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Standon Calling is one of the best boutique festivals in the country. I wrote this preview for Virtual Festivals in 2010.

Murder. What a grizzly end to life. This year, the theme at Standon Calling is Murder on the Standon Express, so we’ve sent our own detective, Laura Foster, to examine the clues and find out who is going to kill it and who will die onstage…

Call the police. For all that is banal about life has been killed off by one of the best boutique festivals in the UK, and the remains are lying at the gates surrounded by a chalk outline.
Starting life as a birthday barbeque in 2001 for 25 people, Standon Calling has gone from strength to strength over the years, culminating in a 3,000 strong gathering of devotees dressed as astronauts and aliens descending upon Hertfordshire in 2009.

This year, Standon is set to take on a crimson hue, as attendees are encouraged to dress up to match the murderous theme.

If any festival should be looked into for which artists will make the ‘Ones to Watch’ lists in 2011, it’s Standon. The line-up is always diverse, and organisers’ taste impeccable.

There’s a lot to get very excited about this year, starting with headliners Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club and French electro audiovisual DJ Etienne De Crecy rocking out in his cube. Apparently, according to our shady sources, Standon have had to build a new main stage to house the enormous structure.

Norwegian funsters Casiokids are returning for a second year in a row to get the crowd bouncing around again, while math rockers Three Trapped Tigers, heavy-going post-industrialists Factory Floor, and Canadian indie trio Plants and Animals are our top tips for leftfield pop pickers looking for fresh blood.

Given the interesting mix of artists on offer here, it’s surprising to see underwhelming snore-inducers The Magic Numbers included in an otherwise forward-thinking and eclectic line-up. Could it be a gruesome set-up?

Standon isn’t just about the music, however. There’s more. And by God, it’s going to be gory this year. The Book Club Boutique will be installing themselves in a Speakeasy for a grizzly murder-themed weekend of ‘books, booze and boogie woogie’.

Burlesque life drawing (or should that be death drawing?) sessions and theatrical performances are scheduled, while The Great Brain Robbery will also be hosting fabulous performances into the wee hours.

And if it all gets a bit too much, you can go for a dip in the wonderful heated outdoor swimming pool. Just keep an eye out for any dead bodies floating by.

To see the article in full on Virtual Festivals, click here