The time has come, the walrus said, to speak of many things, of mermaids, Pirates, lost boys, musicians and Mr Lee. Oh yes ladies and gentleman, it was the difficult 3rd album of my LeeFest experiences, and it was set in Neverland.
So you may have come across Leefest on the Google android adverts in the last year, of the boy whose parents went away for the weekend, and explicitly said “No house parties, Lee” and like any good teenager he listened, instead throwing a festival in his back garden. Roll on a decade and LeeFest was throwing its first festival at a brand new site near Royal Tunbridge Wells, following a sabbatical/fallow year to find an upgraded site that could supply enough water for the ever increasing number of guests.
Anxious of this leap in growth, my scepticism of the LeeFest getting too big for its boots and destroying its spirit in the pursuit of commercialisation was… Totally unfounded!
The cool, back garden vibes had been infused with the ethereal feels of Neverland, a theme enabled by a partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital, and saw the expansion from 3 main stages into 3 unique kingdoms; the Mermaid Lagoon, home to the Wondersands stage, part beach, part dance floor, permanently staffed by realise Merpeople; The Neverwoods, home of the lost boys, with their Bangerand stage and tent stage where which the main headliners would perform; and Skull Ridge, home to the lost, the desolate and the Pirates, with its rave pit, low-ceiled tent and cabaret; and hidden in the forest was the Wendy House providing acoustic relief and a bed.
Unusually, and I can say this now I’m a near pro festivaler, LeeFest began on a Thursday, running to midday Sunday, and despite setting off at 11am, the beer and food run meant we arrived much nearer 1pm. Thankfully, the campsite wasn’t too full, and after once again having every inch of my bags search (is there just something about me?) we set up shop, Brett bringing the marquee we’d purchased 2 years ago along with him. Pirate bunting up, fairy lights fitted and air beds pumped up (we manage to salvage one off the back of Secret Garden Party) it was time to explore the site in search of the shop for bacon and breakfast supplies.
After spending too long asking the condom people questions, glow in the dark skins pocketed, we entered the arena for the first time, the chances of finding this elusive shop diminishing…
And this feeling turned out to be right – no shop this year – I feared Brett would starve…
All was not lost as we managed to pick up dandy LeeFest stash! This year they tees were screen printed on site, meaning… YOU COULD CHOOSE YOUR OWN PRINTS! A very cool idea, perfectly fitting the ‘Choose your tribe’ theme of the festival.
Though only the first night, the musical entrees did not disappoint. With music setting off from 7pm, we got back into the arena in time to catch the boys of Everything Everything.
Despite having spent much of the last 2 years in Japan, I actually knew some of their songs! #winning
New to the ‘arena’ this year was the ability to bring in your own alcohol, as long as it was in a plastic container.
The policy of not bringing your own drinks into the area never seemed out of kilter, given my experiences of Reading and Leeds, but would have seemed out of whack after the 4 previous festivals this year having had an open drinks policy. It certainly feels less like you’re being exploited as a captive audience with this simple policy change, and I’m happy to see it’s the more prevalent policy at festivals.
Up next was the sultry, dulcet tones of Ghostpoet.
During the more trance songs, the performance was among indistinguishable from Faithless, and a mix of atmosphere, tunes and rum had me pulled deep into a timeless realm.
With a little bit of luck, we can make it through the night.
Words that could only mean MC Neat and DJ Luck were performing down in the Wondersands, the beach area, enclosed by 3 tier hay bales, was packed. Leaving us no choice but to scale the bales and danced upon the top – a nerve wrecking endeavour in which I saw and slowed down the descent of one drunken lady who, confidently-faced, stepped off backwards, much in the vain of a superhero dropping onto a hidden hovering platform, and toppled down to the floor. She too had a little bit of luck as she dusted herself off and climbed back up to the top of the hay stack.
After easing into Friday morning, bacon and egg sandwiches steadying the tums for another day of partying, we caught up with some friends and heading down to the Wendy House stage.
Up unusually early, with no working responsibilities, I almost felt at a loss as to what to do! There was frisbee to be played, food to be eaten, all as part of preparation for the…
Ah yes, some traditions never change! Wonder down to the Wondersands on the first day of LeeFest and you bear witness to GLITTER WRESTLING
Naturally we all got involved, Amanda defeating a Zebra, me defeating Amanda, then Brett, until my glory was stolen by ‘’Dad’ – who had it all to play for in front of his family, and then took on and defeated all his daughters’ boyfriends. Dad was a LAD.
