Doune the Rabbit Hole is not only the most family friendly of Scotland’s music festivals, it also features the most diverse live music. Celebrating its 10th edition this year, the music ranges from genuine legends like Bob Marley’s band the Wailers, rockers Hawkwind and dance divas Sister Sledge, to cutting edge current performers like Brit Award-nominated John Grant, energetic explorers of experimental rock, Battles and electronic jazz pioneers, Beak.
Family friendly is not just the admissions policy, where there is no charge for under 12s and 13 to 17s are just £30 for the whole weekend. Once inside, there is a large family area at the festival in Cardross Estate with crafts and DJ workshops, kids’ yoga, Lego, pirate ships to climb on, clowns, puppets, hula and acrobats. There are over 60 personnel specialising in children’s entertainment lined up for the event.
Aside from the music, there are plenty of activities for adults too, including a full weekend yoga and meditation programme, workshops and the Douniversity, where a range of academics and experts will give lectures on subjects ranging from cosmology to the New Green Deal.
Many of Scotland’s pre-eminent camping music festivals have gone to the wall recently – including T in the Park, Electric Fields, Mugstock and Wicker Man. There is a definite trend towards city based festivals not involving camping.
We asked the festival’s artistic director, Jamie Murray, how Doune the Rabbit Hole (which is on from 19 to 21 July) can resist this trend. He said:
We are absolutely committed to the idea of the festival being more than just the music. We create a pop-up community in which people can escape from their everyday cares in the beautiful Stirlingshire countryside, and live for a while in a group where everybody communicates and is kind to each other.
“We include art, poetry, family activities and discussion tents. And like a real community, we get people from 6 weeks to 90 years old.”
The festival accordingly has much more in common with the free festivals of the 60s and 70s than modern music festivals. There is no sponsorship or advertising, all caterers are independent traders and beer and cider suppliers local, while the bars do not charge ‘festival prices’ – soft drinks for under 12s are even free. Tickets are claimed to be the cheapest for any Scottish festival.
“We know there are people who cannot afford to come,” added Murray “I do wish they could be still cheaper, but we have a lot of people and suppliers to pay.”
But ultimately any music festival still lives and dies by the music.
The line up of an astonishing 200+ bands includes performers from Japan, Bulgaria, Germany, Ghana and 18 other countries. Well known names crop up in the most unexpected places – snooker legend Steve Davis performing as a DJ is just one example. Punk leaders the Damned and the Skids feature, as do the Asian Dub Foundation. Jamaican music don Lee “Scratch” Perry rubs shoulders with New Orleans breakout act the Hot 8 Brass Band.
All of this is built on a solid spine of Scottish performers, including a strong infusion of ceilidh and folk rock. There are over 70 Scottish bands in the line-up and – another point differentiating this from other music festivals – every single one gets paid.
“Nurturing local talent, and providing a step-up for bands often at the beginning of their career, is a fundamental part of the ethos of the festival,” Jamie explains.
Doune the Rabbit Hole is a remarkable event and some might say a brave effort that goes against the trends of these times, harking back to a more community oriented approach. It’s a festival with an ‘ethos’. Go see for yourself!
*Doune the Rabbit Hole Music Festival takes place on the Cardross Estate near Port of Menteith, Stirlingshire, from 19 to 21 July. Weekend and Day tickets are available from the website clicking here. And, you can save £10 per adult if you book before July 12.