I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with festivals. On the one hand, I love being part of a huge outdoor party, Pimms in hand, nowhere else to be, roaming around the grounds as music fills the air from all angles. And on the other, they have founded my disdain for camping after packing away one-too-many soggy tents, trying to navigate around a port-a-loo without touching any surfaces and getting horrendous thigh sunburn where my wellies stopped and shorts began…
But this year, there’s been a game changer: the Happy Place Festival founded by Fearne Cotton. This glorious day promised to be packed with yoga classes, live podcasts, talks, and meditation, sponsored by Sweaty Betty and Rituals. I could not sign up fast enough. So in the first weekend of August, my sister Gemma and I donned our leggings and took the early Saturday flight to London. We hopped on a few trains, constantly doubting that we were going in the right direction, but by 11am we found ourselves in balmy Chiswick and followed a herd of yogis with their rolled up mats into the main entrance of Chiswick House and Gardens.
Upon handing over our tickets, we were given a little tube of Rituals factor 30 face cream – so quite frankly they had won us over before we’d even stepped foot in the place. The grounds were stunning and the day was clearly set up with Instagram-enthusiasts in mind. Teepees were dotted around for the various activities throughout the day; Alice Liveing was doing her workout class at the Community Stage; keen beans were already creating their masterpieces at the arts and crafts stations; and Bryony Gordon had just finished her book signing… We had indeed found the nicest festival in the world.
The hardest thing was trying to decide what to go to and work out timings so we didn’t waste a single minute. Some of the classes could be pre-booked but we didn’t realise, so had to wing it and hope for the best. Amazingly, we managed to get the last two spots on a Vinyasa soul yoga class for our first activity. Just what we needed after being in planes, trains and automobiles all morning. Hips opened and minds refreshed, we walked around the many stalls and ate many, many samples of date-based, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, you-get-the-idea, free snacks.
Our next stop was a smoothie van which was making lactose free (obvs) smoothies. We ordered our green concoctions and were ready to pay when we were told they were also free. We could then go and pick our toppings of pumpkin seeds, coconut, goji berries and dried pineapple…. what even was this place?? Glorious.
Post-smoothie rejuvenation, we headed over to the talk stage where Russell Brand was making an appearance. Gemma and I are both fans (and recommend his ‘Under the Skin’ podcast). He did not disappoint and spoke articulately for an hour with a wit and vocabulary which one can only aspire to.
Once Russell left the stage we had a few minutes to soak in the conversation and wring out our perspiration from this beautifully fairy-lit, albeit slightly airless, teepee. Then we hopped on the next available bench (with cushions this time, hallelujah!) and watched a live podcast between Fearne Cotton and Katie Piper, an inspiration who was victim to an acid attack in 2008. Hers was a story of resilience and an hour passed by in a flash, watching them have a very natural, open and honest conversation.
In the late afternoon, in an attempt to be spontaneous, we gave the ‘techno-electronic meditation’ a go but alas, this was not for me. Each to their own of course, but techno is not my jam. Gemma lasted slightly longer but soon we were back at the yoga tent, safely returned to the cocoon of the comfort zone. An hour of restorative yoga closed the day for us and we floated out of the grounds at 6pm, calmer, fully stretched and waxing lyrical.
Still, the day was not done. We got an Uber (you’re not in the Highlands any more mate), to our Air BnB in Fulham. An adorable gem of a flat with a back garden complete with another egg chair. The decor was stylish, beds were comfortable, shower was huge and Nespresso machine was marvellous. We had dinner al fresco and took a walk around Chelsea before crashing out for the night.
Stretching out our Sunday morning in Fulham, we checked out of the flat (vowing to return) and headed for breakfast at ‘Chairs and Coffee‘. This quirky little spot served lightly toasted banana bread with whipped greek yoghurt, honey and fresh fruit. I don’t think I need to describe it any more, just look!
Some trips make memories for all the right reasons and this was definitely one of them. I, for one, would love it if we could return to our newly found Happy Place every year.