Soaked through and covered in glitter, the hour was upon us to return to the tent, and dress up for the night!
Running back into the area, I noticed the group fall behind me, then start to call me back – I had only run past Lee of bloody LeeFest! What a chump I was!
Naturally we told him all about Comp-A-Tent, and with positive sounds made, we were off! What a night, the boys of Circa Waves were on fire, Amanda glittering up the crowd with bio-degradable glitter and face paints.
The evening only preceded to get better as we stumbled across The Apothecary Cabaret, and enjoyed the seductive dancing of these ladies, and the downright crazy performance from ‘The Daddy’. Followed by Amanda glittering up their nipples – that girl is an opportunity finder!
So although it was now Saturday, it was actually the last day of the festival! Crazy!
Today we were going all out Mer-people – no fishnet tight was save from our scaly creation, and after a mere 2-3 hours we were done, tridents at the ready! The Poseidon was looking hot!
The highlight of the day came in the annual tradition of the LeeFest paintfight, wherein the Wondersands transforms from a golden yellow to blood red!
Impromptu volleyball divided the two sides, before handfulls of paint could even be grabbed. On either side stood the warriors, the tension palatable, the air clear but full of rage. The MC built the atmosphere to dizy heights, when he shouted,
“Are you ready?!”
The crowd could contain itself no longer, and before the MC or anyone knew what had happened, the first fist full of paint was released, and like a 1000 loaded mounetraps, one the first assault was sprung, utter carnage ensued, the air thick with multi coloured clay paints, the amateur n00bs foolishly not holding their breath until the air cleared, and a beach party ensued.
Oh what a fool I am! In all the excitement, who did I forget was playing?
WE ARE SCIENTISTS!
This I discovered as we went on the hunt for food and a familar melody drifted over the air.
I sprinted, obvious, and my effort was much rewarded when Keith, the lead singer came out into the audience, looked me straight in the eye with his baby blues, and we sung together!
Oh, to have died then would have been to die happy for this fan boy! Perhaps being topless, covered in paint and carrying a trident helped draw his attention?
Next up was Shura! We’d missed her at Secret Garden Party, having been working on the bar at the time, so it was great to hear her on the syth, haunting vocals cutting out through the encroaching evening.
AND FREE DRINKS! A very nice lady gave me free drinks – I think she liked my glittered nipples! Drinks consumed, it was time for Lianne La Havas – I think she spotted me!
Finally it was time for LeeFest’s worse kept secret – Frank Carter & the Rattle Snakes playing in a tiny tent over in Skull Ridge.
Suddenly I was 15 again, in a dark and grimey gig venue like Astoria, the crowd packed in tight, an unspoken, primal agreement between those witnessing the event. Not content with mosh pits and crowd surfing, at the end of the set Frank Carter called up the audience for a stage occupation, much to the worried glances of the bouncers!
There was nothing left to than check out the Goldmine, a pit of techno and EDM to the early hours, that encorporated a fire show into its performance, and as the music around the site died, only Tinkerbelle’s Taphouse was left to hold up the party until 4am.
LeeFest has consistently been my favourite festival for the past 4 years. It’s size means you can make new friends and see them across the weekend, the bands are good, but nothing you’d been yourself up from missing, there’s dress up, and it has far more of a community and family vibe than most festivals, with next to no loutish behaviour.
Just a fun party vibe, than all and anyone can enjoy.
LeeFest: The Neverland 2017 is 10/11/12 August, at John Darlings Farm, Edenbridge, Kent, an hour south of London.
One week after a glorious, yet muddy Glastonbury, we were off to Brainchild festival. “Now Molkie,” I hear you say, ” what the flaming bananas is a Brainchild?”
Well old friend, I’m glad you asked.
Great artists sometime call their works their child, and where are great ideas conceived? The brain! It’s an independent festival that brings in creatives to create engaging works and installations.
Now in its 4th year, the festival is situated in the heart of Kent and has decided to take itself more seriously, inviting our Eco-Collective, PPL PWR to provide it’s very own Brainchild and engage the public with green and sustainable issues!
Getting on Site
Arriving Wednesday night, after a thoroughly enjoyable ride down in the van, we quickly dumped down our stuff ready to hit Thursday hard.
