Yawn! It turns out that five hours sleep is not enough for this 26 year old to function anymore. After a late shift at the craft beer bar I work at, it was a few hours shut eye before my alarm rudely awoke me at 7am, but it was worth it for my first visit to Retro Festival. I only went for the day, but it was a day pleasantly spent with family and friends amongst vintage bargains.
Situated at Newbury Showground, West Berkshire, it was a gentle hour drive up in family-friend’s, Mick and Sandy, classic Chevrolet – obviously we had to get this missus a cup of strong black coffee to make up for the lack of sleep. Mick and Sandy already had their passes, but my day ticket was a steal at only £10, which I think was a very good deal for the size of the show Retro Festival presents.
On that subject, boy oh boy was the event huge! A large part of me just thought it would be a few marquees and a showground of classic cars and caravans, perhaps with the odd ice cream van and burger stand. How wrong was I! It’s huge. I mean, huge. I was there for eight hours in total, and I didn’t see all of it, or all of the people I wanted to spend a little time with. I can fully see that the entire weekend is recommended to get everything done. Along with three music stages, there were hundreds of traders, a food market, plus arena events to keep everyone of all ages entertained.
The weather didn’t put us off as we looked around the stalls, which were both inside and outside of the big ‘vintage’ marquee. The ‘vintage’ marquee left me a little confused in all honesty. I assumed that this is where the ‘true’ vintage would be, and reproduction and craft-type stalls would be outside, but it turned out to be a hodge-podge of ‘true’ vintage, mass produced reproduction clothing and knick knacks. Not exactly my cup of tea, but hey, it’s hard to monitor exactly what each stall holder will bring, and so not too much blame can be laid at the organisers feet for the repetitive nature of the traders.
So, I know the question you are asking: what did you buy, Hannah? Well, I went in with a mission to find some black fakelite hoops (I don’t trust myself with real bakelite, and I think my bank balance would agree) and the holy grail, a khaki mechanics cap. Sadly, I didn’t manage to accomplish either of these goals, but I did get a lovely vintage leather handbag with tooled details, plus a vintage check jacket from Tojo Clothing for a more than reasonable price of £30. Both items I suspect being from the 1970s, but I actually much prefer buying from this era. Not only are things more in my price range, because they are younger, but they fit me better due to being more of a modern size than the petite mid-century cuts.
I’d like to say I got to listen to some of the bands on offer, but the one band we did schedule to see were 45 minutes late onto stage and we had to abandon our spot in the (picnic chair packed) audience as it was almost time to pack up mum and dad’s caravan for the journey home. To be honest, the music wasn’t my sort of thing anyway. It was a bit too twee and ‘fluffy’ for someone who is more used to rockabilly, hillbilly and the like. I think I can pass that judgement over the whole event really – I did enjoy myself, but would I spend a whole weekend there? Probably not. It had an air of hobbyist about it, which is fine, please don’t think I am judging or being a snob, all I am saying is it’s not my thing. I’m not a big fan of bobby socks and big petticoats hanging out of polkadot swing dresses. If that’s your thing, you do you. You’d probably feel the same at the events I love. Differences are what make us unique.
All in all, Retro Festival was a good day out, even if it was rather damp. I’d go again for the day to pounce on further bargains, but I like a little more raucousness in my weekenders (by that I mean entertainment that goes past 11pm…), rather than the quiet ‘family’ style that this one had so would give the whole weekend a miss. If you do like more of a quaint, more 1940s, country fair style event though, I’d definitely give Retro Festival 2019 a go.
Retro Festival returns to Newark and Newbury in 2019 – dates to be announced soon!