All you need to know about a summer festival at sea that beats Glastonbury

My first article of 2019 was published in Telegraph Travel this weekend, focussing on a new indie-music festival at sea [above]. Here’s the full text.

We’ve seen classic rock at sea and turned the amps to 11 for some heavy metal sur mer — think Spinal Tapmeets Carry on Cruising.

But the latest music-cruise alternative to Glastonbury is one for the post-Britpop indie fans.

Stuart Murdoch, lead singer and songwriter with Scottish indie stalwarts Belle and Sebastian, is setting sail next summer with the Boaty Weekender, a four-day cruise around the Mediterranean in collaboration with theme-cruise specialists, Sixthman.

“We thought we had missed the boat — excuse the pun — as we failed years ago to organise a tour of the UK by boat. But we always liked the idea of setting up the equipment then retiring to our cabins,” he says.

“Having a captive audience puts a nice pressure on the band to host the event.”

Summer sailing

The curated festival at sea, running August 8-12, leaves Barcelona with two day sat sea before a port day in Cagliari, Sardinia.

The passengers will have the run of the 11 bars, 15 dining experiences, casino and spa aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl.

“I’ve never taken my family on a cruise but I’m always happier traveling by sea — it’s in the blood,” says Murdoch, whose father was the chief engineer on the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries off the west coast of Scotland.

“Some of my earliest childhood memories were at sea, taking livestock around the Hedrides. I still love that sense of being far away, even if I’m just one hour from Glasgow.”

The band will headline each day with an eclectic line-up of supporting bands across five stages, including Mogwai, a reunited Camera Obscura and Django Django amongst others.

“We’ll be playing a sail-away gig to some 2,500 people on deck as we leave Barcelona,” says Murdoch, whose lyrics are known for their literary references and shades of rainy-day-Glasgow melancholy.

“It’s like organising a huge party for a bunch of friends, so I guess we should steer away from some of our more introspective back catalogue,” he adds.

“We’ll keep it upbeat for that party vibe.”

Shore excursions

It’s also a family affair with father-of-two Murdoch planning to replace the deck quoits with meditation workshops, a daily film matinee screening the band’s favorite films and a host of family-friendly activities.

Guests booking the first 350 staterooms will be invited to an intimate performance of Belle and Sebastian’s fourth album, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant, never before performed in its entirety.

“We’re building a University Challenge-style set for quiz teams, plus there’s going to be indie karaoke. I don’t normally partake but I got up to sing at my kid’s school recently,” he smiles.

Maneater by Hall and Oates is now my tongue-in-cheek, go-to karaoke number.”

Belle and Sebastian formed in Glasgow in 1996 and the Boaty Weekender marks the 20-year anniversary of the Bowlie Weekender festival the band previously curated at the Pontin’s holiday camp in Camber Sands.

If successful, more Nineties indie kids could be combining nostalgia for their favourite bands with a family holidays at sea on further voyages.

Pre-sale tickets are now available with prices from £979pp, based on two sharing, in an interior cabin, including meals and activities.

And if the Med turns unusually choppy next summer? Murdoch is unfazed.

“The intimate play through of our fourth LP requires an orchestra, so whatever happens,” he says, “the string section will keep playing as the plaster crumbles around us.”

The Boaty Weekender

 

 

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