Stylist's Festivals Blog

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Wild times at Bestival, 6-9 September 2012, Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight

Stylist’s Amy Grier tests out a luxury Yurt and her girl-band credentials on the Isle of Wight

Is there anyone in the world who genuinely enjoys camping? Doubtful. Which is why for this particular experience, Bestival 2012 on the incredibly sunny (no really, it was) Isle of Wight I stayed in a Yurtel ( Nope - not a fictional thing made up by the creators of ‘glamping’ and ‘staycation’ - but a real life cluster of luxury Yurts in the boutique camping area of the sprawling site.

There’s no arriving in the middle of a gale to pitch a tent on a patch of land not quite big enough for your tent. I waltzed in to be handed the key - the KEY to my yurt, shown where towels are, where the showers are, where I could plug my hair straighteners in (yep, you heard) and my bed – BED – for the weekend! I hadn’t seen any bands yet and already this was the best festival I’d ever been to.

So - the music. Friday night was spent at the main stage where The XX made their only UK festival appearance to a roaring crowd. Then came Florence + the Machine - the first of the weekend headliners on a bill that included New Order and Stevie Wonder - more of him later.

Saturday morning I was up at 10am (that’s crack of dawn festival time) to see my favourite girl-crush(es) of the moment, The Toosie Rollers at the Bandstand. Doing an acapella set in their trademark red and white polka dot shorts (have a look at my attempt to fit-in below), their uplifting mix of vintage 50s tracks and five-part harmonies set me up for a day in the Bestival sun.

A blur of wildlife themed fancy dress (a woman in a peacock sequin swimming costume, a man in a cardboard pantomime horse outfit he’d made himself) proceeded, punctuated by the Cuban Brothers (a lively trio of all singing, all break-dancing entertainers) on the main stage and Ben Howard - whose gig was one of the highlights of my whole weekend.

At lunchtime I pulled up a seat at Ms Marmite Lover’s underground restaurant. A pirate/sea shanty theme accompanies this hidden gem, where you can feast on a Thai crab and coconut broth, spaghetti vongole made with locally sourced clams and salted caramel pavlova - made in the shape of a ship.

“It’s a catameringue” one of the fellow diners shrieked, before folk band Skinny Lister popped in to give an impromptu roof-raising performance.

After a quick change dans the yurt I was ready for Two Door Cinema Club, one of those bands whose songs you just feel like you know and who have one of the most compelling lead singers I’ve seen in a while. A strange turn in the Silent Disco followed and I ended my night in the Swamp Shack (much nicer than it sounds) jumping around to DJ Yoda’s second set of the evening.

For me, though, everything boiled down to Sunday night. Stevie Wonder was the soundtrack to my childhood. I had missed him at Glastonbury and I’d missed him at Hyde Park. I was not going to miss him this time. I got in position early, right at the front for the penultimate set of the night from ethereal Icelandic crooners Sigur Ros. As it hit 9pm the atmosphere changed. Soon the lights went down, then up and, dressed in black and red, Mr Wonder took to the stage. Two hours later I was still dancing, singing along to every word and smiling from ear to ear.

Words: Amy Grier. Pictures: Rex Features, Chris Savva

Stylist's Anita Bhagwandas heads to the Valleys for the second annual Merthyr Rock festival

Hailing from nearby Newport I know, firsthand, how easy it is for surrounding towns to be dwarfed by the capital city Cardiff. But this weekend, all eyes are planted firmly on the sleepy, but beautiful, Valleys town of Merthyr Tydfil as the second Merthyr Rock festival takes over.

Producing and nurturing homegrown talent is what the Welsh music industry does so well. From the passionate fervour of the bands, through to the promoters and journalists (the second stage is dedicated to the late James McLaren, a local BBC journalist who tirelessly championed so many young Welsh bands, purely because he truly believed in them) everyone is here in absolute support mode. Even as a tired hack who started out reviewing local Welsh bands at age 15, I’m truly excited by the flourishing pool of talent early on in the day from Save Your Breath, Buried in Alaska (with an impressive Backstreet Boys cover) and Reaper In Sicily who truly bring it this weekend.

But the band whose success everyone is dying to emulate has to be The Blackouts. They’re curating the second stage this year, and chatting backstage with singer Gavin Butler, a Merthyr lad himself, he tells me that it’s been quite a journey: “We’ve been lucky enough to tour with all of our icons, from My Chemical Romance to Limp Bizkit. They bent over backwards to make sure we were alright on the tour - Fred Durst was amazing.” They’re just back from shooting their new video in Ibiza, and Butler is excited about the new record: “It’s definitely classic Blackout, but with a Beastie Boys influence so it’s still evolved," he grins.

