Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Saturday, 16 May 2009 15:50 UK

Beard rock kicks off festival season

By Tim Masters
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

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Beards ahoy! Take a tour of the UK's most hirsute festival

It's a day of beards, bands and boots. In this case, wellington boots. Caked in mud.

No prizes for guessing, then, that this is the first day of the UK summer music festival season.

We're at Bearded Theory, an intimate, but impressive, Derbyshire event.

The unusual thing about it is that everyone is encouraged to wear a beard. There's even a false beard world record attempt being planned - not to mention a "Best Dressed Bearded Wench" competition.

Festival goers show off their beards ahead of the world record attempt

It's only in its second year, but the festival has already been compared to an early incarnation of Glastonbury, something that makes 27-year-old organiser Rich Bryan smile.

"We've had that said about us a lot - it's a very big privilege," he says, sitting on the tour bus he's hired as his team's centre of operations for the weekend.

It's probably the driest place on the whole festival site.

"We don't get paid from it, I'm a full-time surveyor - it's a hobby to make money for charity," says Bryan, who's also managed to pull this event together while studying for a university degree.

Last year's festival raised £2,500 for Oxfam. This year he's hoping to double that for Shelter and Derby-based charity, the Padley Group.

"I'm getting very old, very young," he observes wryly.

He adds that this year's 2,500 capacity crowd is six times bigger than last year - not bad for a festival that started out life as a birthday party gig.

But does he see it expanding to Glastonbury-style proportions?

"Not at this stage. There's lots of things you can improve on so it would be nice to keep it static for a few years."

Beards and berets

Hawkwind
It's what a festival should be like, people are happy even though it's raining
Dave Brock, Hawkwind (second from left)

One of the acts causing the biggest buzz around Bradley Nook Farm are first-night headliners Hawkwind.

The space rock pioneers - celebrating their 40th anniversary this year - are no strangers to adverse weather at festivals.

"This is nothing," laughs founder member Dave Brock a few hours before he's due on stage.

"Once, at a gig in Germany, our drummer got blown off stage by the wind!"

And what's the Hawkwind policy on beards?

"There were three beards in the band, but one shaved his off," says Brock. "Everyone should grow beards and wear berets because during the 50s and 60s it was quite the rage."

And what are his first impressions of Bearded Theory?

"It's what a festival should be like, people are happy even though it's raining. And we meet loads of friends of ours too."

Hawkwind's presence has brought an influx of fans to the festival, but other popular acts on the main stage include Stockholm Syndrome, Attila the Stockbroker and the excellent 3 Daft Monkeys.

Bearded Theory
She's waving goodbye because she mustache!!! Must dash, geddit?? Oh, never mind...

Among the festival-goers is Ali from Northumberland - who is dressed as a green fairy (complete with glittery beard).

"I came back to support it a second time - it's bigger, better, wetter. And I'm going to wear the beard for the whole weekend!"

Peter Morrow and Jane Harris, from Anglesey, heard about the festival from recommendations on the web.

Peter spent three months growing a beard for this weekend.

Jane was attracted by the festival's ethos: "It's raising money for the homeless - it's not one of the big commercial festivals."

As evening draws in, the clouds darken and a spectacular rainbow spans the horizon.

By the time Hawkwind open their set with Assault and Battery, the rain has set in and it isn't just the boots that are muddy.

It's quite a few of the beards as well.



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