Port Eliot Take Two

Port Eliot Take Two

It's been difficult to take myself offline over the past six years of running Style Bubble.  This means not using the laptop, not checking emails and resisting the urge to blog.  Port Eliot Festival is therefore one of the few opportunities where I've been able to well and truly go offline.  It may only be three days but that feels like a century for an internet fiend such as myself who literally walks around the street, with my laptop open, seeking out wi-fi signal.  There was wi-fi at Port Eliot but I chose not to use it.  The only time I glanced at my phone was to send texts to friends who were on site.  If your reaction is "So what?" then you've clearly underestimated my addiction and compulsion to red beeps on Blackberries and open laptop lids.  The short of it is that Port Eliot definitely has some kind of magic going on that makes me want to abandon the laptop, something that many a far-flung location around the world hasn't even been able to do.  


I experienced Port Eliot's magic for the first time last year and therefore came charging into St Germans with high expectations.  Survey says that I'd be disappointed.  Instead, I had an even more fruitful time because I now knew the lay of the land.  I knew how long it would take to walk, from one part of the estate to another.  I knew what sort of food options I'd have.  I knew what the showering/washing facilities were like.  Some of these practical elements were also, incidentally ironed out because this year, I got to stay in a more central location near the Wardrobe Department within the walled garden.  

Wearing Theory shirt, Theyskens Theory skirt, vintage floral shoes, Giorgio Armani Frames of your Life glasses


My impressions of this year's edition of the festival barely stray from my thoughts last year.  Whilst Port Eliot isn't the most famous or obvious festival choice for the summer, it is something of a unique opportunity to be able to freely roam around the grounds of the St. Germans estate, catch a band by the river, listen to a talk deep inside the woods, participate in one minute discos and enjoy copious amounts of good (yes, I repeat good‚Ķ) food on-site.  I'm past the age of being primarily concerned with jostling around with people, who are supposedly "my" demographic.  Yes, there are lots and lots of kids (I've come to think of that as rather a good thing).  Yes, the music programming isn't really what I'd be listening to on a daily basis.  Yes, it is all very VERY middle-class, something that the event comperes and observers would wryly acknowledge every day.  When all is said though, Port Eliot is lovely.  The reasons why will be clear when you scroll through the photo heap here.  

Elvis scarecrow at the famed Port Eliot Festival flower show

Brekkie by James & Smith


Vintage tea ladies

Ascot has nothing on Port Eliot when it comes to headgear and this year it was down to the busy bee hands of milliner Piers Atkinson, accessories designer Fred Butler and two other budding props/accessories designers Rosy Nicholas and Keely Hunter.  Using flowers and plants from the grounds of Port Eliot, they had pretty much all the female (and a few male) heads  adorned with hydrangeas, ivy and lilies.  I sported two different bun holders courtesy of Piers.  I'm now convinced there is definitely a niche market in decorating top knots.  







On the first day, I contrasted Tatty Devine's perspex flowers with Piers Atkinson's real ones.  The synthetic and the natural – yeah, it's symbolic, that.  The second day, I went for slightly less ornate bun holder with an orange lily taking centre stage.



My dried hydrangeas on my Ostwald Helgason sweater started off the hydrangea-themed weekend.  


Wearing Ostwald Helgason sweater, Cacharel sweater, Theyskens Theory skirt, Ostwald Helgason x Noel Stewart cap

Some people bought their own millinery to the festival.  This OMG headpiece is by Bundle McClaren, who made a lot of the headpieces for the Royal Wedding last year.  I snapped a few that go uncredited here but feel free to claim your hat if it's your design.  




Louise Gray was once again back in her teepee with Topshop make-up to dab our eyes with vibrant colour and glitter.  I bow to her infectious style which always combines her own pieces with vintage and other designers' samples so seamlessly well.  On Saturday, I got the signature painterly dabs of colour on my eyes‚Ķ





My friend Isobel got her eyes glittered up‚Ķ and we accidentally posed together as though we were making a record cover.  



On Sunday, I went for a few under eye spots of lilac to counteract my curtain of a heavy fringe.



I loved style-stalking James here, who was helping out Louise for the weekend and is definitely a Louise Gray disciple through-and-through.



