On the 21 July 1969 humankind began a brand new chapter in the history of science and exploration as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon. Jodrell Bank Observatory played a unique role in tracking the Eagle Lander onto the surface and to coincide with the 50 year anniversary (to the day!) Bluedot festival 2019 was the only place to be!
OUT OF THIS WORLD
A variety of out-of-this-world music acts combined with what is effectively a science fair, there was plenty to discover. You could even relive the Apollo 11 mission in real time with The Moon Landing LIVE using archive audio and video but at every corner of the site there was a strong emphasis on THAT small step by Neil Armstrong…
THE LOVELL TELESCOPE
The festival site set up works really well. I usually attend a festival to escape the reality of mundane life, to be part of a gathering of like-minded people, for new experiences, to open my mind. You could usually attribute those to music in the main, but at Bluedot it is just as likely to be down to science. A lecture or an experiment to witness. What does the moon smell of? Bluedot had all the answers.
Another key element of a festival is choice. So if you want to get drunk with friends all weekend – the option is there. If you want to eat fresh gourmet food from the other side of the world, these days most festivals offer the opportunity. But here there were stalls, film screenings, vasts amounts of history of cultural importance (more on that later), along with the usual colourful characters gracing every festival – mostly dressed as aliens though here.
I was guilty of being a festival goer posting to Instagram whenever I could get a signal. Check out my highlights @joni_journal. Away from maybe the iconic Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, Bluedot has a centre piece you really should include in as many photos as possible. You can’t miss it.
TO INFINITY AND BEYOND
A friend made a good point as we made our way to Cheshire, questioning the line-up of music acts. It wasn’t that this year’s was a bad line-up, far from it. With New Order the stand out but also including Gruff Rhys, Hot Chip, Kraftwerk, The Orielles and Jarvis Cocker to name but a few. But you’d think a bunch of nerdy scientists would probably much prefer heavy metal… Or something about goblins and dungeons and dragons?
But credit where it’s due, the crowds (chock-full of nerds) were as enthusiastic as any I’ve seen at festival and I guess for those lesser nerd-types who were here for the music alone, they might have learned something along the way. It also made for a guaranteed unique set from most bands as they each paid their own tribute to the Moon landing. Stories from their own experiences of the event or a neat gimmick to recognise the unusual setting were common and always welcome.
PAY NOW, PAY LATER
Being in the north of England meant the weather was totally unreliable and it did make for a bit of a treacherous route at times but the distances are never far. The site follow the path all around the edge of the telescope, with campings sections just further beyond that.
One first for me at a festival was the payment process. You can only pay using your wristband, for which you can top up at various points on site, or beforehand if you’re well prepared. There were never big queues to do so and it all worked rather well, with most of us now well-versed in the contactless payment process, but it seems a bit of a curious system.
Maybe long term this will be the norm and more secure but if you’ve loaded more money than you’ll spend, you might end up losing out if you forget to claim it back after the event. Just like me.
God knows when I’ll see that 50p again…
BLUEDOT FESTIVAL 2019: TOP 10
How about a Top 10 moments from Bluedot festival 2019? It’s not easy to whittle it down to just 10. It really has been a thorough, well-argued debate in the office. So despite grabbing us by the balls and making me dance more than I’d usually like to Hot Chip, The Orielles and Gruff Rhys all miss out in this list.
But totally justified – not in penalising these great musical acts, but ultimately by rewarding the 10 that got in ahead of them. Here goes…
10. SHE DREW THE GUN
Playing the Lovell Stage on the Sunday afternoon, they totally owned it! At least until New Order showed up (more on that later…)
09. SHAUN KEAVENY ON BBC 6 MUSIC
Read our exclusive interview with the man here – turns out he is as funny off mic as he is on it. A great show!
A drunken stumble took us into Mission Control, a tent-cum-cinema for a screening of Duncan Jones’ debut Moon – having recommended it in our Top 5 Moon Movie Moments, it was no surprise that a “quick peep” lasted 97 minutes! Although to be fair, by the end felt more like the run-down end-of-life clone returning to cold night air and harsh reality of camping…
…But luckily we weren’t searching for life forms for too long as Kraftwerk picked us up again! A wonderful 3D spectacle – for those of us lucky to get the 3D glasses! Many punters were left grumbling with a shortage of said glasses but they weren’t left too disappointed as even without the enhanced vision, our ears and regular eyes were still in for treat.
06. THE LOVELL TELESCOPE
This seems obvious but it just doesn’t lose its impact. The jaw-dropping, mind-bending, awe-inspiring scale of the thing makes you feel on the edge of space, to the rest of the universe. It’s no wonder the site was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
05. THE HALLÈ ORCHESTRA
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… Now these didn’t even get a proper billing as they played on the Thursday night and officially, the gigs are Friday to Sunday, but in front of the Lovell Telescope as we began to find our bearings on this wonderful site, nothing is more inspiring than a movie soundtrack. The Hallè Orchestra played some wonderfully rousing, atmospheric movie themes from Star Trek to E.T. With a big bang, we had landed!
04. TIM O’BRIEN
The star of the show in many ways, the face of Jodrell Bank, a scientist with a common touch. Very funny in conversation but fascinating and with that rare ability to be able to explain something very complex in the simplest of terms. We sat, engaged and hanging on his every word at several points throughout the weekend. A charming man.
03. JARVIS COCKER
Another charming man (Morrissey comparisons can wait for another time) Jarvis Cocker was in fine form here! Some will argue he’s from another planet and others might say his set was the very best of the weekend. His personality leant itself perfectly to this crowd, with such confidence and still just enough kooky to turn you on. He appeared from the back of the crowd, talking into his microphone but with no real fan fare. It wasn’t a Bono-esque “Here I Am!” entrance, it was much more like a stand-up comedian might introduce himself from backstage.
It was only as he arrived at the stage that most of us realised the show had already begun and he clambered on to deliver on all levels. He talked about his wonders of space from youth, to tie in nicely with the theme of the festival – it was a nice touch and very relevant. But also set us up for his “Jarv.. Is” concept album. It was very agreeable with our ears!
02. BBC INTRODUCING MANCHESTER
Once again with an interesting and very talented array of young cadets the team brought the Saturday night show to the masses with live music from what will no doubt be next year’s stars – highlights of which are still available on the BBC Sounds app!
01. NEW ORDER
It feels quite apt that New Order have now played Jodrell Bank. The band the paved the way for new trends and techniques in music, a ground-breaking science in many peoples opinion, much like those behind the Lovell telescope. Each have played a huge part in moving us forward, and in terms of our popular cultural history can be considered hugely important. Iconic. Delivering songs on the scale of Blue Monday and Control, this was the only way to end what was a hugely successful festival.
The weather might not have been great but it didn’t dampen our spirits. For 4 days we were in a world of possibility. We understood exactly how far we’ve come and understood there’s still a long way to go. We feel a big part of it now. It was at our fingertips and if all goes to plan, we’ll be back to contribute again this time next year. Can’t recommend this enough – book your tickets for Bluedot 2020 now: https://www.discoverthebluedot.com/