But, it’s not entirely about the Welsh this weekend. The James Cleaver Quintet, Marmozets, Don Broco and the brilliant Canterbury really earn their plaudits with incredible performances. Canterbury’s singer Mike Sparks sums up why Merthyr Rock is so unique: ‘It’s so awesome to be playing here, the festival has a great reputation among the bands because everyone involved, from makes such an effort to make it so special. It’s places like Merthyr that give us further indication of how well the album is doing.”

Although Manchester’s Sonic Boom Six have been around ten years now, all eyes are on Laila, their enigmatic co-front woman. Their energetic ska-punk is still a welcome addition to the metalcore-heavy bill, and catching up with Laila after their set, we both marvel at how together the younger bands are this weekend: “I really didn’t know what I was doing at 18 or 20 - they’re so dedicated,” she says. Talk soon turns to her ultra-cool dress sense that she totally downplays: “I don’t have a mirror, which explains my interesting outfit,” she laughs.

As the festival draws to a close there are the bands that always deliver and enthral with every performance: Exit International deserve every inch of the buzz surrounding them, and Newport boys Skindred are impossible to ignore as Benji Webbe invites everyone to join in the Newport helicopter for their encore (take your t-shirt off and swing it around your head, essentially.)

Walking up to the Castle (yes, there’s a castle in the park how amazing is that), I come across music photographer Mei Lewis covering hardcore newcomers Landscapes with flour for a magazine shoot; it’s both hilarious and utter comedy value to watch as one member screams “I’ve got dough in my eyes!”

The whole weekend has taught me a little something about Welsh life: it’s a long-held belief in small towns that you have to ‘get out’ to make something of yourself. This is the first time in my 28 years that I’ve realised that’s anything but true.

High points: Great bands, great people and a beautiful setting.

Low points: The festival is in its infancy, but more clothing/tattoo/food stalls would be a winner for next year.

Food: Welsh venison or chips. Skip the food, head straight for the bar.

Atmosphere: Relaxed, friendly and real mix of ages/people.

Quote of the night: “Where the hell are we?” as we headed to a lock-in at a nearby pub, huddled in the corner, having clearly interrupted a serious karaoke night.

Why should you go next year? It’s getting bigger and better each year, you’ll certainly find a new band you’ll love. If it carries on growing, Merthyr Rock has the potential to be the definitive Welsh music festival.

Words: Anita Bhagwandas

Wilderness Festival, 10-12 August 2012 Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire

First things first: Wilderness is NOT like any festival I have ever been too. Comparable to Latitude in its mix of music, arts and cultured clientele and with a dash of the Secret Garden Party’s free spirit (it was set up by the same people after all), it’s little wonder everyone I told I was going to Wilderness said “That’s supposed to be amazing!”.

Set in the glorious grounds of Cornbury Park, with an expanse of green fields, a valley and long winding lake bordered by trees, all anchored by a huge stately home, Wilderness is a bucolic setting, and with a relatively small amount of people there for a festival, all of whom are pretty green and respect the environment (there are even ‘Eco Poo’ loos which I think means pooing on a compost heap) you can romp around the woods/dance like a loon to folk bands without bashing in to someone else or tripping over a pile of discarded Strongbow cans.

ABOVE: Me in the festival, relaxing in the vintage showroom and the Secret Cinema.

The festival crowd was one of the most varied and friendly I’ve ever encountered – a mix of families with children (making use of the wonderful children’s area, which I quite wanted to play in), hardcore ravers that were looking for a smaller, more intimate Secret Garden Party (nipple tassles and face paint aplenty), ex-ravers looking to chill out with yoga and healing in the ‘Sanctuary’ area, and young couples or groups of mates. We even saw a stag do dressed in togas – but they were performing lines from Shakespeare plays as they walked around the site – hardly your average group of beery lads in a Yates Wine Bar!

Moving house dramas on the Friday meant my boyfriend and I didn’t arrive until Saturday lunchtime – and we were STARVING. Luckily food is one of the main draws at Wilderness. Cool Middle-Eastern/Spanish restaurant Moro had a pop-up tent serving tapas and roast chicken, The Breakfast Club was atop a double decker bus for a recovery breakfast burrito, and top chefs like Ottolenghi, Valentine Warner and Fergus Henderson each hosted banquets on separate nights. Staying on Saturday, we booked in for Ottolenghi, and were treated to a feast of the Isreali chef’s unexpected flavour combinations, from seared beef and dukkah broad bean puree, to marinated seabass, crunchy salads and a plum compote and pistachio cake for dessert, all washed down with delicious apple and cinnamon Zubrowka vodka cocktails.

There’s also some incredible street food on offer, and as we decided to eat our way around the festival we managed to squeeze in a salted caramel and peanut butter ice cream from Ginger’s Comfort Emporium, Little Jack Horner’s Sausage Rolls and a gooey tub of macaroni and cheese from Anna Mae’s.