Mary Katrantzou also came back to Port Eliot to have a chat with Love Magazine's Alex Fury (his idea of festival appropriate footwear was a pair of metal-heeled Marc Jacobs brogues) about her processes as a digital print designer and how she has built a solid business over the years.  Her talk was accompanied by a quite stunning quad of sisters by the names of Octavia, Imogen, Aggy and Bee Warren, all wearing Mary Katrantzou's designs.  Her Port Eliot dresses which she made last year as a collage of the house's artefacts and rooms were hanging in the house once again.





The founders and illustrators Delisia Howard and Chris Price of Hazard Books, who created the In Biba book, were in the Wardrobe Department encouraging people to draw out fantasy characters that they'd most like to be to compile into a Port Eliot illustrated compendium for 2012.  I've not bought any of their tomes but their wall of illustrations definitely drew me in with its monochrome lines and text annotated style. 




Luella Bartley was also back with illustrator Zoe Williams to contribute to this Port Eliot compendium.


Other illustration antics include this chalked up tent, illustrated by Joanna Walsh of the delightful blog Badaude


There was a lot of Marie Antoinette-ish pastel hair wafting around Port Eliot thanks to Stephen Jones and the girls at Bleach.  Bumble & Bumble had created four specific Port Eliot hair powders in lilac, mint, peach and candy pink for the weekend's hair activities.  



Stephen Jones very diligently looked at all the portraits and paintings by the likes of Reynolds and van Dyck that were in the Port Eliot house, which inspired the hairstyles for the day.  The lucky people who got appointments were sketched by Jones himself and then hair maestro Neil Moodie recreated the sketch using the powders.  I love that Jones took each portrait extremely seriously but still created each portrait with an effortless flourish.  I'm just going to go with the pun and say that I take my hat off to Jones, one of the nicest people I've met who's at the top of his game.






On Friday and Sunday, Alex Brownsell of Bleach used the hair powders to do their signature hair stencils and dip-dyed tips.  Funnily enough all the kids were into the tips more than the stencils which goes to show how far dip-dyed hair has come on as a mainstream trend, something that Bleach is hugely responsible for.  Their salon in Dalston has just had a revamp and I'm planning on going in to take the Bleach plunge.   





Emily Cronin from Elle UK and I had a bit of fun with some of the sprays ourselves.  I love the effect of the powder and the way it looks like a layer of crushed up chalk pastels has landed on your hair.  No word on whether the products will come to market or not but Bumble & Bumble are thinking about it‚Ķ 



There were a lot of knitting crews going on in courtesy of a lot of different knitting initiatives such as the knitsuke at the Dovegreyreader tent, the Knitterati tent and the Keep and Share knitting tent.   The most impressive display of knit was this giant piece of yarn bombing courtesy of the Graffiti Grannys of Cornwall who call themselves "urban woolerists".  My Christopher Shannon shirt, which I wore on Saturday wanted to be at one with the tree.






The great thing about Port Eliot is that many of the event participants don't necessarily have to conduct a talk about their main vocation.  Supreme fashion hairstylist Sam McKnight for instance came into the Port Eliot kitchen to bake a Union Jack Victoria sponge with style author Camila Morton alongside, asking him about the therapeutic joys of baking.  It really was a delicious sponge.  Apparently a drop of milk is all that's needed to keep it moist.  



General big brand presence at Port Eliot is thankfully still fairly minimal and this time, it was Anthropologie, who bought their aesthetically charming tent to an appropriate target audience.  They weren't here to sell any product but instead they put on a series of workshops that got the festival goers involved in pottery modelling with Jacqui Roche, upcycling vintage plates with Lou Rota and creating marbled silk scarves with CharlotteTaylor.  I got stuck in with some marbling with quirky fashion print designer Taylor.   Sadly I wasn't quite vigorous enough with my ink throwing so ended up with quite a subtle design.  The other marbled silk specimens were much more impressive.









The Rubbish crew were also back with their antics of a newspaper couture fashion show, using the Anthropologie newspaper that they have created and the hilarious Rubbish Olympics, which was the last thing we saw before we waved goodbye to Port Eliot.  The games were hosted by Christopher Biggins and games included a roly-poly challenge, a pencil throwing contest and a round of musical statues.  The Rubbish team formed a human podium for the winners to stand on and a middle aged dad got a crown of hydrangeas for his efforts in partaking.  All in all, the games were actually the opposite of Rubbish and actually, rather great.





