Tunes in the Park: A Promising Debut with Room for Improvement

Last Saturday, I attended ‘Tunes in the Park’, the last bank holiday of summer and a perfect time for a festival. This festival takes place in the enchanted grounds of Port Eliot Estate and is advertised as a ‘fun-packed weekend of entertainment, activities and live music for all the family’.

Upon entrance, it was immediately clear that this was a camp chair, soak up the sun, feel-good kind of festival. The crowd was built from fluid mix of all ages, although seemed to be dominated by the leisurely middle-aged.

An assembly of camp chairs embellished the lawn and remained there throughout the duration of the festival. I don’t often attend family orientated music festivals so this was my first experience of such a thing, I found humour in the ‘no camp chairs allowed past this line’ notice. 

The day was opened by Oh My God! It’s The Church’, a unique act that puts a modern-day adult spin on your typical church service. After seeing this name on a huge array on line-ups I was unsure on what to expect, but knew it was clearly an act I had to see. An energetic show like no other unsurprisingly gathered a relatively large crowd for such an early performance. Next time you see this name, I’d suggest checking it out; it’s unlike anything you’ll have seen before. 

Unfortunately, for the remainder of the day-time music there was a disappointingly small crowd given the talent and quality of acts showcased in the lineup. It appeared that punters preferred to watch from a distance, using the performance as a backing to their socialising. I think that it would have been beneficial for Tunes to have shone some light on ‘must see’ acts that are lesser-known to encourage the audience to engage with the music. This, coupled with an everchanging program and informal communication, left much uncertainty and some confusion, although this appears to be a running theme across the ‘Tunes’ events. 

On this case, the uncertainty left a pleasant surprise of delight. Although small, there was just enough to entertain for the day. Having attended other festivals hosted on the same grounds, it was nice to see that many areas had been utilised and transformed into venues. A personal favourite would be the Courtyard stage, a tranquil sun trap. Whether it be the smell of coffee paired with the sound of Ibiza, or a plate of homemade dhal served to the sound of acoustic guitar. A special mention goes to DJ Philthy Phil who paired electronic music perfectly with the laid-back vibes, creating a sound that caused me to become blissfully unaware of time. 

Sadly, this was let down by the rest of the stages. An ‘Ibiza Lounge’ stage that was drowned by the adjacent funfair, left an awkwardly small crowd that didn’t evolve throughout the day. A serene Church Stage with so much potential was poorly executed, with next to no signage and delays that left people thinking there was no performance to see. And a main stage with a PA system that cut out continuously throughout the penultimate performance. 

Despite the technical difficulties, Sam Ryder was unfazed, maintaining an impressive professionalism. His performance felt personal and tailored, with much audience interaction. It became apparent quite quickly that he was a festival favourite. After speaking with one of the punters she said “Sam Ryder stood out to me as my absolute favourite… What an energetic, humble and wonderful man”.

The night finished with a relaxed yet refined performance from The Kooks. Pockets of dedicated fans collected at the front while the assemblage of armchairs remained on the hill, providing a largely seated audience for the duration of the festival. The crowd felt intimate even at the busiest of times, whether that be with the performer or your loved ones. This is something that Tunes do especially well, although that may be due to the rural setting of their festivals. An encore was clearly scheduled with three more songs, although the usual chorus for more from the crowd was so subtle that I felt an awkwardness in their return. 

Although I didn’t explore the pre-book activities, I made a trip to visit the ‘wellness area’. I was met with an underwhelming collection of abandoned venues. One appeared to be full of ice baths, which had been left for children to invite themselves to play in. Another appeared to be a private tent for massage and reflexology, its location felt like an impulsive decision; does a noisy pedestrian highway make a good neighbour? On departure from the festival, we were met with a 2-way clutter of cars and pedestrians attempting to navigate a dark rural road, leading to a dangerous and disruptive flow of traffic with no management; another addition to a theme of poor planning. 

Tunes in the Park possessed a calm and content energy, and despite its flaws, the ‘something for everyone’, high-quality lineup was reasonably priced making it an accessible festival for many. Given that this was the first, I think that Tunes in the Park has a lot of potential and will become a tradition for many families. I hope to see it return next year with a few more quirks, the same great line-up, and some better considered logistics.  

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