There’s more to Bluedot than music. Mark Roland explores the lesser-travelled nooks of the space telescope’s weirder environs

Rain. *Tchoh*. It tipped it down since arriving last night, with a brief dry window when Hannah Peel and Paraorchestra performed. Emerging from the “Vintent” (Vintage Tent camping experience, with beds, duvets, rugs: the works) Friday’s sodden demeanour isn’t the most enticing I’ve encountered. But I am on a mission to explore the other side of Bluedot, away from the main stages. And a mission, as Bluedot astronaut co-headliner Tim Peake almost certainly didn’t say, is a mission.

And so the first destination is the massage tent. Someone’s got to sacrifice themselves in the name of research, after all. Through a wooded area on a reassuringly paved path, under the enormous globe is the yoga/massage/gong bath dingly dell. It’s a small enclave of aromatic bell tents in which people are having their already fatigued muscles manipulated. My masseuse, Jo from Cardiff, believes in pain-free massage. I am glad to hear this, as I wasn’t previously aware of pain-causing massage, but it’s a thing, apparently. Especially in sports massage. We chat about Paul McCartney (neither of us will tolerate a bad word about him) and the healing properties of sound. As she squishes my muscles into springy feel-good health, the distant sound of gongs washes over us and it stops raining.

Dyson’s Audio Technica test machine

The next daring escapade involves a sinister looking circular black building lurking in the main arena. We are welcomed in by smiling Dyson employees who show us the engineering display, where an Audio Technica turntable has been repurposed to test the plates on hair straighteners. The cartridge has been removed. You can never be too careful about these things. The place then opens up into a fully functional hair-teasing salon, with ring light mirrors bathing everything in surreal Insta-ready lighting and the smell of warm hair product and the roar of multiple hairdryers. I rest on the nice Dyson sofa while my daughters do their hair with a hair-raisingly expensive curling gizmo. I close my eyes and the place starts to rumble with the bass line of ‘The Only One I Know’, being cranked out by Tim Burgess on the Lovell Stage which reminds me that we’re at a music festival, not a fancy salon. I head over to catch the rest of his set, which is excellent. Tim Burgess doesn’t appear to use Dyson products.

Hannah Peel and Chris Hawkins

In another cluster of tents in the shadow of the fearsome Lovell Telescope is the Note Stage, where Hannah Peel is in conversation with chipper be-shorted  BBC Radio 6 Music presenter Chris Hawkins. Hannah loves Bluedot, she says. She didn’t think for a second the ‘The Unfolding’ would work in a festival context, but it did. People listened, and when they cranked out the beats, they danced. It’s true. It was a magical experience and clearly has been something of a milestone for Hannah Peel. “I headlined a festival!” she laughs, delighted. I make a note to try to have a chat with her later if I can find her. Later we pass each other as I enter the VIP area and she’s leaving. Ah well.

Friday ends in bubble-mania. The stall selling bubble making devices of every stripe is having a moment. The tiny place is heaving with demented six year olds who are cranked on bubble frenzy, drum ’n’ bass, fizzy pop and being awake way after their bedtimes. I suspect Bubbles Inc (I think that’s the name of the place) has never sold this quantity of bubble stuff in such a short amount of time. The staff look exhausted but thrilled. Bubbles float across every field and every venue and every food place. It’s a bubble fest. 

Tickets for Bluedot 2023 are on sale now at

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