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Green Man Festival is a very popular summer music festival in Wales

Updated on February 20, 2016

My first Green Man Festival in Wales

People often want to know why I have a green beard. It attracts their attention and they want to know why I do this so I tell them the truth. It all began back in Wales where I used to live. It was in August 2003 to be precise, when I had been booked as a performer and compère for the Green Man Festival.

I was living in the vast council estate known as Ely at the time and was already known as the Bard of Ely after Big Issue Cymru magazine had dubbed me with the title. I just thought it would be a good idea and a bit of a gimmick to dye my beard green in time for the festival. I had no plans of keeping it like this then. But I thought seeing as I was going to be on and off stage all day introducing acts it would be a good way of getting recognised as an MC.

Bard of Ely at the Green Man Festival

Bard of Ely at the first Green Man Festival 2003. Photo by Viv Thomas
Bard of Ely at the first Green Man Festival 2003. Photo by Viv Thomas

Buy the Green Man Festival CD on Amazon

The story continues

I had got involved in the festival some months beforehand when I saw a small advert in the South Wales Echo, I think it was, saying that It’s Jo and Danny, who were a musical act I knew of, were organising a festival and were looking for local musicians who wanted to perform. I sent off a sample of my music and my bio and was delighted to find that they were offering a spot on stage as a performer and that I was also wanted as a compère for the event.

Druid's Oath

Not only that, but my song Real Love and Communication, which opens with a live chanted version of the Druid’s Oath, was chosen to open and close the Green Man Festival CD on Double Snazzy. It was split into two parts with the oath as the first track on the album and my song to end it.

Directions hair colour

But back to the actual festival, and I had got a pot of green hair dye made by the Directions company. They have a good range of crazy colours and were only £3.50,though they are more like a fiver now. You just comb the coloured cream into your hair and, as it is temporary, it can be washed out if you don’t want to keep it.

So it was that on the day of the event I dyed my beard green and was also sporting my white druid robe which seemed very fitting for an event in Wales. The green beard fitted my image too because I really am a person who loves nature and is involved in conservation and environmental activism.

The Green Man Festival, by the way, is always held up in the very green and luxuriant countryside of the Welsh mountains known as the Brecon Beacons. The festival started off with mainly folk and acoustic acts but since then has presented all sorts of musical genres and some very big names in music.

I was the first act on stage on the big day and started my set with the Druid’s Oath and got the crowd to all join in with me. It goes: “We swear by peace and love to stand, heart to heart and hand in hand, mark, O Spirit, and hear us now, confirming this, our sacred vow.”

All day people were coming up to me and complimenting me on the green beard and this continued the next day in Cardiff. Kids in the streets of Ely were showing their approval and telling me the beard looked "Cool" and giving me the thumbs up. I had to go to the bank and the woman at the counter smiled and said she liked it too. I could see it was a 'hit' with the public so, not surprisingly, decided to keep it.

Bard of Ely at the Green Man Festival 2004 as sketched by an audience member

Sketch drawn by an anonymous fan at the Green Man Festival 2004
Sketch drawn by an anonymous fan at the Green Man Festival 2004

Green Man Festival logo

Green Man Festival logo by BenLDN
Green Man Festival logo by BenLDN | Source

The Green Man Festival gets much bigger

I was in the 2004 Green Man Festival too and in my set a string broke on my guitar. I carried on as best I could and a member of the audience, whose name I will never know, threw a sketch he had done of me onto the stage. It captured my green beard perfectly and had “TWANG” humorously written on it symbolising what had happened with my instrument.

That year the festival had gone from the 300 festival-goers of the first year to around 1,000. It was set to continue that way too because so many people enjoyed it and the event got wonderful reviews just like I thought it would. I remember telling Jo and Danny the organisers that I thought they were well on their way to being a serious rival for Glastonbury but without all the hassle that festival has become.

Donovan

As the Green Man Festival got bigger, of course, there was more money coming in, and more well-known acts were being added to the line up. Big names, including Donovan, the Incredible String band and Gruff Rhys of the Super Furry Animals have all appeared at the Green Man Festival.