We did kind of dance it off – although we’d missed Lianne La Havas on Friday, we waved our arms to Temper Trap and sat in a bit of a food coma listening to The Staves, before dancing frantically to We Were Evergreen in the folk tent (our favourite band of the weekend – check them out!). At night, the Last Tuesday Society hosted a masked ball – and although we forgot our masks, by the time a troupe of animal-faced dancers led us and fellow-festival goers into the woods to dance (not the naked flame-haired woman on horseback as was rumoured), it didn’t really matter.

Full of food and a little sleepy after several vodka cocktails, by 2am we left ravers of all ages, spread out in a valley surrounded by trees and dancing to pumping house music to go to bed. After all, we didn’t want to ruin our trip to the outdoor spa the next day.

Probably my favourite part of the festival, you could buy two hour tickets to Toast’s gorgeous spa, which has huge wooden hot tubs, a Swedish sauna, hot showers, a bar serving prosecco and G&Ts and a whole lake for wild swimming in. We weren’t part of the group attempting a world record skinny dipping attempt on the Saturday, but I did absolutely love the slightly chilly but refreshing swim.

After a relaxing afternoon in the spa, we packed up our tiny tent (and nearly ripped it), slapped on some aftersun and walked to the station gutted we were missing out on the Secret Cinema version of La Haine and the Secret Garden Party rave on the Sunday night. I’ll be going back next year and staying the whole weekend – I might even give the skinny-dipping a try…


High point: Wild swimming and unwinding in the lakeside hot tub and sauna, prosecco in hand.

Low Point: Seeing someone eat a pot noodle – when there’s this much good food on offer, why do that to yourself?

Food: An Ottolenghi banquet, some of the best street food vans in the UK and a pop up from Moro? The best festival food EVER. Bar none.

Atmosphere: 9/10

Quote of the weekend: “Mum, can I go to bed now?” – the teenagers and kids ready to call it quits when their raving parents just wouldn’t.

Why you should go next year: Amazing food, a spa and a gorgeous setting? It's the nicest festival experience you're bound to have.

Words: Lauren Smith

Photos: Benjamin Eagle

‘Vintage’ at Wilderness Festival 10-12 August 2012 Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire.

I admit I am a fan of all things vintage - from swing, through northern soul to vintage rock, the fashions, interior design and silly hairdos. I’ve shamelessly bought into the pomp and pageantry of it all over the years, so on paper the Vintage festival is all my Christmases come at once – in August.

Exploring the site, was magical, it was clear that every effort to made to keep things rustic but with all the perks of the coolest urban weekends on tap. Sharp 1940's enthusiasts, flapper wannabes and mods mixed with people channeling festival chic and boho fashion. A horse headed man sliding about the Soul casino or a waltzing be-tailed bohemian girl didn't seem weird, just wonderful. The few people who emerged from the Bugsy Malone party, Rumpus party or the Masked ball that hadn't embraced the themes were covered in foam, glitter and feathers by the bed time anyway.There was no fashion pretention, everyone had made an effort to dress up in some way but clothes were not the focus, everyone was there to have fun and dance to the music. We got funked up with Sharon Jones and the Dapkings on the main stage on Friday night only to be seduced by Strangefruit’s ethereal violin fueled folk on the bandstand later, this mix of styles was only to get more dramatic as the weekend went on.

By Saturday Vintage had been delivered and what a present, market stalls galore, a roller disco and sewing workshops, you could even land at the 'Hairport' for the perfect retro coiffure. Eddie Piller's Soul Casino did what it said on the tin and presented a myriad of legendary DJ’s, Dean Rudland, Norman Jay and Craig Charles to name but a few. The Torch club, curated by Snowboy rolled out the glamour on the most danceable floor you'll ever find in a deco style marquee. Flitting between the two mixed up the perfect cocktail of 60’s Soul and Jazz with big band swing and a twist of 50's R&B. Dance teacher Natasha Hall was the delicious cherry on top, teaching lindy hop, balboa and a bit of ballroom for good measure!

Glorious sunshine was the least expected gift of all however, despite the threat of Sunday storms. Jake Bugg’s set was the only sign of a ‘Thunder Bolt’ we heard. I even threw my old wellies away, which I may regret come Autumn… but it felt so liberating! The optimistic packing of 'Roman Holiday' style luggage of curling tongs, circle skirts and hair flowers paid off. My only regret was forgetting my swimsuit, as the waterfalls and lake looked so inviting. We cooed at the rolling hills of Lord and Lady Rotherwick’s estate on our arrival and this jubilation stayed with us right up until we booed at the traffic jam on the M40 on Sunday night.

