Portsmouth Psych Fest 2019

Portsmouth Psych Fest, The Wedgewood Rooms, 4th May 2019

Making a welcome return this weekend, Portsmouth Psych Fest stormed into its third year with an event packed with another amazing array of artists. Throughout Saturday, eighteen acts played across the main stage in The Wedgewood Rooms and its more compact counterpart in the Edge of the Wedge, hosted by local collective Calamity Cratediggers. Kicking things off at the Edge, Fat Earthers, The Howlers and Number 9 gave us a glimpse into how diverse the day was going to be, from psych-punk to desert rock to 60s’ infused psychedelia all in the first few hours.

Over on the main stage, Drusila impressed once again with their unapologetically 80s’ tinged electronic dance tracks – big things ahead for this local duo surely.

With the room transformed by vibrant liquid colour projections from visual artist Inner Strings and psych mascots in the form of graffitied mannequins by street artist My Dog Sighs, the scene was set for poetry-fused guitar tunes from Freya Beer, melodic indie-pop from Mystic Peach and the unlikely but irrepressibly fun blend of Cumbian psych provided by Los Bitchos.

Back at the Edge, Japanese Television were a joy to hear and see, the self-proclaimed space surfers proving that lyrics aren’t always a necessity. Sleep Eaters continued the momentum, a great live band bringing Americana flavoured garage to the table, followed by post-punk four piece Egyptian Blue.

Space age psych up next from Brisbane’s Nice Biscuit, just about managing to squeeze everyone onto the stage, easily managing to impress.

Picking up the pace, Brighton’s GURU produced the most animated set of the day with plenty of crowd interaction and discordant tunes galore.

Over on the main stage, Black Country, New Road gave a more sombre performance pulsated by dark set vocals, before the costumed krautrock-influenced beats of Snapped Ankles lightened the mood and continued the mystery behind the woolly headed noise-lords.

Concluding proceedings at the Edge of the Wedge, Scalping provided some heavy techno-punk before handing over to the grittily wonderful world of Glasgow’s Sweaty Palms, an intriguing melee of cowboy hats, garage guitars and saxophone worthy of any stage headliner.

The last two acts on the Wedgewood Rooms stage completed the eclectic mix. Brooding shoegaze over industrialised visuals from The KVB followed by an energy filled set from indie rockers Yak brought the festival to a suitably intense close.

Joining the legion of psych fests up and down the country, Portsmouth has firmly staked its place amongst the more established events. The line ups every year so far have been solid from start to finish. When tickets go on sale for next year there’s really no need to wait for announcements on who’s playing; just buy one and thank yourself later.

Keep up to speed with Portsmouth Psych Fest here

Words and photos by Siobhan 

7th May 2019

Preview – Portsmouth Psych Fest

Portsmouth Psych Fest, 4th May 2019

Only a month away, Portsmouth Psych Fest returns to The Wedgewood Rooms for its third outing on 4th May. From the outset the festival has been steadfast in booking some very special line-ups, with previous years featuring Bo Ningen, The Wytches, Hotel Lux and Black Midi amongst a long list of other established and breakthrough acts.

Spread across two stages, 2019’s headliners are Yak, who will be joined by a host of local and international artists making up an event not to be missed. The best recommendation would be to see everyone on the bill. Here is our pick of just a few artists to look out for on the day…


Sleep Eaters

It’s time to discover that you need country garage in your life. The South London five piece won over new fans with their live performances supporting Drahla last year and head back out on the road with them in May.

Sleep Eaters    Listen here


The Howlers

Dark garage rock of the finest calibre, The Howlers are unsurprisingly sparking the interest of the music media. Now signed to These Bloody Thieves, look out for new music soon.

The Howlers    Listen here


Los Bitchos

Fresh from supporting Bill Ryder-Jones, Los Bitchos will be showcasing their hybrid of Peruvian instrumental Cumbia influenced garage psych. Bring your dancing shoes.

Los Bitchos    Listen here



Keep those dancing shoes on for Drusila. Full of energy and explosive synths, the Portsmouth locals are fast making a name for themselves, bringing electronica bang up to date.

Drusila    Listen here


Snapped Ankles

If you prefer your music delivered by woodland tree creatures then Snapped Ankles are here for you. With their new album Stunning Luxury described by The Line Of Best Fit as ‘music to soundtrack the apocalypse’, make sure you catch them and hope, for their sake, that it’s not too hot.

