Hazy, lazy days of summer ...

JONATHAN REDHEAD As thousands of festival-goers basked in the sun to the sounds of great music it was not difficult to imagine being in a different time and place. Though it was not quite the summer of free love, there was a certain feel to the north Suffolk air as the region celebrated a second major festival in successive weekends.

JONATHAN REDHEAD

As thousands of festival-goers basked in the sun to the sounds of great music it was not difficult to imagine being in a different time and place.

Though it was not quite the summer of love, there was a certain feel to the north Suffolk air as the region celebrated a second major festival in successive weekends.

With holistic areas, craft stalls, a multitude of ethnic food and clothes stalls, various parts of Eastern Haze 2006 felt like the halcyon festival days of Woodstock.

Topped off with bands including Hawkwind performing late on Saturday night, the idyllic surroundings of the Somerleyton Estate in north Suffolk were transformed into a mass of camper vans, tents, dancers and revellers.

People danced in the open fields and drank and sang in the sun, which shone brightly throughout the weekend.

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It was a million miles away from the usual feel of Somerleyton village as reggae, rock, hip-hop and acoustics blasted out from a field.

Great swathes of people descended on the village for the three-day event, which kicked off on Friday morning.

And the last revellers should be dragging their tired bodies away from the site this morning to allow the massive clean-up operation to begin.

Organisers have hailed the festival a success, especially as the site was only found three months beforehand, while last minute licensing problems were only just overcome.

The festival only went ahead when the Hon Hugh Crossley, son of Lord Somerleyton, who runs the Somerleyton Estate, stepped in to offer it up as a venue.

He had tried in previous years to get the Darkness to return to the area to play a homecoming gig, but so far this is the biggest show to date on the estate.

But Seb Fosdal, a director of Hazy Promotions, who are behind Eastern Haze, said the festival would return next year.

"It's a bit close to call yet on how successful it's been at the moment," Mr Fosdal said last night. "Of course we could have enjoyed a few more people here, but everybody seems happy. It was designed to suit everyone. But next year we'll come back bigger and better."

As well as Hawkwind, other highlights on the three music stages included Senser, Dreadzone and Blast from Moscow.

The Circus Ricardo was busy all weekend with families watching, and learning, various circus tricks, while food stalls of every description did good trade.

The holistic areas, which included a range of alternative and complementary therapies, were also a success.

Hair braiding, dragon making, willow sculpting and street theatre for children was also a highlight, while the incredible inflatable assault courses proved popular.

Police officers on site reported little trouble from revellers during the course of the weekend.

The success of the festival helped put north Suffolk on the map once again, following the Latitude Festival held at Henham last weekend.

Mr Fosdal said his own personal highlights from Eastern Haze included a performance from the headline band.

"Hawkwind were absolutely superb from start to finish," he said.

And although he said he wasn't convinced the festival was too similar to Woodstock, he felt there was definite resemblances to another great British festival.

"I think Eastern Haze has got a bit of Glastonbury to it," he said. "It's on the same ley line as Glastonbury and ley lines are something I've been looking at during the weekend.

"But all in all it's been really good this weekend and we'll be back next year for more."

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