The Magic Number
Nestled in a fantasy-like village in north Wales, the unique Festival No.6 plays host to a diverse line-up and has fast become one of the uk’s most coveted tickets
Before 2012, the village of Portmeirion, modelled on Italian architecture and nestled in woodland, was best known as the backdrop for 1960s cult series The Prisoner. But in recent years, it has also become home to Festival No.6: a September weekender that encompasses music (Beck, Grace Jones and Manic Street Preachers have all headlined), arts, culture and cuisine. As the event’s fifth birthday approaches, co-founder Bradley Thompson lets us in on the magic.
‘About six years ago, a business partner of mine went to Portmeirion for a wedding and was blown away by the place. He met the grandson of Clough Williams-Ellis, who designed the village. Clough was an architect who went to Portofino in Italy in the 1920s and fell in love with it; he owned some land in north Wales, so he came back and looked to replicate Portofino in his own backyard. His grandson still runs Portmeirion now, and we said to him, “Why don’t you do a festival here?” That was the start of it. It’s a beautiful location, but at the same time it is fraught with challenges, because it’s so isolated – there’s one road in, one road out. But once you’re there, it’s incredible.
We already ran a few other events, but we were growing up a little bit. We realised that there are people out there like us, who used to party hard, and for reasons of family or work, do it a lot less now – but given the chance, they still enjoy a good time. Our idea was also about bringing a more premium experience to the festival setting, whether it was the food, cultural content, or the line-up being slightly more discerning.
This is the fifth year that we’ve held the festival. We started with 5,000 people, and it’s grown considerably. We’re probably going to hit around 15,000 weekend tickets this year, but I don’t think we want to get much bigger than that.
The best word for the experience of Festival No.6 is probably “surprising”. It’s a unique setting, and there are loads of acts on the line-up, but it’s not until you get there that you understand that you can be at a pop-up rave in the woods, then walk around the corner to find Steve Coogan doing a reading. It’s all so unexpected.
The first year we were fortunate, because no one knew that we were launching, but we had New Order, Spiritualized and Primal Scream. We started off with a bit of a bang. But it’s never been difficult to attract the high-profile bands, because either they or their agents and managers have heard about it and they want to play there.
This year’s line-up includes Noel Gallagher, Hot Chip, Bastille and the Super Furry Animals. The headliners are always amazing, but for me it’s about the peripheral activity. Every year, we have the Brythoniaid Welsh Male Voice Choir singing in the piazza. A composer called Joe Duddell takes over a little town hall, and does collaborations with some of the headline acts, for only 150 people. There are torch-lit processions, paddleboarding on the estuary, cabaret, pop-up street theatre, and Michelin-starred chefs giving banquets each day. All these nuggets, for me, are what make No.6 so special.’
Festival No.6 takes place 1–4 September; festivalnumber6.com
festivities further afield
bilbao BBK live
With a mixture of nostalgic and current headliners including the Pixies and Arcade Fire, this event in the Spanish mountains is a definite crowd-pleaser. Explore Bilbao’s vibrant culture by day and party by night. 7-9 July; bilbaobbklive.com
This five-day festival takes over an island in the heart of Budapest, so you can decide for yourself whether camping or a city break is the way to go. This year, Rihanna is the jewel in the line-up. 10-17 August; szigetfestival.com
This touring festival lands in Berlin for 2016, with a line-up that includes Kings of Leon and Radiohead. Set in the 200-acre Treptower Park, it’s a family-friendly event with lots of fun to be had in the Kidzapalooza area. 10-11 September; lollapaloozade.com
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