Snapped Ankles    Listen here


Portsmouth Psych Fest takes place on 4th May; remaining tickets are available now from just £17 – don’t miss out

Words and photos by Siobhan

4th April 2019

Preview – Doc ‘n’ Roll Film Festival

Doc ‘n’ Roll Film Festival, Brighton, 1st – 7th April 2019

Setting the mood for the upcoming Brighton Festival and Fringe activities, Doc ‘n’ Roll Film Festival returns to the coast, taking over Brighton’s art spaces and select theatres between 1st – 7th April. For fans of film and music, there’s a brilliantly diverse range of documentaries, live Q&As with artists and directors, exclusive after-show parties and much more.

The festival is supported by the BFI Audience Fund, using money from the National Lottery to encourage and grow audience appetite and enjoyment for a wide range of independent British and international films. Following successful runs in London and Liverpool, the action moves to Brighton before heading north again to take part in the Edinburgh Festival from 25th-28th April.

Doc ‘n’ Roll will present 6 fascinating feature films that chart the incredible stories of ground-breaking labels Blue Note (It Must Schwing! The Blue Note Story) and Trojan (Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records), shine new light on the previously unexplored depths of the Detroit techno scene that would redefine electronic music (Never Stop – A Music That Resists), explore some of the best soundtracks you never knew existed (The Library Music Film), launch you full pelt into the world of punk’s fearless heroines as they break the glass ceiling and blow the genre apart (Stories from the She Punks) and take you behind the scenes with Badly Drawn Boy as he creates his Mercury Prize-winning debut (About A Badly Drawn Boy: The Story of the Hour of Bewilderbeast).

Among a number of live Q&A highlights, expect candid insights from punk pioneer and co-director  Helen Reddington (The Chefs) as she discusses She Punks, and The Mitcham Submarine’s first-hand account of working with Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy, on his cinematic portrait of a unique artist and a seminal album.

This year Doc ‘n’ Roll Brighton will also introduce an eclectic collection of stunning film shorts especially selected for the 2019 edition.

Check out the full programme below:

1st April – Launch Event, Hotel Pelirocco, 6:30pm (free event, advance booking required)

A hand-picked selection of shorts reflecting the diversity and depth of this year’s programme will be shown

3rd April – Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records + Q&A, Duke of York’s Picturehouse, 6:30pm

4th April – The Library Music Film + Q&A, Duke’s at Komedia Picturehouse, 6:30pm and after-party with DJs at Merkaba (My Hotel) from 8pm, entry to the after-party is free for anyone attending the screening

4th April – It Must be Schwing! The Blue Note Story, Duke of York’s Picturehouse, 9:00pm

5th April – Stories from the She Punks + Q&A with Helen Reddington (The Chefs), Duke’s at Komedia Picturehouse, 6:30pm

7th April – Never Stop: A Music that Resists, Duke’s at Komedia Picturehouse, 12:15pm

7th April – About a Badly Drawn Boy: The Story of the Hour of Bewilderbeast + Director Q&A, Hotel Pelirocco, 7:00pm

The festival is a perfect opportunity for music and screen aficionados to gain in-depth insights into the background stories behind some defining cultural moments, while supporting independent venues at the same time.

More information and remaining tickets available here.

29th March 2019

Preview – The Great Escape

The Great Escape, Brighton, 9th – 11th May 2019

Widely acknowledged as the biggest UK festival platform for breakthrough musicians, The Great Escape returns in May for its annual party in Brighton. Scheduling over 400 artists playing across town in more than 30 venues is no mean feat and TGE includes a multitude of great music across different genres, bringing bands and singers from far and wide to perform. With the first 200+ acts now announced, we picked 5 of the best who we think you should look out for. Get to know Cocaine Piss, Nice Biscuit, Pip Blom, Sick Joy and Weird Milk below, then go and add them all to your must see list…

Cocaine Piss (Belgium)

For anyone who doesn’t know the band, give us a quick intro…

We are Cocaine Piss, we’re cute, we might be weird and we play loud. 

Over the last few years you’ve played hundreds of gigs and festivals across Europe – any notable memories from the UK?

A lot! One of the best festivals we played was Raw Power Festival in London last year. We had a lot of fun playing, and we discovered a lot of great acts there. I think we also found out about Buckfast on that tour, which was a great adventure. Also found a set of false teeth in front of a venue in Liverpool, it made our day.