George Ryan of Rubbish HQ wearing a rather fetching outfit.



In addition to staying right by the Wardrobe Department, I was also fortunate enough to be sleeping in a Field Candy tent, designed by Basso & Brooke.  Fred Butler and Piers Atkinson were also right by me with their patchwork and watermelon printed tents.  Field Candy is fairly new but they aim to give the olive green and grey blur of camping gear a vibrant make-over with their richly saturated photographic prints on well-made tents.   Don't be fooled by the designs.  This is no novelty product.  I definitely got a much better night's sleep this year than I did last year when I was camping in a bog-standard tent.



Taking a breather from the blog was conducive to taking in thoughts that aren't fashion-related at all, something that I fear my brain is getting less and less of.  In addition to experiencing all that the Wardrobe Department had going on, I also got to see more talks this year that has resulted in a Port Eliot take-away reading list summarised below‚Ķ 

Dan Kieran, The Idle Traveller – Dan Kieran hasn't taken an airplane in over twenty years.  His book extols the idea of slow travel; that enjoying the challenges of the journey is far more rewarding than trying to get to your destination as fast as possible.  He looks at travel in an epic way that need not be physically far-flung.  You don't have to go very far to feel like you've really travelled, he says.  I'm half-convinced.  The book might enlighten me further.     

The Gentle Author, Spitalfields Life – You might have already come across the blog of The Gentle Author, telling us the stories about people whose lives feel bygone but still very much exist in the hidden depths of the East End.  He's now compiled them into a book.  These are tales to warm your cockles.  Whatever warming your cockles actually means.   

Ned Beauman, The Teleportation Accident – On the basis of Beauman's critically acclaimed Boxer, Beetle's debut, which he read from at the festival, I'm definitely picking this one up.  Oh, and we weirdly used to work together for a short period of time, when I was at Dazed & Confused.  Believe all the heap of excited praise for this young author and his energetic and rambunctious writing style.    

Tim Burgess, Telling Stories – Aging rocker who has found himself through transcendental meditation after years of drug addiction may sound like too much of a zzz cliche.  The Charlatans frontman tells his story with humour and wit though based on the few excerpts he read at the festival.  It also helps that I still harbour strangely fond memories of all things Brit-pop and Heavenly Recordings, through my tail-end experience of Camden in my teens.  

Ben Masters, Noughties – We didn't catch the full reading of Ben Masters reading from his "chap-lit" debut (isn't that category name enough to put you off?!) but his short story about a teenaged boxer and his crush on a girl on the 43 bus was definitely mesmerising.  Plus it sounds easy enough to relate to the book's preoccupation with 21st century university culture.  

Oh and if you've fallen in love with Port Eliot Festival through this coverage or by hearsay, unfortunately the festival is taking a gap year next year.  The grounds of the estate and the organisers apparently need a rest but It will return in 2014.   If one year was too short a period to plan for this exuberant weekend, then two years will surely be enough.  



Leave a comment
  1. Serdane

    2012-07-23 at 2:04 PM

    Hope you had fun because the pictures are.

  2. Julia

    2012-07-23 at 2:06 PM

    God, it looks like such an amazing place !! It is filled with inspiration !

  3. Shini

    2012-07-23 at 2:08 PM

    This post makes me, like, SUPER happy.

  4. jean cave

    2012-07-23 at 2:22 PM

    What weather-luck, not overcrowded & it looked like ripping fun. Kernow Rocks.
    I went to the first Elephant Fair which was quite different…

  5. karen joanne

    2012-07-23 at 2:27 PM

    What beautiful beautiful pictures! Hadn’t heard of this festival before but it is now on my wishlist for next year!

  6. JM

    2012-07-23 at 2:34 PM

    Thanks for the Spitalfields Life tip – amazing site!

  7. ttea

    2012-07-23 at 3:00 PM

    What great pictures, it looks amazing there. It’s impossible to comment on all of the interesting things in the photo, but a couple that really stuck out for me were the hats and the knitting. I would love to one day get the opportunity to wear a a crazy hat at a social event. Your flowery head dress looked amazing. That grafitti granny’s thing was so cool, especially the fact that you can follow them on facebook and twitter (they must be some very with it Granny’s).

