Wednesday 10 June 2015

An Internet free weekend at Innocent un-plugged

As a blogger it's pretty impossible to imagine a life without social media. I use many different platforms on a regular basis to keep up with what's going on in the food world, to promote my blog and to interact with others. When I walk around Dublin there’s always something I want to Instagram and during the evening there is always a Facebook comment or a tweet to reply to and sometimes it's hard to disconnect. 

A few weeks ago when I received an invitation to an “off-the-grid” weekend at the Innocent un-plugged festival I didn't even think twice. Innocent organised their first festival ever, and it’s an event with a difference: no wifi, no 3G and no traditional electricity. It sounded like a challenge but I couldn't say no to a digital detox. Mr. FFID and I found ourselves traveling with a group of journalists from Dublin airport to the countryside of Kent in England. I absolutely love camping so I was already pretty excited!

The festival was free to attend although tickets were gone within minutes and the location was kept secret until closer to the festival. It took place in the pinetum and arboretum at St. Clere Estate in Kent. It was very exciting when our mini bus got there, arriving at a field in the middle of nowhere.

From the campsite to the festival attendees crossed the woods filled with pretty bluebells and decorated with fairy lights. When you got to the sign 'Last Instagram post' you knew you were entering the mobile free zone.

The set-up was beautiful and the trees were full of colourful flowers, which made for truly idyllic surroundings. 

I have to admit, it was a bit like torture for the first hour when I couldn't share my pictures on social media but my withdrawal symptoms quickly went away. 

The festival site itself was quite small with one stage for music, a bar, a food vendor, an outdoor spa, the banquet hall, a tent for inspiring talks and a campfire.

We enjoyed some prosecco in the hot tub at the outdoor spa to start our retreat in style and then headed to the Banquet Hall for the Meringue girls afternoon tea. The carrot cake with lime mascarpone icing and a pipette of vodka lemon curd was out of this world and the 'unicorn poos' (the little meringues) were just too cute. Such a quirky girly afternoon tea! 

Unfortunately I didn't have time to go to the Innocent Inspires yurt to listen to blogger Sasha Wilkins form Liberty London Girl give a talk but after our high tea Mr. FFID and I hurried to join a forage walk which was taking place around the grounds of the festival. 

We followed Fergus the forager, an incredibly passionate, energetic, eccentric guy who showed us how to forage wild foods for two and a half hours. He told us how he candied pretty much everything including blackberry stems, how he tapped birch trees, made paper out of a mushroom, made roasted dandelion syrup and lots of other interesting things. We missed Mr. Motivator performing on the main stage but could hear him giving an aerobic class in the background and we saw Morning Gloryville dancing like crazy the next morning anyway.

During the weekend the atmosphere was very laid-back with people socialising the real way, by talking to each other and not ‘scrolling down’ on their phones. 

There was live street art, yoga and massages, a camp fire, lots of lovely things going on as well as plenty of space to chill and of course Innocent drinks flowing. 

The only 'stressful' moment was going to the bathroom, as festival bathrooms aren't the best especially when you use compost! 

Did I miss the Internet? Not at all. It reminded me of life before social media when people didn’t need to share everything straight away with their virtual friends and had proper conversations. I took tons of pictures but I’ve always done so, way before Facebook was invented. Usually when you go to events organised by brands people are always stuck to their phone, busy using a corporate hashtag but that wasn’t the case here at all. Of course I’m not ready to ditch my social media but the whole weekend made me want to look at my phone less often.  I am constantly trying to keep a balance between my regular use of social media and my social interactions in real life and I was glad to see a weekend long digital detox wasn’t too hard after all.

Disclaimer: I was invited to this festival by Innocent drinks free of charge.  I gave no undertaking to write an article and the words above are, as always, my honest opinion.