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Keukenhof, Lisse, The Netherlands
3th to 5th of August 2007

I wasn’t supposed to write a review on Castlefest this year but I went there and it was so great I just couldn’t resist writing about it. This has been one of the highlights of this festival season. They have experienced a huge growth in visitors. On the first day they had more visitors at two o’clock then they had on the whole Friday the year before. So this third edition of Castlefest has been a huge success.

When arriving at the gate visitors were treated to an enchanting sight. There was one statue of a man who was half tree. On the other side there was a little elfish girl sitting on a tree stump watching the butterfly fluttering on her hand. That immediately got you in the mood for this festival. There were many people who paid attention to their outfits. I have seen some miraculous creations walk by those three days. For instance I have seen two fishes walk around, someone riding a horse like an amazone, a family dressed as if they were from the stone age and of course many elves, knights and princesses.

Besides all the visitors there was enough to see to keep you entertained for at least a week. For the children there was a special village where they could learn how to become a knight. Paint their own shield, play Miyu games (which were connected to collectable stones for kids), get their faces or hands painted, learn how to use poi, listen to stories and make masks. Every day there was a kiddy battle, in which they could show they were able to slay an entire army of grown ups.

For the pleasure of your ears there were many bands playing at the main stage and the acoustic stage. Faun was part of this party as they were last year. They are loved very much by the audience and they deserve to be. As always Faun put a great show on stage. It doesn’t only sound great but it is fun to watch as well. That is due to the fact that the band is clearly having fun on stage.

Omnia was of course also performing. They are a well know guest at fantasy fairs so they couldn’t be missing this weekend. Omnia has a lot of fans in this scene and that was noticeable. It was always very busy when they were playing, and it should be because they make a party out of their performance ever time.

Rapalje brought their charm and enthusiasm to the stage as well. They have been a guaranteed success every time I have seen them. They bring both ballads, funny songs and songs to dance to. To add some visual strength to some of their songs a little piece of acting is involved. For instance at the end of ‘The Drunken Sailor’ the singer is hung by his own hair by his fellow musicians. For Castlefest they had even brought another act to the stage: Johannanas. This name is a mixture of two names, Johannes (the jester) and annanas (the Dutch name for pineapple). Which explains why there was a walking pineapple on stage. It was a lot of fun to see, especially when he stage dived. All in all the shows of Rapalje this weekend were a feast for ear and eye. If you like hairy bottoms you get a nice surprise at the end of a show as well.

The main act of the first two days were the Mediaeval Baebes. Seven English ladies who have been performing for 11 years now. Almost everybody on Castlefest had gathered in front of the stage where seven ivy decorated microphones had been placed. Then the ladies arrived in their white dresses, with flowers in their hair. Their songs are often related to myths and religion and tell us historic tales. They can sound like a choir of sirens although not always as perfect as they wish to be. During their singing they emphasise their lyrics with movements of their arms, hands and at times their entire body. I had expected a bit more of these sirens but still it was a nice show to watch.

Besides the main stage there was also an acoustic stage where you could see belly dancing but also hear several bands playing such as Gwezel and the Canadian band The Mahones. Of course there were many more bands playing but they this review would be a couple of pages longer. One band that stood out was Transit Poetry because they were not quite a folk band. They bring gothic, electro and rock. They didn’t attract a large audience but those who were there were very enthusiastic about this danceable music with great beats.

On the second evening at Castlefest it was time to burn the wicker woman. This was a personification of the goddess Vana. It had been standing their the entire weekend. During the weekend people were allowed to make sacrifices to her. Her skirt was filled with gifts. Steve from Omnia lit the torch which was to light the Goddess. With their music contributing to the atmosphere the flame was brought to the wicker woman.  After the incantation of an actual Druid she was set on fire. Then a fire show started around the wicker woman as she went up in flames.

This wasn’t the only fire at Castlefest. On Friday night there had been a fire show by the jesters of the festival. It was great fun to watch. A bit scary as well for at times things went wrong, as was of course intended by these men. Torches went flying the wrong way and huge flames were blown as if they were farts. The two jesters were assisted by Kelvin Kalvus who is a true magician with glass balls.

What more can I say. The festival is a genuine trip out of the real world and in to a wonderful and relaxed fantasy world. The amount of visitors has grown this year and after this success it is bound to grow again next year. I am looking forward to it for sure.


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