The Porthcawl Elvis Festival
One thing you need to know about me is that I love fads. I also love music and fancy dress. So in 2015, when I was invited to my friend’s hen party one balmy September Saturday, I had no idea that Elvis and Priscilla Presley would become my latest obsession. As well as reading up on them both, and watching Priscilla in panto in Milton Keynes, my interest in all things Presley has blossomed, and this year I took it to a whole new level by booking a static caravan in Trecco Bay. I was determined to undergo the full experience.
Porthcawl seems to have a magical atmosphere all of its own. I was stuck in a major traffic jam on the M4 and the weather was absolutely rotten. However, the moment I turned the corner where the Porthcawl slip road was in sight, the sunlight magically filtered through the clouds. How symbolic.
My friends were due to arrive some time later, so I nervously checked in alone, surrounded by 1950s rockettes and an impossible array of gold lurex capes. I was so pleased when they finally arrived that I almost did a lap around the caravan!
After a lovely tea, we ventured out into the Mecca that is Trecco Bay. Although the programme is filled with Elvis ETAs (Elvis Tribute Acts) doing their residencies, we managed to start our tour in the sports bar, where the only concession was an Elvis cut-out. We decided to jump into a taxi to the ‘Hi Tide.’
Well, we only bagged the grumpiest taxi driver in the world. He told us that we’d have to pay to get into the ‘Hi Tide’ and also tore a strip off some poor woman who wasn’t sure of her location. And to top it all, he dropped us off in town by the only venue that had a red carpet on the porch, a queue, and an entry fee. No chance! The three of us grumbled our way over to the Porthcawl Hotel, bemoaning the hapless taxi driver.
Luckily for said driver, we stumbled across a rather fab ETA from Ireland named Tom Gilson. Now let’s just say I have seen some excellent ETAs. Ben Portsmouth is Britain’s first official ETA and although he is now too expensive for Porthcawl, he started there a few years ago. I have also seen some dreadful ETAs, who cannot even keep time. However, Tom was tuneful, had a dazzling 1950s jacket, and couldn’t have been more genial. In the end, discovering he was doing a residency in the Porthcawl Hotel, which is my favourite venue, we decided to adopt him for the weekend. It kept me occupied and I forgave the rogue taxi driver.
In fact, when we did make it to the ‘Hi Tide,’ my friend Sonia managed to get served by the skin of her teeth (she is an expert in this area) as the head doorman made a slashing gesture to the bar staff. I should explain that this simply meant ‘stop tap’ and not ‘massacre the punters.’ The three of us decided to call it a night and walk back to Trecco along the simple path, which is only a few metres, but seemed a hike, especially as I was afraid we would be locked out, or turn into pumpkins, if we were too late. I am pleased to report that we made it through the gate at 11.56 (phew!) although there was an employee manning the gates of doom.
The next morning was the official all-day session. Mike drove into Bridgend to attempt to buy a G.I. Outfit but was unsuccessful, so I would advise that you buy your costume well in advance. Girls fare easier as there’s a lovely little market alongside the path to the ‘Hi Tide’ where you can buy any sort of Elvis merchandise from bags to skirts to hoodies. You can also buy a heavy jewelled belt, but seriously don’t expect to pay less than a hundred pounds. I don’t see what’s wrong with felt and a glue gun myself, but apparently people will pay for authenticity.
Anyway, the sun was now out in full splendour. After forcing back a strawberry-garnished prosecco, we were off to welcome the regulars from Sonia’s pub, who were visiting on a day trip.
After catching the amazing £2 shuttle that goes between Trecco, town and ‘Hi Tide,’ we bagged some seats in the lovely garden area and awaited the regulars whilst watching the variety of ETAs. We were very impressed by one, Alfie Pearson, who was just 13 years old. Throughout the day, some of Elvis’ hits will be heard many, many times, so it’s lovely to hear some of the lesser-known hits.
After all the regs had been safely popped back on the coach to Llanelli, it was time to catch up with Tom’s second set. Tonight he was dressed as a G.I, and there was much more space to dance. It was a great night that was over far too soon.
By Sunday, Mike and Sonia were all ‘Elvis-ed out’, but I was still raring to go and welcomed my friend Ruth and her daughter Mel to complete the third and final leg. Thanks to the shuttle, we arrived in good time for Tom’s third set (pink and black outfit this time). As he went off to get changed for an unexpected extra set. The act following him chose to sing the beautiful ‘Pocketful of rainbows’ so that a couple were able to show off their Ceroc jive moves. It was a perfect moment that has stayed with me ever since.
There’s so much more I’d love to tell you but I’d be here all night. The best advice I can give you is just to go. Experience the Elvis weekend for yourself because even if you aren’t a fan there’s a myriad of things to do. I promise you’ll be ‘all shook up’!
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