The weekend of Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th August 2023 witnessed another Eat in the Park festival for Buxton. Could local heroes Jake and George and their team successfully repeat their formula of entertainment and of course food in the verdant embrace of the Pavilions Gardens for a third year in a row? And would it emerge victorious from what is shaping up to be Buxton’s coldest and wettest summer on record?
The first EITP in 2021 was surprisingly well conceived and not long out of the lockdown, most people were just glad to be doing anything. 2022’s iteration was kissed by a spell of rare sunshine and saw the event go from strength to strength. All the organisers had to do this year was repeat the recipe and keep their fingers crossed for half-decent weather. Apart from a brief shower or two on Saturday, the rain was merciful and Sunday afternoon was actually a bit like summer. Given the climate of July and most of August in Buxton this year, it seems that EITP is blessed.
As with 2022, the music emanated from three locations within the festival; a main stage, a dance tent and from within the Buxton Brewery tent. Along with everything else, the event compromises about half of Pav G. There’s some minor disapproval in town, based mainly on the fact that half of a public park is fenced off for a few days and the lawns get trampled, not to mention the noise. The counter-argument is that it gives the adjacent economy a boost, the grass grows back and the music shuts down at 9pm. Let’s face it, it also livens the place up a bit! All the opera and ballet is very well and good but there comes a time when you just want a burger, a pint and some zig-a-zig-ah.
Some of the musical highlights are homegrown with reliable performances from Rose Amongst Thorns and The A’Ups on Saturday and Purple Cloud of Funk, Loxleigh and Cheap Shades on the Sunday. After seeing some of these bands umpteen times, you could be forgiven for thinking the novelty is wearing a little thin but you can depend on these guys to give the crowd the good time they’ve paid for. The Main Stage featured some outstanding tribute bands. The House Jammerz gave us some well known commercial house/dance classics which certainly got the crowd going. On the Sunday Vicky Jackson nailed it with her Pink tribute followed by another big crowd pleaser the Fillers (Killers tribute) who equally bought the house down.
It almost goes without saying that The Bootleg Beatles offered a throughly seasoned headline on Sunday night, a stone’s throw from where the original Beatles provoked hysterics in the 60s. Sixty years on and a little less screaming but their music is still timeless; young kids through to Beatles fans who’d remember Beatlemania sweeping the globe in the 60s were all enjoying themselves! Twist n Shout, Here Comes the Sun and the finale song Hey Jude were highlights amongst a string of Beatles hits and it was a superb feel good, 1.5 hour show from start to finish.
The headliners from Saturday night, a reasonably competent Kings of Leon tribute act made the strange decision to knock out many of the band’s more sedate numbers, leaving the audience milling around and scratching their heads slightly. The throng did come alive for hit Sex on Fire but as fans, this marked the band drifting into more commercial territory. Each to their own. For the team who organise EITP, the line up must be a real quandary. Most people like something they can sing and dance along to. We were left speculating if they should charge more for the tickets and get some well-known originals? After all, The Y Not festival in nearby Ashbourne started off small but their 2023 version was graced by the likes of Kasabian, Paul Weller and Royal Blood so in the future, this might not be so crazy. But we all love familiarity so who knows?
On both days, the Kids Zone was packed with activities throughout the afternoon. The area was tucked away just beyond the daisy lawn so grown-ups could still tap their feet to nearby music but it wasn’t overbearing. Eat in the Park is well and truly a family festival with something for everyone.
Despite feeling a little bit like an unwelcome gate crasher on the peripheries of the park, it was really good to see the dance tent back. Seasoned DJ Brendan Staden did what he does best with some classic house tunes. We didn’t participate much but as ageing old school ravers, but we did bob our heads to the banging beats during our gazillion trips to the portaloos. At one point, we gazed across the river Wye to see a Jungle set that was particularly lively, with a crowd bouncing around within its shadowy confines. The folks of Broad Walk and Burlington Road must love that Jungle.
It’s not all about the tunes, of course. As usual, there was a bewildering array of food and drink vendors, filling the air with tantalising aromas from every corner of the globe. We decided to try as much grub as we could eat. Urban Spice, Thai Food Van, Chef Stef and Fat Pig BBQ were all sampled and delivered reliable tasty fodder giving us necessary fuel to enjoy the full Weekend Pass. It would be have been good to find some gluten free pizza but the latter vendors all had good veggie and GF options.
The Buxton Brewery Bars were great as usual but the absence of the cocktail bar from last year was missed. Bizarrely, a cocktail vendor had decided to set up outside the festival at the bottom of The Slopes and it would have been nice to see that inside the event.
Both days were a sell-out seeing 5,000 people each day at EITP ’23. As with previous years there were also plenty of visible event staff around the site, many continually keeping it clean and tidy and on hand with anything guests needed. Accessibility is a real winner at EITP too; for example those who are less mobile are well catered for. And the topography of Joseph Paxton’s design of the Pav G really lends itself to hosting a micro-festival like this.
EITP once again managed to be greater than the sum of its parts. Jake and George and their team will undoubtedly be analysing this year’s proceedings themselves (after a well-earned rest) and listen to the feedback but they should be given medals for making Buxton a little less …. Buxton! Hopefully, there will be much more eating in the park to come and the event will grow and evolve and other locations, like Chesterfield can enjoy the fun as much we have again this summer. We do wonder what would happen if the heavens opened up but we’ve been lucky to dodge that for two years now. The line-up for Eat in the Park 2024 in Buxton and Chesterfield has already been announced, we can’t wait…
Can YOU see yourself?
Thank you to everyone who sent in and shared their pictures of EITP with us, here’s a gallery of the best ones, tag yourself in our Facebook post if you can spot your face!