You’re part of the Toutpartout Showcase at this year’s Great Escape – how did that come about?

We’ve been collaborating with Toutpartout for about 2 years now, and we are very fucking happy to be invited to play at the showcase. The lineup is beautiful, it’s going to be a perfect day.

What can people expect if they come to your set?

They can expect dancing, laughing, feeling like we’re all sharing a beautiful and intense moment together. Also a lot of swearing, and sadly, very little elegance.

And what else are Cocaine Piss up to this year?

We are releasing our new album Passionate and Tragic on April 5th. From then, we’ll be intensively touring for a few months. Come and see us – we have more shows in the UK in early May!

Facebook  Bandcamp


Nice Biscuit (Australia)

For anyone who hasn’t heard or seen you can you introduce the band…

Hello. We’re Nice Biscuit. We’re a six piece from Brisbane and we play garage psych with a little bit of pop thrown in the mix.

What’s your local music scene like?

The Brisbane music scene is really good and quite tight knit. Because we’re one of the smaller cities everyone’s really supportive of each other’s bands. There’s some really good bands doing some interesting stuff here at the moment and a lot of good quality mid-sized venues to support all the bands. Any given weekend you’d be able to head out and see a good show.

Your album Digital Mountain came out last year. Tell us a bit about it and what’s the reaction to it been like?

Digital Mountain was a bit of a while in the making. It was a long process of writing and recording and then often scrapping those songs in favour of new ones, so it was nice to finally get a bunch of songs that made something cohesive and be able to put that out. It’s just a collection of the best songs we’d written from the 12 months before its release. The reaction to it was good. People seemed to like it and come to the shows and respond positively which is always encouraging.

You’re over in the UK for The Great Escape in May, how did that come about – have you been to Brighton before?

We had some bookers in the UK reach out to us about coming over and playing at The Great Escape and we’d never played overseas before so we thought we’d jump on it. Some of us have been to the UK before, I’m not too sure about Brighton. We’ve never in any musical capacity so it’s pretty exciting to get to travel far away from Australia and get to play music as well.

Plans and hopes for the rest of the year?

I think we’d just like to write and play as much as possible. We’ve started working on new music so ideally we’d like to get another album finished as soon as possible and then move on to some new stuff again. We get quite restless playing the same songs for too long and like to change it up as much as we can. We all like playing live so we’d like to try and play to as many new people in as many new cities as we can. I suppose just play as much music as possible.

Facebook  Soundcloud


Pip Blom (The Netherlands)

For anyone just discovering you can you give us a quick insight into who you are and where you’re from?

We are Pip Blom, that is my name and the name of the band. My brother, Tender Blom, also plays in the band. He plays guitar and sings, just like me. Then there is Gini Camron who plays the drums and Darek Mercks who plays bass. We all live in Amsterdam.

You seem to be constantly touring – is this hard to maintain and are there any stand out tour memories?

Touring is fun but hard at the same time. When we are at home, doing the jobs that make us a living, we can’t wait to be on the road again. But if we are away too long we miss our loved ones and the peace and quiet of our private bedrooms. Playing in front of enthusiastic audiences makes up for a lot of things though. And we have an app in which we mark all the special places on the road – great shops or petrol stations!

What’s the best thing about playing at festivals?

Playing at festivals can be hard, ‘cause half of the audience doesn’t necessarily come to see you, but trying to conquer those crowds is fun when it all works out. Also, at festivals, you get to meet other bands. Sometimes the bands you know and love, like Sports Team, Personal Trainer or Canshaker Pi.

What should we expect from your set?

An uptempo set full of energy and fun. And maybe some new songs from our upcoming debut Boat which will be released on May 31st.

And what’s on the horizon for the rest of the year?

SXSW, lots of playing in the UK and the rest of Europe, some Dutch festivals and some more club shows in the fall. And maybe going back to the USA…

Facebook  Bandcamp


Sick Joy (UK)

Can you give us a quick band intro…

Hello, welcome. Sit down, grab a sherry. Indulge. Everything is fleeting. We do songs. If you like lazy musical stereotypes, chances are you’ll liken us to Nirvana.

You played your first Brighton gig back in 2016 with other local favourites Demob Happy and Tigercub – how was that as a debut show and what’s changed for you since then?

