getting down to their uplifting dance pop.

This year marks Hawkwind's 40th anniversary and their set was exactly as you'd expect – all driving space rock that the crowd duly lapped up.

Sunday saw the lure of sipping cocktails in the shade by the swimming pool (yes Standon has a pool!) too much for many to resist. But for those that did manage to peel themselves away, highlights included Fanfarlo's sublime alt-pop and the Easy Star All-Stars reggae covers that had the crowd skanking en masse.

All in all, a cracking little independent festival that could teach its older, bigger cousins more than a thing or two about how to have a good time.