By Thursday lunch time it was feeling less PPL PWR and more PRSN PWR as I shifted all our crap from one side of the field to the other…
With UCell’s hydrogen fuel cell all set up, the marquee decorated, and Ysa’s beautiful hand made signs on display, we began the process of erecting the MEGA COMP-A-TENT!!!
The 3 metre tall structure was a bit of an uncertainty for us. We’d spent the previous two days calculating and designing the bracing structure, built from Comp-A-Tent First Principles, but were conflicted on how many entrances to have, 3 or 5? To cover all the sides? How enclosed vs open to be? How to balance the forces of we were to have multiple entrances?
By late evening, a touch after sunset, the PPL PWR Green Stage was pitched! Ready for the start of the festival…
A photo posted by Comp-A-Tent (@comp_a_tent) on
Or so I thought…
Waking up on the Friday morning, I see the a mass of strings undone, failing in the wind! A worried Amanda rushing to rethread the structure before punters arrived, having decided it could be more symmetrical and thus impress all the architects at the festival – there were a surprising number!
A photo posted by PPL PWR (@ppl_pwr) on
Brainchild is situated on one large field, on site with Bentley wildfowl and motor museum, well into the Kent countryside, way south of London. In addition to the field, there were installations along a wooded path that lead into a clearing in the woods with the Shak stage – a great place to spend the early hours, with its trippy lights projected onto the canopy above. Here too was the awesome Torus installation, a vocal driven light and sound spectacular.
One half of the field was devoted to camping, along the backside of which ran a small passenger train, whilst the other side offered installations, stages and food; delicious, sweet food.
Installations included a cinema, Timmy’s hula-hooping space, a maze, some sofas, giant box of cereals and a rain cloud – of what I remember, and the wood-oven pizzas were to kill for – or at least fight over.
The campsite was open, meaning you could carry your booze around the site, and the bar offered cashback services for those needing to splash out on some delicious foods.
Having your own area at a festival, especially one with bean bags, pretty much guarantees you see nothing of the festival! However, it makes a great attraction for pulling people in and meeting new people. Three people manning the area was stretching us a bit, especially if one or two of you had to be off site for an extended period, even more so trying to talk to people, whilst manning the phone charging operation!
Like for a Like Charge
PPL LOVE their phones! Offering free charging from the hydrogen fuel cell (it can supply 3kW!) was a great way to bring people into the PPL PWR space and get them engaged with green issues and technique. But some people I saw everyday! The sadness when we were at capacity and couldn’t take their phone was palatable!
I think in future we should make more of the opportunity to gain Facebook likes for the PPL PWR page, planning in advance how we were gonna connect to the Internet.
People Love a Bit of Glitter
A photo posted by Comp-A-Tent (@comp_a_tent) on
A constant flow of fresh faces and new opinions, combined with the offering of Bio-Glitter applied artistically to the face meant their was very little need to move to meet and engage with people.
Signing People On
With such a captive audience I can’t even begin to imagine how many times I explained who PPL PWR are, what is Comp-A-Tent and, most impressively, how hydrogen fuel cells work.
(Magic, if you were wondering)
What I think we needed to push more was collecting email addresses of those excited about Comp-A-Tent – how else will they know when we launch!
The PPL PWR Green Stage
A Chaucer reading from Jerone, a talk on self-experimentation, Norwegian Language class with Ana and my own cider sonnets were all featured during the weekend. It was a great space come the evening, bringing in dozens of people during an evening, giving us great coverage in getting the ideas and company names out there.
Moving forward, we need to enhance the stage aspect of the installation, really drumming interest in our talks by promoting them as we’re meeting and discussing people.
All in all, Brainchild was an awesome success of a weekend. The Comp-A-Tent installation was still standing, we had showcased and tested the latest generation of Comp-A-Tent, increased subscribers on the mailing list and met some really cool people.
For our first PPL PWR event, we had successfully come together, brought people into our space and engaged with lots of individuals of emerging green techs.
Brainchild was great at attracting really open minded individuals, who are really engaged and passionate about issues and causes, who ar emovers and shakers. Hopefully one or two took something away from exhibition, and so begins our quiet ripple of change into a more sustainable future.
Thank you to Marina and Joey for allowing us to put on PPL PWR area, and for providing not ony a great space, but a great environment to meet so many fascinatingly wonderful people!