As far as I can remember it was good. Since then Brexit was born and Trump became president. But I swear it’s got nothing to do with us. We’re actually on tour with Demob Happy right now so there’s a little serendipity.

Who else on the local scene would you recommend?

Projector, Murmur, Tigercub, Demob Happy. Many.

How does it feel to be on the Great Escape line-up for 2019?

The last two I’ve worked behind a bar for it and that’s fucking awful, so it’s gonna be fun to be drinking the beers instead of pouring them and cleaning up the sick.

And what’s in the pipeline for Sick Joy?

New record, more touring. Survival, both literally and financially. The plight of all bands trying to live.

Facebook  Soundcloud


Weird Milk (UK)

Introduce us to Weird Milk…

Weird Milk is a band created by Zach, Charlie and Alex a few years ago… man, it feels like an age away. We all come from the countryside outside the wannabe city of Milton Keynes and left the farmyards to write music together in London.

You’ve played with some great bands over the past year (Pip Blom, Thyla, Sports Team to name a few) – any live shows that have stood out?

The most recent shows have stood out a lot because we’ve acquired the irreplaceable talent of Blue (Joe) on the keys, and the sound has got much more oomph/pizzazz.

You were part of the Alternative Escape line-up in 2018 – how was that and did you see much of the rest of the festival?

That was a great show! I can’t remember the name of the pub but it was nice and cosy. We stayed there all day and all night! Really excited to come back.

Why should people come and catch your set this year?

For the chance to leave any anxieties and sorrows at the doors and have fun. There are some nice loving words as well as more serious (attempts of) thought provoking messages. But it’s got good balance to it. We think. Be the judge and come!

And what else should we be looking out for from Weird Milk in 2019?

We will be releasing at least two singles! So if you get curious, do listen, we feel that they’re worth your time. Whoever YOU are. Hey YOU.

Facebook  Soundcloud


The Great Escape runs from 9th – 11th May in multiple venues across Brighton. You can see the full list of acts confirmed so far here.

Photos reproduced with artists’ permission
(Cocaine Piss © Thierry Tönnes, Nice Biscuit © Jeff Andersen Jnr, Weird Milk © Timothy Casten)

4th March 2019

Festival – Icebreaker 2019

Icebreaker Festival, Portsmouth, 25th-26th Jan 2019

Billed as ‘The South’s largest unsigned metropolitan music festival’ Icebreaker has become a staple in the winter festival calendar. Chasing away the January blues, this weekend saw over 150 artists play over 2 days in venues along Albert Road and Elm Grove in Southsea, leading to the much loved and established Wedgewood Rooms. As well as providing a host of stages large and small, there was a real community feel and the event clearly brought visitors and business into the local area.

The beauty of Icebreaker is not just in the number of acts to choose from but the diverse range of genres and music. With a lot of festivals it’s easy to go and see the bands you already know and love and maybe catch a few new ones too. At Icebreaker it’s equally easy to change that ratio; see a few favourites then take in as many new names as you can. And be left in no doubt that unsigned doesn’t mean there’s less quality around.

It’s impossible to see everyone but here’s how my Saturday played out. Despite being early in the day, The Vitrines opened Edge of the Wedge with bags of indie energy; down the road at Emporium Bar, Something Leather showcased their hauntingly gothic melodies and Currls kept everybody smiling with some soul-tinged new wave at Lord John Russell.

My first visit of the day to the Wedgewood Rooms was for BBC Introducing favourites Drusila, a two piece with a love of synth and some infectious tunes. It was a pleasure to see them perform and to slow things down later with an engaging acoustic set from Me and the Moon at The Wine Vaults.

Over at The Fat Fox there was a whole heap of reasons to stick around; a reminder from Heebie Jeebies that there aren’t enough saxophones about, suitably psychedelic lighting and much 60s style partying for Number 9 and plenty to please those looking for heavier riffs and fierce drumming from Violet Mud and You’re Smiling Now But We’ll All Turn Into Demons.

One of my favourite sets of the day came from The Howlers, currently gaining acclaim across the country with their raw psych rock performances. Pending live dates will be well worth checking out.

Back at the Wedgewood Rooms / Edge Of the Wedge – kudos to FLOWVERS (header photo) for having their own mosh pit at a packed main stage as well as being the pit for punk duo Bird Shoes’ next door in the Edge. Brother Deep completed a trio of local bands all getting a great reception and winning over new fans in the process.