The festival became more that just a one-day event. Nowadays it is three and is scheduled for the weekend before the Bank-holiday weekend at the end of the month. It is far more than just a music festival too with literary, comedy and other performance stages and areas, as well as all sorts of other attractions and late night bars of course!

Tenerife

At the end of 2004 I moved over to Tenerife but in 2005 I received an invite to be part of the Green Man Festival that year. Sadly I had to say thank you but I cannot accept. This is one thing I have really come to regret about moving over here, that I miss out on all the great music scene in the UK and the gigs for myself.

Every year I look at the line up and wish I was back over in Wales so I could be there!

Green Man Festival 2010

One Day I'm Going To Soar on Amazon

Green Man Festival 2012

Every summer I wish I was back in the UK if only for the weekend when the Green Man Festival is on, and this year has got probably, for me personally, the best line up ever. Three of my favourite acts are on the boll with Van Morrison headlining, and also Dexys, which is Kevin Rowland's new band whose name has been shortened from Dexys Midnight Runners and who are touring with new songs and stage show, and not surprisingly getting fantastic reviews.

After 27 years, Kevin has a new and long-awaited album out entitled One Day I'm Going To Soar that has already been called "album of the year" by music critics. The album features 1980s original Dexys members "Big" Jim Paterson, Pete Williams and Mick Talbot, as well as new recruits Neil Hubbard and Tim Cansfield, and vocalist Madeleine Hyland, who duets with Kevin on several of the songs.

Also Jonathan Richman who had his break back in the New Wave and Punk era with Roadrunner is appearing. I actually met Jonathan way back in the mid-seventies at his gig at Cardiff University Union when I ended up backstage afterwards.

But just look at the line up for this years' Green Man Festival and you will see why I would love to be there so much!

Green Man Festival 2011 Druids Opening Ceremony

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© 2012 Steve Andrews

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    • WriteAngled profile image

      WriteAngled 4 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      I was really hoping for something to replace the Small Nations Festival this year. I went for the first time last year and loved it. Unfortunately, there was not enough funding for it to happen this year. I looked at the Green Man site a few weeks ago, but (a) it is extremely expensive (Small Nations cost me £50 for the whole weekend) and (b) I could not see any folk or world music featured, which are my only reasons for going to a festival. I guess this is more a mainstream pop festival, because none of the names featured are familiar to me at all.

    • Green Bard profile image
      Author

      Steve Andrews 4 years ago from Tenerife

      I had to turn down the Small Nations Festival in 2005 too because it wasn't financially viable for me to fly over just to play there. The Green Man Festival has had more money to spend each year. I wouldn't call it "mainstream pop" though. Surely you have heard of Van Morrison and Dexys Midnight Runners, now just Dexys?

    • WriteAngled profile image

      WriteAngled 4 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      Seriously, I haven't! Most of my life, when I've had the radio on, it's been Radio 3, which is where I also got to know about folk/world music and started to investigate that further. I do listen to Radio Cymru now to practice my Welsh, but they feature Welsh performers mainly.

    • Green Bard profile image
      Author

      Steve Andrews 4 years ago from Tenerife

      I thought everyone knew Van's old hits Moondance or Brown Eyed Girl which the British tourists over here are all familiar with, and Dexy's Come On, Eileen, which was a number one I believe. Van had a number one with Cliff Richard many years back too. He likes Wales and often chose to play at the now sadly shut Kings Hotel in Newport. He can easily sell out big venues.

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 4 years ago from Great Britain

      Hi There dear Friend! Loved this part of your life and now we all know that you are the nature man! Praise be to the lord of nature at let his spirit continue to flourish in every blade of grass, tree and all things living.

      Blessed be!

    • Green Bard profile image
      Author

      Steve Andrews 4 years ago from Tenerife

      Thank you for your wonderful comments, Sharon!

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 4 years ago from Spain

      love the idea of the green man festival. Music does bring people together, and so wonderful that this particulas festi promotes nature so well and isn´t just all about the money..honey !!

    • Green Bard profile image
      Author

      Steve Andrews 4 years ago from Tenerife

      Thank you for commenting, bac2basics!

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