Scottish Swimmer

Review: BAWSfest

Annual swimming and drinking event set to rival iconic Glastonbury festival 

Friday May 4 – Sunday May 6 


Somerset has Glastonbury, Edinburgh has the Beltane and now the picturesque village of Kinlochard has BAWSfest, a new three-day music, swimming and heavy drinking event in the hills by Aberfoyle.

Headline acts on the first night included Tina Turner, Foo Fighters and the Rubber Bandits, warming up the eager crowds for Saturday’s main stage, dominated by Alvin Stardust whose edgy and from-the-heart rendition of My Coo Ca Choo echoed through the Aberfoyle woods for several hours as festival-goers sang it back to the late rock singer with great fervour and generous amounts of gusto.

Local legend Charlie the Dug hosted the inaugural festival, but special credit should be given to husband and wife team Flob, the brewing tour de force who organised the bar. Their Helles pilsner, brewed in collaboration with the acclaimed Stewart Brewing, was a hit among the revellers, rivalling even the sherry heavy beast put on by the festival organisers, George and Jen. It was, said Steve Stewart, owner and head brewer of the Edinburgh craft brewery, the second best beer to have ever come from his pioneering craft beer kitchen in Edinburgh’s south side.

With the light fading almost as quick as the collective sobriety, easy banter and more Rubber Bandits reverberated around the mature oak, birch and rhododendron forest. Amid the lively chirruping of thrush, tit and finch, and heart-warming reek of campfires, it was hard to think of a more intoxicating festival, or one that so perfectly reflected the revelrous nature of the revellers.

And while the beer-drinking and shite-talking were highlights of the three-day festival, it was without doubt the swimming that proved the talking point for many, with the traditional Mexican stand-off set to become an annual humming and hawwing hallmark of the May holiday festival. Dives by The Guy proved immemorable, with images of 5.8-point scorched-into-your-brain jump into the dark waters of Loch Ard quickly going viral.

With most attendees being politely encouraged to leave their hangovers in the water by the jetty, only a small amount of vomit-soaked phlegm appeared on the pier to afford that authentic Scottish morning-after ambiance. Few if anyone noticed or cared. It was just that kind of gig.

Will folk return for BAWSfest 2? Undoubtedly. In fact, it was hard to imagine anyone actually being in a fit state to leave the first one.

(Disclaimer: I was a guest of BAWSfest at a special press preview on May 4th).

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