Paul Sullivan explores the Port Eliot Festival, taking a few shots along the way.

THE PORT ELIOT festival is held each July in Cornwall, on the grounds of Port Eliot manor house. More garden party than festival per se, the event began as a celebration of literature but has since broadened into an eclectic mix of music, cooking, philosophy, fashion, flowers, family entertainment, and more.

It’s surely one of the few events in the world where you can find acoustic music sets and DJ gigs alongside upcycling fashion shows, cooking demonstrations by top TV chefs, kite- and puppet-making workshops for kids, literary discussions with the likes of Geoff Dyer and William Dalrymple, and some highly entertaining hip hop karaoke.


Pockets of music

There are little pockets of music all over the festival all over the weekend, but one of the most consistent - and lovely - areas is run by the people from the Rough Trade music label and Caught By The River. It really is by the river and the music choices range from folky songwriters like Sam Amidon (pictured) to experimental electronica artists.



No matter where you camp, the elegant Port Eliot house is always on display. It's open inside too, with specially organised art exhibitions.


The grounds

The grounds include the centuries-old house itself, a winding river, and landscaped garden pathways. The piece de resistance is the imposing viaduct, built by Brunel, which still carries an hourly train from Penzance to London.



Thanks to the communal nature of the camping areas, it's a very sociable event. It might get a bit muddy if it rains, but this is not a place where visitors need to "rough it". There yurts or teepees available for higher-end camping, and the toilets are some of the cleanest I've ever experienced at a festival (and I've been to a few).


Family affair

Being a family-friendly affair, Port Eliot has lots on offer for kids, including regular puppet shows, kite-making, performances and shows, arts and crafts...and an "upcycling tent" where kids can dress up in bin liners and industrial tape before joining a Fashion Catwalk at the end of the afternoon.


Port Eliot

When nighttime roles around, the lights of the camp go up.


Find a party

While it's as boutique as they come by day, at night the festival has a great atmosphere. You can snuggle around your fire and enjoy some intimate drinks with friends while watching the stars and passing out into your tent...


Hangover breakfast

Or you can enjoy a smoke down by the river, then head to one of the DJ tents and drink until the early hours. The next morning there are hangover breakfasts and more relaxed entertainment options just a short walk down the road.

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