Again, a tough call with headliners at every venue (I spoke to people throughout the day who were all finishing up in different places) but I opted to head back to a now very hot and sweaty Fat Fox for Skinny Milk’s closing set. Quality fuzz punk garage from one of many acts on the day whose sound belied the fact that there were only two of them on stage, a magic pedal board turning the bass into something much more dynamic and distorted. I chose well; the perfect way to end a solid day of being drawn in to see what I could hear from a distance – maybe the best part of any festival.

All in all, Icebreaker offers something different, an easily walkable multi venue festival with lots of choice and an excellent way to spend the weekend discovering new music. It looks likely to keep growing so keep an eye on announcements on their website later in the year to stake your place for 2020.

Words and photos by Siobhan

28th January 2019


Rockaway Beach Festival 2019

Rockaway Beach Festival, Bognor Regis, 11th-13th Jan 2019

Rockaway Beach… almost impossible to say without adding rock, rock beforehand. Fast becoming an established player on the UK festival scene as well as a Ramones classic, Rockaway Beach is now in its fourth year, setting up camp without camping at Butlin’s Bognor Regis. Having moved from its original October slot to January, it’s the perfect antidote to the post Christmas lull and brings a plethora of respected acts and attendees to the south coast resort. For 2019 there were daily big name headliners in Maxïmo Park, Gary Numan and Echo and the Bunnymen, along with a multitude of breakthrough acts (in the real sense, not the awards sense). Clever scheduling meant that there was no crossover in stage times so no need to miss any of the live music. The big plus to this is that every set drew a big crowd; it would be ideal if that hadn’t included a faction who were just there to chat to their friends causing an annoying background hum of conversation. However, on the whole the crowds were more vocal in appreciation rather than small talk and all the artists received a really positive reception from the start to finish of each day, something you don’t tend to see at other festivals, particularly on the early slots. At Rockaway Beach, it’s wise to be there for the openers to avoid missing something special; this year kicked off with pop garage and plenty of high jumps from Rapid Tan on Friday, cool electro from Winter Gardens on Saturday and Squid offering up one of the best sets of the weekend and doubtless winning lots of new support on Sunday. Elsewhere, Algiers gave us industrial gospel and Art Brut (a smart substitution for the now defunct Spring King) brought smiles to everyone’s faces with their own brand of punchy punk and tales to match.

For those looking to take a break or recover from their silent disco exploits, traditional holiday camp entertainment was replaced with film screenings (everything from Quadrophenia to ET), DJ sets from Terry Hall and Steve Lamacq, Q&As with Gary Numan and Will Carruthers and enough arcade games to recreate Toy Story over breakfast.

A tough call with so much to choose from but here are some highlights…

Madonnatron – amongst some class acts on day 1, Madonnatron stood out with a wall of ethereal post punk, if there was a Twin Peaks remake they’d be playing at the Roadhouse.

Maxïmo Park – still playing with the same energy levels they started with over a decade ago, the bands’ love of performing is clear. A touching farewell to keyboard player Lukas Wooller before he heads for sunnier climes in Australia, the whole set, all 90 minutes of it, was a party from beginning to end.

Menace Beach – brilliant pop set over dense synths that just seem to get better with every album, great to see them playing live again.

Squid – with an early kick off and a watermelon on the drum kit, Squid woke up the Sunday crowd beautifully, ordered chaos with a New York vibe.

Yassassin – mid-way through day 3 and a welcome wake up with loads of energy and the still present watermelon finally making its way into the crowd, Yassassin have a lot of fun on stage and it’s contagious.

The Filthy Tongues – stalwarts of the Scottish music scene, think Nick Cave does glam rock replacing the glitter with heavy tunes and a fabulous beard. What more could you ask for?

When the summer festival announcements start to come through there’s always a repetition of acts being booked through the same promoters. This kind of takes the edge off discovering new events only to find virtually the same line up at each one. Again, Rockaway Beach sticks out from the crowd here; it’s clear that this is a festival set up around a love of music to showcase acts old and new with no compromise made on talent or innovation. It also demonstrates without doubt to the bigger players that there’s no problem with booking a diverse range of great performers of different genders and genres (don’t know why this is still a thing in 2019 and even needs a mention but it is so it does).

