The Pig & Applestock Festival

14th August 2017

By Huw Janes


It’s getting close. Every year for the past five years, I have committed my August bank holiday weekend to a quiet little reservoir next to the village of Naseby, the halfway point between Leicester and Northampton. It is here that we hold the wonderful Pig & Applestock Festival; a three day family-oriented charity music festival.


For most of the year, it doesn’t look like much; just a few fields of sheep and some rather grumpy looking fishermen, you could easily drive straight past it without ever realising it existed.


For me, it has become one of the most memorable spots in the whole country – not only because of the sheer amount of time and energy I’ve spent here but also the fact that I met my fiancé during the first festival and my best friends actually got married on the banks of the reservoir too!


It all started back in 2010 with The Big Pig festival. My friends’ uncle, Nick, is a music lover and a pig farmer, as well as a real do-it-yourself kind of guy. One evening – probably while down at the pub – he decided that he was going to put on a festival to celebrate the best local music and food and he would donate all of the money raised to a local charity. He got a friend to put together some posters and started spreading the word. He got another friend to lend him a field, whilst another lent him a grubby old lorry trailer; they rolled the sides up, stuck some lights in and transformed it into a stage.


He managed to pull it off and it was a huge success – they decided to do it all over again the next year but make it bigger and better in every way possible. This time they poured all of their money into the festival. They poured it into adverts, websites, t-shirts, mugs, grand marquees and a great spot at Stanford Hall. And it worked; the festival was bigger and better than before, but there was no money left at the end of it to give to the charity. There were a few heated arguments over whose fault it was and that was the end of The Big Pig.


My friends and I had loved going to and performing at both Big Pigs and we weren’t going to have a summer without another one. We spoke to Nick and decided to start from the beginning again. We found a new field beside a beautiful reservoir and we all got to work on the first ever Pig & Applestock Festival – which is now about to have its sixth year!


Kelly is the main brains behind it all, managing everything from the event licenses to health and safety, planning our budgets and organising a new team of friendly volunteers each year. Nick, Tom, Greg and Ben are the brawns; they are at the site weeks in advance shifting heavy objects from one side to the other, building exciting new features and figuring out how to power the site. One of our regular festival-goers once commented on how strange it was to see these guys sat still watching a performance as they are almost always running somewhere.


Ben is also in charge of finding the weird and wonderful musicians and performers that we’ve enjoyed over the years – though we all get a vote! He also helps out on the weekend with our favourite sound man, Pete, who is probably the most resilient and hardworking member of the whole team.


Kat and Victoria are responsible for dressing the site and making sure all of our signs and murals look their best. Victoria is also usually on the lookout for caterers, stalls and alternative entertainment for kids – last year we had a sock fighting dojo! Tall Paul is our website guy, whilst regular-sized Paul is our compère – both Pauls also have late-night DJ sets.


And last but not least is Wolfy, our chief volunteer and recycling guru; he literally does everything in his power to make the weekend go as smoothly as possible. I’m in charge of the graphic design work for the social media pages, our line-up and promotional posters as well as our festival guides that we hand out to visitors on arrival. I almost forgot to mention that most of us perform every year too – and it’s a very satisfying feeling once everything has come together to be up on the stage watching all of our Applestock friends and family having a boogie and a great time!


We all come together in the few days before the festival kicks off to put up the marquees and start decorating. Our ‘acoustic tent’ is lined with a collection of brightly coloured saris and patterned sheets and finished with a tangled web of fairy lights. Underneath is an old wooden stage, lots of lamps, a church pew and straw bales for seating. The Friday night – now fancy dress themed – takes place in here.


The pace of the music begins to quicken as more and more bizarre characters and costumes arrive; the evening usually ends in the early hours with wild dancing amidst a thick cloud of ex-straw bales. Saturday starts off slow with a few hours of open mic. They might not appear as exciting as the full bands, but we’ve had some incredible people turn up to these slots, from genius local poets to classically trained opera singers. While all of this starts to unfold in the acoustic tent, everyone grabs a delicious and much-needed coffee and picks their spot to gradually wake up and recover.


There’s always a great selection of food and drink – including vegan options and local ales – and plenty to do and see in between acts; including Indian head massage, a henna hut, a blacksmith’s workshop, yoga classes, a pop-up tiki bar, children’s puppet shows and story-telling, acrobats, clowns and medieval jesters. I’m not actually sure what we have planned for this year but I’m excited to find out!


As the sun sets over the reservoir, the music moves onto our main stage; another transformed lorry trailer covered in even more lights, brightly coloured saris and paintings. Everything about the Saturday night is bigger and louder than the Friday; especially our dancing which often starts to get very experimental after about 11.


Sunday is our chill out day. There are more open mic slots in the morning and the music is generally more relaxed as we slowly prepare ourselves for the end of another year. Eventually friends and family say goodbye and the fields re-emerge from under the maze of tents and campervans. Then the gruelling clean up begins!


It’s amazing how much the festival has grown each year; we keep seeing so many new faces in the audience and on the stage and the layout of the site and the music continues to get better and better.


Plus every year we manage to raise more money for the MS Therapy Centre in Leicestershire – now totalling over £12,500! We’ve visited the centre many times and can vouch for the huge and direct difference this contribution has made to local MS sufferers. So if you haven’t already made plans, I would highly recommend making it down to Naseby this August bank holiday weekend for some (hopefully sunny) festival fun… or if you have made plans, just cancel them? Weekend camping tickets are only £25 and it’s free entry for kids under 10!


Here’s a song from one of my favourite Applestock performers, Delightful Young Mothers – filmed at the festival a few years ago. If you want to see more, check out the festival website!