Shambala

After years of hearing from lots of people I love and respect that Shambala is the ‘perfect festival’ we spent this August bank holiday having our own Adventures in Utopia.

Taking the shuttle bus down to the site was encouraging as it seemed to be full of interesting lovely people, which is always a good sign. As we approached I got my first burst of full on excitement. Although I had been vaguely looking forward to this, I hadn’t gotten properly excited until we were actually walking in. You can really see the efforts that the organisers have put in just walking up, it really feels like a lot of love, thought and attention have gone into it.

First impressions were of glorious sunshine, people meandering about all looking genuinely pleased to see everyone and anyone and lots of glitter and dressing up. You walk through pools of live music, bass and engaging conversations. It feels like as soon as you get on site everyone’s barriers just drop and we can all revert back to being the friendly lovely creatures we all should be.

I managed to kill my phone battery before we arrived (HOW??) so used a disposable camera. My logic being that if/when I lost it it wouldn’t be as painful or expensive as losing my DSLR.

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On our first night we poked our heads in to the Wandering Word tent and found John Fairhurst playing – bloody brilliant as per.

The next day was glorious and we really explored the site. We found a tent filled with board games and couches, so Matt of course sat down to play chess. For 3 hours. There is a real nice family feel to the festival with lots of stuff for kids to do. I think the fact that there are so many kids and families means people are on better behavior. Nothing like a child’s youthful glow to make you pause before racking up a line.

We also stumbled across the People’s Front Room and saw a wicked sick band called Toyface – Completely captivating and strangely comforting for content that at points managed to upset me. So yeah, that was delightfully confusing.

Eska also really impressed and we grabbed an EP. Clever and brilliantly put together, these guys were amazing.

Night time is always a little more blurry but at some point we definitely ended up at the top of a tree in the woods with Walk. We met a lovely girl who looked like she had collapsed on the floor, it turned out she was just having a very intense trip. We stayed with her and found her friends. Having someone insist that they can see your love dancing between your eyes is always enjoyable to be near, even if they do think that we’re currently in Kyoto. Karma decided to full on reward us and we ended up getting free whiskies at the bar, seeing some amazing bands we wouldn’t have, bumping into a friend from Matt’s studio who was DJing and generally having an incredible night.

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Sunday was a bit of a struggle, a highlight definitely included being in the Social Club with some friends listening to Captain Hotknives. Classic one liners and getting group of children screaming ‘I hate babies!’ – hilarious and warming. The Social Club also were responsible for the cutest thing I saw over the weekend which was a line of kids learning to beat box.  We then rounded the whole thing off with some good old Honeyfeet. I have already expressed my love for them here so will keep my gushing to a minimum but it was a special way to end the whole thing.

Everyone was on a really similar wavelength and I felt so free and accepted there. To the point where sometimes I’m on the tube now in London genuinely sad that life cannot be Shambala everyday. What I took from it though is that it is possible to create and build Utopia ourselves, everyday. Especially when we collectivize and treat each other with love and kindness. Usually after a festival I’m completely wiped out but after I got home I actually felt invigorated and full of positivity. I don’t know about ‘perfect’ festival, but better would be difficult.

Party in the Park – New Cross

Party in the Park

This year I was involved with the arranging of the local Party in the Park festival in New Cross’ Fordham Park. The experience was very enjoyable and I met lots of interesting people. I also learnt a lot as it was the first time I was involved at the planning stage of a festival of that size. One of the things I particularly liked about it was meeting so many people from local businesses. When I was in Manchester my job was so demanding I never really got to get outside of that particular bubble. Although New Cross does have a somewhat deserved bad reputation there is a real sense of community, of people being proud of where they are from and looking to help each other out and support each other.

The meetings were held at New Cross Learning, which if you are based in New Cross I do recommend you check out. They are a volunteer run library and provide all sorts of useful resources for local people. They also had very nice biscuits.

After a lot of emails, spreadsheets, cups of tea, stressing out, lists and discussions it somehow got to a few days before the event and set up began.

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I was working on the day of the festival but managed to get out early and have a wander round.  The bands were great, I really enjoyed Rhiannon and the Nightmare’s performance. There was a real mix of people as you can see from the pictures.

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The event has its origins in the Deptford Free Music Festival, which started in 1989 and grew into a massive open air party. A lot of the people who help arrange its modern incarnation have memories of this and so it was quite nostalgic. With south-east London being an absolute hotbed of musical activity, it makes sense to have a free festival that is celebrating the local music scene.

There was a deliberate effort to make this event more family friendly and there were traditional games, storytelling and face painting.

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The Bird’s Nest made their presence known with their own stage, as well as cooking up some of their delicious burgers.

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Cally Fest 2014

Cally Fest

I was invited here by Mangoseed, and as they are an absolute pleasure to see live made my way down despite a raging hangover. I don’t see London as a city. I see it as a massive conglomerate of villages joined together by the coloured lines of the underground. Until you’ve visited a place it has no meaning to you, it is just a word on a map. Caledonian Road will now take me back to smoky BBQ chicken clouds, vibrant music and summertime.

Cally Fest is a massive street party down Caledonian Road. There is music, art, performances and so much food. They have managed to create an inviting environment and it is obvious from how respectful and friendly everyone is that this is a massive community effort. It’s well worth it. Being there will be one of the things that most stands out to me from summer 2014.

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We checked out a few bands while we were here, one that particularly stood out for me was Lazytalk. Perfect thing for a summer evening, warm music with a ska-punk base. Their original songs are really well written and seem made for the dance floor. This feeling was further compounded by the fact that I kept getting tunes of theirs in my head weeks after. Carefully crafted for you to have a good time to.

This one especially –

The energy of the whole street party was really positive. Although there were people daytime drinking the presence of children meant that everyone was on their best behaviour. For me, the only break in atmosphere came when local councillors came to speak. This was after Lazytalk and before Mangoseed. My feelings towards my previous local councillors are quite negative, having been involved in a live music venue they tried to shut down repeatedly and having bad experiences dealing with various different departments. I have an instinctive distrust towards people in positions like this. When they came on stage, I felt it was to try and bask in some of the success of the event and make it about them. A lot of people switched off and left the area where they were speaking. I actually felt sorry for them to have such a response. Although I thought it would have been better to be more modest about their involvement, they obviously were some way responsible for the fact that the event went ahead. They were doing something positive and it was a good day for the local community.

The food was amazing, lots of different stalls and I tried as much as I could. I was heartbroken when I made it round to get some pulled pork as I was leaving and they had ran out. I made up for the disappointment by getting my face painted by the lovely girls at Face-My-Paint. It was a two person job as I was giving odd concepts I wanted expressed with the paint without giving any helpful advice (please make me look like my leggings but with more summer and also a unicorn and glittery).  You can tell that by this stage my hangover was being eased and transformed with cider…

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Then we went to see Mangoseed. After the local councillors had cleared out most of the crowd (sorry but it’s true) they had a bit of a challenge on their hands with getting everyone back into  a dancing mood. Fortunately they nailed it. Mangoseed’s music is difficult to define with heavy rock-dub-funk influences, it melts together to create something that is both exploratory and fearless.  Lyrically it is switched on both politically and emotionally, exploring different concepts in a way that is insightful and accessible. More than that, it makes you want to move with it and pulls you in. Their music blended well with an event like Cally Fest, a celebration of community and diversity.

Check out Brix-Tone –

Thanks to everyone involved with Cally Fest for putting the whole day on (local council and all 😉 ) you created something awesome.