6 - The Good Life Experience & Hosting vs Holding

Saturday 8 September 2018

Pumpkin rolling at The Good Life Experience
These pumpkins met a sticky end after some raucous rolling and smashing - I was speaking to Charlie and Caroline about it and asked were they upset about it to which they replied something along the lines of no, the kids had the time of their lives doing it and that made them happy as they love to host. That conversation prompted some serious thinking about TGLE and the ethos behind it and warrants a much better post than I could ever write, but here goes...
There is a mere week left to go til The Good Life Experience 2018. Which makes this post roughly 11 months late (or three weeks early).

TGLE 2017 was a different ball game for us, having previously gone as attendees we instead took our shop on the road and went as traders. There is a lot I could say about the people we met and the fun we had, it's certainly been a long time since I danced til gone one in the morning and I have probably never to a vintage mobile disco, but that's a different story to the one I want to tell right now.

Guardians of the Good Times at the Good Life Experience

I've been trying to find the words these past 11 months to write something worthy of the experience, because, quite honestly since that first Saturday in a field that felt more akin to a garden party than a festival back in 2014, TGLE has changed our lives. Our attitudes towards food have shifted entirely (around sustainability and welfare but also Caroline's cooking abilities at a campfire made me more confident with outdoor cooking as well as gave me the drive to try harder in a fixed kitchen too), our outlook on community and finding your tribe been overhauled, we've tried things we might never have thought to before such as axe throwing and archery (in fairness, archery probably would have wound up on the agenda at some point with my not so secret love of The Hunger Games and all, but still...) and every year there is some new catalyst for change. That largely comes from the fact that TGLE isn't just another boutique festival (and from its conception careful consideration was given to calling it The Good Life Experience to mark that distinction) but a gathering of like minded souls hosted by its four founders and their Guardians of the Good Times.

Charlie Gladstone - Business Polymath
Caroline Gladstone - Queen of Campfire Cookery

Steve "Abbo" Abbott

The words finally came to me whilst I was in the toilets of Verdi's in Swansea when I was there a few weeks ago. Strange, I know, but let's talk about toilets. Let's be honest, they're a bit crap most of the time quite frankly (couldn't resist the pun) - functional (mostly), dull and utilitarian affairs, except for those at a Gladstone establishment. It dawned on me on thinking of the Pavilion opening* that the toilets (which are always superbly designed and detailed across each sibling business) perfectly explain the Gladstone ethos and why The Good Life is an Experience and not a festival. Don't just hold, host. The details matter. I've never been to a festival that had pitchers of flowers on the tables. Music acts are chosen not to pull in the crowds but to serves as recommendations from that one friend you can depend upon to say "have you heard of... - they're REALLY good". Dogs are invited to join in the fun too and serve as conversation starters (I'm not particularly outgoing but have started up many a conversation about the gorgeous guys in attendance). I'd struggle to think of any other event of this size where the founders move around the site frantically to introduce each and every act, meeting and greeting as they go and the attendees are referred to as "guests".

Dogs and hydrangeas at The Good Life Experience
Hydrangea flower arrangements

Log piles are placed to feed the fires that invite you to cosy down with new friends (and old) to eat.

Log Pile

Children sneakily help themselves to the produce grown on the estate in an almost Enid Blyton childhood kind of way...

Blackberries at Hawarden Estate Farm Shop

and learn how to cook a meal whilst joining in the biggest game of "what's the time Mr Wolf" I've ever seen.

Outdoor Kitchen

When the sun goes down,

Festival Sunset

the cocktails come out...

Flash at the Whiskey Shack
A good top shelf

and if you're really lucky you'll catch such oddities as books being smoked over an open fire (the launch of Do Books - Wild Baking on this occasion).

Do Wild Baking by Tom Herbert

All friendly gatherings end with music and dancing, don't they?

Music and dancing after dark

The Good Life Experience really is just that, the best bits of everything rolled into one beautifully and carefully curated weekend - hosted by a group of great friends who want you to have the time of your life at their party and take a slice of the magic home with you to add in to your daily mix to change your life for the better, even if just in some small way. Thanks for bothering about the details guys, collectively they are life changing.

* Because you're a long time dead and Charlie Gladstone seems to want to fit as much into this life as possible, he launched ANOTHER business venture - the renovation of the old cricket pavilion into an event space - check it out here for more details. I'm also eagerly awaiting the launch of ANOTHER business - Glen Dye cabins and cottages - follow their Instagram (here) for some beautiful interior and outdoor inspo. I'm including this image below from the set up of the festival because Charlie is an inspiration - his energy for getting things done and boundless passion for what he does, combined with the fact that he throws himself into the thick of it rather than purely manages others serves as a good reminder that good things come not just from leaning in to a venture but jumping in wholeheartedly.

In the thick of it

And this one just because I love the fact that she had zero shame about wearing a Christmas jumper on a sunny day in September. There's definitely a lesson to be learnt there too.

Vintage swings


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