With The Jesus and Mary Chain already announced to headline in 2020, it looks certain that next year’s line up isn’t going to disappoint; worth bearing in mind if your idea of a perfect festival includes an eclectic mix of live music, rows of indoor deckchairs and a roof over your head that doesn’t involve tent pegs. Until next time…

Keep an eye on the Rockaway Beach website for more details about next year’s event as they unfold

Words and photos by Siobhan

15th January 2019

Preview – Rockaway Beach + The Boaty Weekender Festivals

Rockaway Beach, 11th – 13th January 2019
The Boaty Weekender, 8th – 12th August 2019

Fed up with festival downpours and cancellations due to the weather? The increase in urban festivals goes some way to addressing this with city-based multi-venue events cropping up all over the UK. May 2019 will see Brighton’s long established The Great Escape, Live at Leeds and Dot 2 Dot spanning 3 days across Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham to name but a few.

But if running around town isn’t your thing, you can go one step further towards ensuring that your feet stay dry and your ‘campsite’ contains a proper bed.

Heading into its fourth year, Rockaway Beach makes its home at Butlin’s in Bognor Regis, a perhaps unlikely setting for ‘a boutique indoor music festival (which) focuses only on the best emerging, breakthrough and established alternative artists’. However, Butlin’s does have a tradition of staging music breaks, notably retro, punk and soul weekenders, complete with your own self-contained apartment and not a portaloo in sight. What makes Rockaway Beach different is that it attracts an eclectic hybrid of big names and newer acts who are making waves and building reputations as the ones to watch.

2019’s Rockaway Beach (11-13 Jan) brings touring stalwarts Gary Numan, Echo & the Bunnymen and Maxïmo Park to the south coast holiday camp. It’s some of the smaller acts though that make it stand out, Goat Girl and The Orielles already firm favourites amongst the 6 Music crowd – check out Madonnatron and Squid to shake the winter cobwebs away in style. And when the music stops (or before it starts) you can while away the time with film screenings, pool parties, DJ sets and arcade games or just have a lie in safe in the knowledge that your tent’s not going to blow away.

Not content with being wrapped up warm indoors? Take a look at The Boaty Weekender (8-12 Aug). Taking the hosting helm is of one of Scotland’s favourite melodic duos, Belle & Sebastian,  suggesting ‘…a party, an adventure, something on the horizon, something to take the chill out of the thought of winter… a sail around the Med, a nice little trip with friends, some of the best people, in some of the best places!’

It’s cruise life for the music aficionado; a relaxed environment where you get to sail from Barcelona to Cagliari, taking in live music and potentially even some onboard sunshine along the way. There’s a pool, hot tubs, a casino and fitness centre to occupy your down time. And when Belle & Sebastian say they’re bringing along some friends to play, it becomes apparent that they have an excellent group of friends, as the starting line up includes Alvvays, Mogwai, Django Django, Hinds and Honeyblood with more to be announced. A summer holiday with a difference and cruise ship singers like you never heard before.

You can find more details about Rockaway Beach and The Boaty Weekender here. But keep your wellies handy; festival season’s not festival season without trawling through the mud at least once.

Words by Siobhan

6th December 2018









Willowfest – Make A Wish

Creating a festival with a difference, Mary Long took us behind the scenes at Willowfest to see how a wish became a reality…

‘I have been to a fair number of festivals in my time. I love the sense of freedom, letting the children roam around ‘free-range’ making friends and enjoying the elements, knowing that there is a huge group of like-minded people in the camp-site surrounding us. Our kids joke that there are normal household rules and then there are ‘festival rules’ where everything moves to a different beat and life is just on the whole much more relaxing. Who cares if you have to wait 57 minutes for a halloumi burger, or if you tripped and got covered head to foot in gooey mud, or if you stay awake till 4am then sleep the next day until lunchtime!? It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I really sat down and contemplated how fortunate I am to be able to spend time at festivals with my children in this way.

My friend Viv sent me a message around the beginning of September to say that Willow, her eldest daughter, had been granted a Wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to have her own bespoke festival created in order to celebrate her 16th birthday. Willow is living with Aicardi Syndrome, a rare genetic condition, meaning that her everyday life is a series of multiple seizures, some of which can unexpectedly cause Willow to drop to the ground. Willow is also mainly non-verbal but lights up when listening to her favourite tunes. Viv tried taking Willow to a nearby festival a couple of years ago, but the crowds meant that it all became too much and navigating through to different areas with Willow in her wheelchair was tough going. Viv knew how much Willow would have loved the experience if it could have been more tailored to her needs and this was where the idea for Willowfest was born.

