7-9 June 2014
Reviewed by Lora Hole
Grillstock is a festival celebrating barbecued food and music. Their slogan is Meat, Music, Mayhem and I think this sums it up very well! The festival in Bristol is located at the amphitheatre on the Harbourside. There is plenty of car parking in this area including free parking if you don’t mind a short walk.
When my husband, two year old daughter and I arrived, we had expected a day of rain and thunderstorms, however we were pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a hot and sunny day instead. We got there quite early and there wasn’t too long a queue. There seemed to be plenty of staff to prevent the queues from building up.
At the top of the festival site is where the BBQ competitors are and you can watch them preparing their food. Later on in the day, we found this to be a good place to go if you were feeling a bit peckish as they are happy to let you try their food.
As you move down the site, there are lots of stalls selling food. We tried the pulled pork bap, maple glazed pork belly strips, churros in chocolate sauce and lots of tasters including cheeses, chutneys and BBQ and spicy sauces. Everything we tried was delicious! There were other food stalls selling chorizo, ribs, burgers, coffee, lemonade, beers, cocktails and Levi Roots had a stall selling Reggae Reggae hot food.
The stage is at the bottom of the festival site. Bands such as the Slap Ya Mama Big Band and Levi Roots played to a noisy crowd. We had a great time listening to the bands and even though we hadn’t heard of some of them before, the music was catchy and my two year old daughter loved dancing to the songs! The chilli eating competition and hot wing eating competition was held on the stage which was entertaining. The headlining band was the Fun Lovin’ Criminals who took to the stage slightly later than scheduled at 8.45pm. We stayed to watch them however it does make the day quite long if you are attending the festival with a child like we did.
We enjoyed the Weber BBQ Academy sessions (you can read our review of a Weber BBQ in the Summer edition of the What’s Good To Do Hampshire magazine here) as we found them to be very informative and interesting. In the sessions we attended, the chef, Richard Holden, showed us how to cook Beer Can Chicken, Tarte Tatin and also how to smoke ribs and a pork shoulder. We were particularly impressed with how he managed to cook a dessert on the BBQ!
We had a lovely day however we thought there could be improvements made for next year. We found that by 6pm we had run out of things to do but we didn’t want to leave early as we wanted to see the headlining band. I think if you are going to the festival to party, you may not have had the same issues as we did but as a family we found there wasn’t enough to hold a child’s attention after a certain length of time. The other criticism we had was by 2pm, the queues for the toilets started to build up to the point where you would have had quite a long wait. We didn’t feel there were anywhere near enough toilets and the ones they had were overflowing by early evening. However they did start to empty them in the evening. There was only one toilet where we could find an area for baby changing and I think, as the festival advertises itself as a child friendly place, there should be more of these available. Also there should be a better play area for children catering for all ages. Another thing we noticed was there were not enough seats for everyone to sit and eat their food forcing us to stand whilst eating. This would be fine if it was convenience food however, lots of people were trying to eat ribs etc… and it was a bit messy without anywhere to sit and eat.
The festival grounds were very clean and tidy, however by evening there was a lot of mess which is to be expected of a festival and not the fault of the organisers as there was more than an ample amount of bins provided including recycling bins. We found all staff to be friendly and helpful when needed.
Overall, I would say the festival is good value for money at £30.00 for a weekend ticket. If the children’s area was improved, I would be likely to return again next year. We had a wonderful day out as a family and would definitely recommend it as it appeals to a wide range of ages.
The next stop for the Grillstock Festival is Manchester 28-29 June 2014. For more information or to book tickets visit www.grillstock.co.uk.