Goddam Ginger Rob. Goddam him and his body clock. As I awake to “Wake up, we’re going to miss yoga”. He’s only been back an hour. Goddam his “I’m home!” at 7am…
Last laugh was on him, as although we arise at around 0830, we completely miss both sessions! Ooops! Our discussions in the tent of the previous night, the universe and everything take precedent. The weather clearing we start to open up the tent, all whilst enjoying our cream cheese and cucumber bagels – a great shout by B!
No morning is complete without coffee, and as we pop to cook, a line of maybe 100 people queuing for bacon sandwiches both makes me wish we had been more enterprising and foreseen this undermet need, as well as ever more smug of pre-preparedness!
The bitter-sweet smell of fresh coffee, on a campsite of instant dust, draws over our trusted companion Sam, and we immigrate our coffee from Indian to Vietnamese by the adding of condensed milk to our bean juice. The coffee fights back, as Amanda yells,
“I’m on Fire!”
As the hem of her coat ignites and burns, forcing her to pat it out.
From advertising, to alcoholism, drugs to yoga, it explored a lot of his life, and included a taster of some breathing exercises to help us to “breathe better, we think better, feel better and do better”.
It was interesting hearing him talk of his addictions and catalysts to change.
From there we wandered out to see a board advertising ‘Ecotherapy’, that would meet in an our and explore the woods – cracking I thought.
Back to camp for lunch.
Bread, peanut butter, bananas, crisps, boil water, open pot noodles, pour boiling water on fingers, let out cry, munch sandwiches, carry noodles into forest.
This was an odd session, walking around the woods, standing in circles for 20 minutes, eyes shut, listening to the sounds closer and further away…
I spent most of it thinking about the design of Comp-A-Tent… oh well!
The day heading into the evening, we retired to the tent, to strike up a game of rounders – get it!?
Pulling in neighbours from the area to play, or narrowly missing them with the ball if they chose to remain by the tents, we spent a delightful few hours in the sun, taking turns batting, without ever settling on teams or really any rules, though I quite liked the idea of only being able to play if holding a can in your hand!
The pros that we now were at camping meant Amanda’s pasta dinner was ready in under 20 minutes, which did somewhat interrupt play, and after devouring food it was time for our nighttime attire – universe leggings!
I need a Poo!
Lucy Rose was recommended to us, so that’s where we set sight for!
I couldn’t dance to it, so off to the campfire! (Sorry Lucy!)
A little networking around the campfire never hurt nobody, neither did a little rum as I felt increasingly my age swigging from my hip flask!
Turns out, whilst rum never hurts, it does affect memory. There was dancing, there was cabaret, there was my boss for Glastonbury, and there was more campfire!
Bank Holiday Monday
Strangely, much of the campsite had left during the previous afternoon – especially around the area we had been playing rounders…
Knowing we had until 1400, the Comp-A-Crew hurrys for no man.
A lonesome tent blew past us. A sign.
Quick witted we grab it, the perfect low risk location for H to fry some eggs without the risk of getting wet!
Or so we thought…
Sat in the door, facing into the tent, cooking the eggs, the very same rogue wind that had afforded us the tent, to vengence, sweeping the tent up into the air, rolling H and the flaming gas stove backs.
A moment later, the tent continued its journey, revealing H on her back, egg on her crotch, frying pan in hand, gas stove horizontal, the grass on fire.
In a frenzied hurry, O reached for the gas, tragically knocking over his own stove, as H sat in stunned silence. We all sat in stun silence.
Except B, who ran after the tent, declaring it was his and would use it for future festivals.
Innocent Unplugged was a fantastic, mellow opening of a festival season, offering just the right number of free drinks.
A single music stage and an emphasis on non-music activities made for a very different atmosphere from, say your Readings & Leeds, with no need to chase your favourite bands. It was a wholesome opportunity to spend time with old friends, make new ones, and take your time, without constantly checking your phone or media.
Taking the time to prepare camp food together ensured our group got to see each other and join in with each other’s plans, as well as saving us a TON of money on food and a TON of time queuing for food. The little touches like lilos, B’s inflatable sofa and games gave us plenty of options and comforts, and talking points to start conversations.
Safe to say, I hope to return next year, I hope the vibe is just as chilled and I hope the rest of our Summer season is equally enjoyable!