When I saw that message from Viv a few weeks ago it was with a mixture of delight for Willow and nervous trepidation that there was only a time-frame of 6 weeks until the date of the festival. As well as me being a seasoned festival attendee, I also have a number of friends within the business, all of whom metaphorically (and probably literally) ‘spat out their tea’ when I told them that Viv and her Make-A-Wish co-ordinator were going to put on a one day festival for about 200 people … in less than a month and a half’s time.

So from that moment, a frantic scramble towards the festival finish line began. Every bit of respect to Viv, who seemed to unflappably know that it would all come together on the day and that she would be able to provide her eldest daughter with the special, one-of-a-kind, magical experience that she deserved. Viv clearly had a vision of how this was going to work and she stopped at nothing to ensure that all of the festival must-haves were covered. From hand-making (with a little help from some friends) what seemed like miles and miles of gorgeous bunting, to finding the perfect location, to sourcing the best types of festival food and snacks, booking the bands and entertainment and organising set-up and post-festival break-down teams, Make-A-Wish and Viv worked tirelessly to make it happen.

The day before the festival was beautifully bright and sunny and I went across to the venue, a glorious old barn on a country estate usually used for wedding celebrations. When we arrived it looked as if the place was set up for some kind of business conference but again, with Viv’s vision, and lots of helping hands all pulling together, it was soon transformed into the wonderland of Willowfest. A huge main barn, all quirkily and uniquely decorated, 2 quiet/low arousal teepees further away from the main barn for those who might need a break from the hustle and bustle, flags, signposts, a comfy chill-out zone within the main barn. If I didn’t know, I would have said that this was a culmination of at least 6 months’ preparation, not the 6 weeks that had elapsed!

Unfortunately, on the morning of Willowfest, the good spell of weather broke and the forecast for the day ahead looked to be constant, heavy rain. Like every decent festival, the weather certainly didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits and arriving at the festival just after the start time of 2pm, it was clear that there had been a whole lot more preparing going on that morning! Food stalls, a craft marquee (making a miniature model of Willowfest using recycled materials), unlimited candy-floss, popcorn, ice-cream and sweets (‘festival rules’ time for the children – and the adults!), a huge illuminated ‘W’, a dressing up/festival makeover station, glitter stall and so much more, all coming together to create a truly authentic and bespoke festival for Willow.

The birthday girl arrived in style in a stretch limo before coming into the main barn area, rocking her festival style of turquoise faux-fur jacket and gold boots with flashing lights. Initially, Willow looked a little reserved and unsure of what exactly was going on, but once she settled into proceedings and took VIP position front middle of the stage there were smiles and use of sign language to sign ‘party’ and give everything the ‘thumbs up’. As soon as the bands started Willow was lost within the melodies and beats, dancing in her wheelchair non-stop alongside a group of her friends and family. Some of the bands covered a few of Willow’s favourite songs which her sister Ember had been compiling in preparation, playing a selection of songs for Willow to listen to – if it got Willow dancing it made the playlist!

Each of the bands and performers did their best to play their most memorable and crowd-pleasing festival sets. From the opening threesome Alice, Jessica and Kara through to Willowfest headliners Magpie, it was plain to hear that all had given lots of thought and consideration for Willow’s musical preferences. The two solo performers Sheya Lilly and Nye both gave their own spin to a few of Willow’s particular favourites such as George Ezra and Ed Sheeran. Sour Kix (with a 13 year old frontwoman with the poise and confidence of someone twice her age) nailed their set, bringing gifts of cuddly monkey toys for Willow and her friends, and handing out egg-shakers so that everyone could join in when they played Parklife (or as they announced it “one for the parents”). Magpie’s closing set was a resounding, celebratory explosion of a mix of original material and perfectly picked covers. I particularly enjoyed their take on Alice Merton’s No Roots and the moment during their final song Pain by War on Drugs when a silk-fan dancer sprung out of nowhere to gasps of delight. I don’t know whether Willow or the band were more surprised!

