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Lisse, the Netherlands
Friday August 1st

Friday, the first day of what is already the fourth edition of this festival. Castlefest is a lifestyle festival for anyone interested in pagan, celtic, fantasy and the like. I'm a first timer here, I came because friends working at the festival told me that I have been missing out on something for the past years. They told me the setup of Castlefest is much less commercial compared to other similar ones and the atmosphere around the grounds is that of a gathering of friends and family. Say no more, I'm there already...

Any enjoyment of a festival starts with the right kind of weather, and here it was just perfect; a sunny day, but not too warm. Still leaving a cool breeze for the dancers in the grounds to cool off a bit.Surroundings are also important, and again the festival has everything you could wish for. Lisse is situated in the heart of the flowerbulb gardens area and the terrain is at the Keukenhof, where millions of tourists come every year. After getting through the entrance I find myself in a large park with lots of trees and a genuine castle in the middle! Walking on a bit you reach the start of the market area where you can buy costumes, jewelry, armoury, books, mede and so on. Everything to the hearts content of a true shopper can be found at around 140 stands! Most shops here are run by craftsmen and women who sell their yearly production at fair prices. I enjoyed very much talking to them about their craftmenship and how they ended up making a living out of their hobby. Most time was spent at the stand of Atelier Pygmalion who also designed the fairytale like setting of the entrance gate to the festival.

The honour of opening the festival on the music stage was ofcourse bestowed upon Omnia. Castlefest is home turf to them, since they are involved in the organisation of the festival. They have played here ever since the first edition and apparantly are very popular among the visitors of the festival, because long before they started to play their set there was a large crowd gatherering in front of the stage. Time to get to work and start dancing in your finest costume. Me, I prefered to watch the show and the people dancing in front of the stage. Omnia play what they themselves call "paganfolk". All I can add is that it makes your feet itch to dance and puts a smile on your face. The costumes, the variety of instruments and the joy to play that oozes from all the musicians made this performance a feast for the eyes and ears.

Next to the main and acoustic bandstages and the market, there are loads of other activities to keep you entertained. The terrains of the festival are quite vaste and strolling around it  you find yourself dwelling to other worlds almost. There is a LARP village, a village for children with many activities, or you can attend a workshop of ballfolk dancing. The latter one could have come in handy at the show of the next band on the bill: Lebocha. This band plays a mixture of all kinds that reminded me a lot of klezmer music, because there is someone playing the clarinet. Throw in some worldmusic and you a end up with a mixture that simply works.

Time to get back to dwelling the grounds and bump into some familiar faces: Johannes de Nar performing tricks in his usual clumsy manner, Abe telling stories with use of all limbs of his body. Down the lane I spotted green creatures of an unknown race who were cleaning the grounds...

My next activity was to see the band Irfan,who had come a long way to play, since they hail from Bulgaria. On the website their music was being described as something close to Dead Can Dance. By the time the first song had finished, I was sure to have found another band for my favourites list. The music was very folky and ethereal at the same time. It reminded me a lot of Turkish folkmusic with a twist of something Middle Eastern. Surely this had a lot to do with the instruments used; oud, saz, darbouka, santur and many more. I can strongly recommend this band to any fans of Dead Can Dance.

Last band on the bill for  the day were Faun from Germany, who are a household name already in the circles of pagans and lovers of anything celtic.Their music could best be described as a mixture of celtic folk, medieval music and arabic rhythmic tones . Again this band is a sight for the eyes, with a great show of costumes, large variety of instruments and three vocalists. But however wonderful the band was, the highlight of their show was a friend of mine proposing to his girlfriend on stage. Ofcourse she said yes, followed by loud cheering from the audience. Subsequently the happy couple were congratulated by the band with a song that they had especially written for the joyeus occasion. A memorable moment!

Las Fuegas gave us a taste of their fireshow in the festivalgrounds already, but with the end of the day coming near, it was time for everyone to flock in front of the mainstage to feast our eyes on the fireshow  (and warm my hands as well frankly said) All fire artist from the grounds and some extras gathered in front of the main stage to join in a parade of human fireworks like I have never seen before. An amazing sight against the dark night sky and a worthy end to what has been a wonderful festival day.

I was bummed I had not bought a three day pass to the festival, because spending the day at Castlefest got me  wanting to experience more of the festival. It has been wonderful to attended a fest with such friendly visitors, a large variety of activities, great music, but most importantly; a laidback atmosphere. Many visitors wear costumes of all varieties, it's a parade of elves, knights, druids and goblins. And the great thing is that everyone is respecting each others space, no visitors running around like tourists who have come to stare at the costumes and the ' weirdos' . Instead I truly felt like being amongst friends all day. Next year I'm certain to return with my tent and a bunch of friends to participate in the celebration of the fitfth Castlefest.

Photography & copyright: Monica Duffels -


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