  8. Maike

    2012-07-23 at 3:12 PM

    WOW… great pics from a flowerpower athmosphere! Would love been there.

  9. Tian

    2012-07-23 at 3:26 PM

    I love your outfits! Everything looks like so much fun. 🙂

  10. Stills

    2012-07-23 at 3:27 PM

    So much creativity at one place! Amazing post!

  11. Susana

    2012-07-23 at 3:36 PM

    I don¬¥t know what “middle-class” is intend to mean in the UK, I¬¥m actually asking you, is it used in a derogatory way? A side from that I think it all looks so nice, relax, with no pretensions and everybody seems happy, I¬¥ve never heard of Port Eliot Festival before, but if Mary Katrantzou goes im in!

  12. lauren

    2012-07-23 at 3:50 PM

    wow, this looks like so much fun! really want to try out the sprant paint/dip dyed hair now, but it’s probably one of those things that doesn’t look as great when you’re not at a festival 😉 and those illustrations she is drawing in those photos are incredible!xx

  13. Joy

    2012-07-23 at 4:00 PM

    everything about port eliot sounds just magical

  14. ally

    2012-07-23 at 4:14 PM

    port elliot looks amazing!!your photo’s are really great! you should check out my website http://www.amazine.com where you can create your own collages and articles for other subscribers to view!
    i created this collage with inspiration from mary kartrantzou http://www.amazine.com/story/529156
    try it out and let me know what you think 😀

  15. Octavia

    2012-07-23 at 4:34 PM

    I just checked this out! Really fun Idea and a great way to self promote yourself! I look forward to using it! 🙂

  16. Dresses

    2012-07-23 at 4:41 PM

    It is look like a fashion week.

  17. Domonique

    2012-07-23 at 5:48 PM

    Aside from you looking completely adorable, this festival seriously looks like thee most killer place ever!Wish I could have popped along!That “OMG” floral crown is perfection!

  18. Cleo

    2012-07-23 at 6:43 PM

    I wish i had your problem i can’t get myself online onto my blog writers block
    love the facepaint,hair coloring, and especially those flower headbands looks like you had a great time


    2012-07-23 at 7:06 PM

    I’m sorry..what is going on here?
    We don’t have festivals with fashion designers, and floral headwear and knitting gangs in the US…
    Why dont we have festivals with fashion designers, and floral headwear and knitting gangs in the US?!?!?!

  20. susie_bubble

    2012-07-23 at 7:31 PM

    You guys DO have Burning Man… I’ve never been but it sounds like it’s a ravier, artier and less bookish version of Port Eliot.

  21. Kazuko

    2012-07-24 at 7:29 AM

    truly enjoyed and loved this post. inspiration…:)

  22. badaude

    2012-07-24 at 8:37 AM

    Aw thanks for posting a pic of my tent, Susie. It was delightful to meet you!

  23. Middle Class Man

    2012-07-24 at 5:36 PM

    Um..What’s up with the “middle class” post?? Like that’s a bad thing? I love your blog and pictures, but excuse me, not everyone can easily afford the clothes you wear on here everyday, even if they work hard everyday and truly enjoy fashion. Not everybody can blog and be connected to their internet and blackberry and go to fashion shows and festivals everyday. I’m not denying that upper class high brand wearing people haven’t earned their money, but they should recognize they are privileged. Looking down on the middle class this way is very insulting. You should realize that the “upper class” is a very very small percentage on a global basis. I have no problem with people working hard for their own money, or even being born into an upper class, but to make comments that if its “oh so middle class/aka kind of lame” then that is just really rude. I love your style and blog, but found the comment quite derogatory and insulting. I’m quite disappointed.

  24. In her defence

    2012-07-24 at 7:24 PM

    Middle class (in the UK) is associated with being comparatively wealthy. She said ‘middle class’ meaning people with some money to spend who are interested in literature and art, but not necessarily connected to the real world. She was certainly not speaking from an upper class perspective looking down; if anything the opposite.


    2012-07-24 at 9:16 PM

    Alright, alright.
    I suppose the festival is always greener on the other continent..