At the end of the evening, after an emotional thank you speech from Viv, there were more helping hands all working together to pack this amazing one day wonder away. For me, the stand out moments were the joy of seeing Willow dancing all afternoon long and feeling the love and support pouring out into that space. It’s amazing what friends and family can do for each other, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation enabled everybody to donate time, services and love to make this a truly magical and memorable day. Through Willowfest I learnt that the power of togetherness can achieve amazing results, I learnt never to take for granted all of the things that I am able to do with my children and that at Willowfest, the queue for battered halloumi was a mere 9 minutes.

There are many more children, with similar stories to Willow, whose wishes could be granted through donations to Make-A-Wish. Willow’s story is here where you can still donate to help other wishes come true.’

Words by Mary Long, photos by tonyjupp.com and a big thank you to Viv for letting us share Willow’s story

5th November 2018


Dials Festival 2018

Dials Festival, Portsmouth, 5th Oct 2018

Picking up the reins from long established Southsea Fest was never going to be an easy task but Dials Festival is fast gaining a reputation as an event not to be missed. Always a chance to discover emerging new artists and catch some local heroes, Dials once again curated an astonishingly strong line up this weekend.

It seems almost compulsory that rain is a feature at any UK festival but as this one was held across five venues along Southsea’s Albert Road, all within about 5 minutes walk of each other, the weather was largely irrelevant and it was great to see a big turnout from the word go with a lot of support for opening acts Temples of Youth, Libra Libra and Fake Empire – a fantastic and diverse mix from the outset.

With heaps more talent at every turn, neighbours The Wine Vaults and The Loft hosted more excellent performances from Lice, Ugly and Los Bitchos while across the road a dark and sweaty Acapulco was packed for local favourites Horseflies and Melt Dunes plus a stunning set from Sleep Eaters. Along at the Edge of the Wedge, Omar Baba kicked things off with their distinctive brand of jazz hip hop, Vinyl Staircase showed again how consistently good they are live and a deservedly big crowd squeezed in for some dark distortion from Hotel Lux. Just the other side of the door in the Wedgewood Rooms, Thyla and Estrons broke through the fog of the smoke machine to entertain the crowd before headliners Tigercub closed the party with their trademark crescendo of heavy riffs. So many more quality artists playing not captured here only due to the curse of not being able to be in two places at once.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, this year’s Dials was raising money for Solent Mind, a charity that’s a massive support for people in the local area with a huge range of mental health issues and Mind volunteers were on hand on the day to chat and provide information. So there you have it, an immense line up, friendly venues and a bit of wellbeing on the side, fingers tightly crossed that this turns into a regular thing…

To find out more check out Dials Festival and Solent Mind

Words and photos by Siobhan

8th October 2018

Festival Number 6 2018

Festival Number 6, Portmeirion, 6th-9th Sep 2018

Portmeirion is not your average festival site. Set between the Welsh mountains and a sandy beach, the Italianate style village is best known as the backdrop to cult 60s’ series The Prisoner, hence the name Festival Number 6.

As well as offering comedy, performance art, yoga and paddle boarding to those so inclined, this year’s festival was host to an eclectic mix of established and new artists across the weekend. The second biggest stage in the Grand Pavilion took in a huge slice of the best acts including Gengahr, Goat Girl, Baxter Dury, The Horrors (undoubtedly still one of the best live bands around) and Gwenno, soon to be setting out on tour with support from one of the local bands playing on the BBC Cymru/Gorwelion Horizons stage, Adwaith – both highly recommended.

Not to be outdone, Tim Peaks Diner saw great sets from psych-pop five piece Fuzzy Sun and Lancaster’s favourite punks The Lovely Eggs amongst many other upcoming artists.

Over on the main stage, the obligatory festival rain on Saturday stopped for Hurts and a clear Sunday finished in style with crowd pleasers The Charlatans, followed by a mighty performance from Franz Ferdinand, paying their own Prisoner tribute with Alex Kapranos in full Patrick McGoohan attire.

With uncertainty about the future of the event which has grown beyond the means of the location, organisers have announced that they have made ‘the difficult decision to take a breather… 2018 will be the last Festival Number 6 for now’. As so many UK festivals seem to be folding, let’s hope that this is just a hiatus as this really is, as promised, a festival like no other.

More galleries and the full statement about future events can be found on the Festival Number 6 website

Words and photos by Siobhan

1st October 2018