  26. Becca

    2012-07-25 at 12:51 AM

    This looks amazing I love the idea of being able to have painted faces and flowers in my hair! it sounds too good!

  27. susie_bubble

    2012-07-25 at 8:13 AM

    Wow there… In her defence got it in one. This also answers Susana’s questions above too. It’s a little difficult to explain in a nutshell but the class system in the UK is quite specific! In the UK, when we say middle class, we are referring to people who are relatively well-off, who are culture vultures and have certain characteristics that most people in England can make light jest of. Even the middle class people at the festival were laughing at themselves. For instance, in the context of the festival, there are traits like parents calling after their kids named “Rufus” or “Bluebell” – i.e. slightly odd names that are Angel-centric (a wealthy, middle class part of London). Or people were overjoyed at the sight of Monmouth Coffee, wheat-free food and a copy of the Guardian – again all middle-class stereotypes that I think most people can knowingly poke fun at.
    I wasn’t saying I was upper class and sneering down at the middle class. It’s unlikely you would encounter such people anyway. The upper class in the UK are really quite a teensy tiny minority and they normally come with a title – Lady such and such, Lord such and such, Viscount this, Duke that. Our class system isn’t necessarily just bound to economic circumstances – it’s also to do with ancestry, social pedigree, public school education and other strange archaic definitions that don’t make sense outside of the country.
    In fact, I come from a working class background and basically found the abundance of people at Port Eliot who I think are somewhat above my station to be a little hilarious. I’m well-educated but I don’t come from money or a social set where I might encounter a Rufus or a Bluebell. Hey though, I am also laughing at myself at times. I am after all growing older and turning into one of those Monmouth coffee drinking, Guardian-reading, organic food-seeking people… and seeing as I was also jostling enthusiastically at the festival, I guess I am also poking fun at myself in a way.

  28. susie_bubble

    2012-07-25 at 8:14 AM

    See my reply to Middle Class Man below – it’s a little complicated to understand without seeing a working example!

  29. Natasha

    2012-07-25 at 7:36 PM

    This year was the first time i had been to the festival myself and it was really quite something!
    I’m sure you get it alot, but i did see you in the Wardrobe department at one point on Sunday, although i hadn’t realised you had taken a snap of me (girl with the teal dip dye hair), i really should of said a quick hello!
    You have described the festival so beautifully and your pictures have really captured the magic of it all 🙂 I’m already looking forward to when it returns in 2014.

  30. Lou'Ana Carron

    2012-07-26 at 12:02 AM

    I love your outfits ! x

  31. Middle Class Man

    2012-07-26 at 11:18 PM

    Hi again! I want to say I do apologize for jumping in so quickly and becoming a little bit defensive, especially without understanding the different cultural connotations with the word in the UK. It is much deeper of a thing than I thought, haha! Thank you for taking the time to explain. The pictures look really fun, and I really enjoy your blog and frequent it quite regularly, so again thanks for clearing that up a bit. Sorry if I seemed kind of intense! Haha.

  32. Maggie

    2012-07-31 at 11:25 AM

    Super post, took me right back! I did the marbled scarf thing too, but didn’t get to swirl the ink as was too slow! Pleased with the result nevertheless. I’ve still to blog about Port Eliot, (life got a bit complicated since we got home, so not had time yet) but our photos are up on Flickr if you’re interested. Still trying to edit them, as took so many!

  33. Jiro

    2012-09-03 at 5:48 AM

    amazing photos! would love to go there!

  34. francine s.

    2012-09-09 at 5:30 PM

    where can i find that amazingly embellished shirt? the white button down with the pom poms and fringes? i am obssessed with it.

  35. Valley Optics

    2012-09-26 at 11:30 AM

    Love the flowers and the colours. The Chef’s hat has to be my personal favourite.
    Peter @ Valley Optics

  36. Great, colorful photos. Even just seeing the photos, I can imagine how people at port Elliot are happy. The festival is exceptional indeed. Thank you for sharing these photos.

  37. flights to Umrah

    2013-02-19 at 7:13 AM

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first
    comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.
    I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  38. mic

    2014-09-23 at 11:19 AM

    My wife mentioned to me to look up Port Elliot and I found this page. It’s great. Thanks for putting it togther.

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