While some seriously staunch vintage aficionados may turn their noses up at Wayne Hemingway’s attempts to bring the past to the masses, you've got to take your fedora off to his determination; in it’s first year (at Goodwood), Vintage won a 'best New Festival award'; last year's three-day extravaganza was at the impressive Royal Festival Hall, and Northamptonshire's stately ‘Broughton Hall’ was all set to host this year until poor ticket sales saw it scooped up and made to feel better by the kindly Wilderness Festival.

Highlights: Swinging (not in a sex way) to Ondre J Havelka and his Melody Makers, a 12 piece Jazz orchestra from Prague, one minute and dosey-doeing the hell out of barn dance the next.

Low points: A distinct lack of vintagey attendees, due to the late change of venue and dates I assume… although the wildlings made up the numbers! Also leaving before Spiritualised played smarts a little.

Food: We ate like kings!!! Posh poached eggs for breakfast, Hog roast baguette for lunch and a Mussaman curry for tea.

Atmosphere: SO friendly... eclectic and enchanting, relaxing yet rock and roll.

Quote of the weekend: 'do you want a pack of mini cheddars?'...'is the bear a catholic!?'

Why should you go again?: Massages by the lake, Skinny dipping in a waterfall, roller skating to disco by a forest and northern souling in a field. We laughed till we cried and danced till our feet were sore… Vintage at Wilderness was a success!

Words: Claire Goble

Crashing the stage at Soundwave Festival, Croatia

Two years ago I had one of the best weekends of my life when me and a friend packed up our wheely suitcase and headed to Garden Festival in Croatia. We made friends, danced until the small hours on stages built into the water and watched the sun go down from the deck of a raucous boat party in the middle of the Adriatic Sea.

So it didn’t get much persuading to get my back on a plane, this time with my hip-hop hat on (a metaphorical hat, not an actual hip-hop baseball hat you understand), to experience yet another Croatian festival experience: I was bound for Soundwave.

Going since 2008, this is only Soundwave’s second year in their new site in Tisno – an idyllic seaside fishing town just an hour away from Split. The main action happens in the cove where, only a few sandy steps away from each other are the main stage – hosting the likes of DJ Yoda, De La Soul, DJ Kentaro and Submotion Orchestra – with the Beach Stage and Pier Stage for smaller or more niche acts.

We spent our days mooching on the rocky coast the borders Tisno and the adjoining island of Murter. After a few beers (I learned after my first trip to steer clear of Croatian wine) and dinner at one of the many waterside restaurants, we’d follow the crowd of party-goers meandering to the site. Nobody rushes in Tisno, one of the many things I loved about the place.

One of my favourite festival moments was Friday on the main stage. Due to a set of rather jammy circumstances (my boyfriend is DJ Yoda’s manager) I was allowed back-stage for his headline set and watched the entire thing from the side of the stage – seeing 2000 people go wild amongst a sea of pink lights and smoke. Despite constant admonishments from my bloke to ‘be cool’, I was obviously anything but (see photo evidence for details) and jumped around like a crazy person to every tune he played.

But the festival stages are only half the fun. The boat parties – modern day booze cruises with three or four DJ’s – are a must for anyone looking for a more intimate music experience. DJ Kentaro played ours ahead of his headline set and I felt very lucky to stand less than a meter away from him – when his Saturday night main stage set was so busy I was forced to stand and bob my head from right at the back.

More than just a festival, Soundwave is a great way to go and experience a beautiful part of the world. We made a week of it, spending a few days either side soaking up the sun and getting to know the area. Fed up of mud and weather that changes every 10 minutes? Early bird tickets are available on Thursday for next year.

Amy Grier


High point: Jumping in the water after five hours on a boat party.

Low Point: Realising I still had my phone and money in my pockets at the time.

Food: Excellent. From wafer thin pizza to fresh tuna steak burgers with garlic mayonnaise, to grilled chicken salads and frozen Pina Coladas

Atmosphere: 9/10

Quote of the weekend: “Are you done with that pizza?” – A group of hungry students were scavenging food in the restaurant, presumably so they had more money to spend on the important things: beer, shots and lilos.

Hard Rock Calling – Soundgarden - 13 July, Hyde Park, London

I’ve already made my first mistake. “Mate, you know the bands are on all day today right. Have you taken a half-day?” my best friend posed at 2pm via text as I was knee-deep in a mind-bending science-laden beauty feature. No, no I hadn’t. Of course I hadn’t. Living day-to-day (I tell myself its rock ‘n’ roll, really it’s just disorganised) has its perils, and at 6:08pm I elbow my way onto the Piccadilly line (with Cake’s Going The Distance sound tracking through my mind) and finally arrive; to a mud-filled, slightly farmy smelling Hyde Park.

“Mate, where the hell are you now?” comes the second text, as I’m momentarily distracted by fellow Newportians Skindred infusing the air with their ragga-metal on the second stage, as Doom Riff skiffles across the evening air.

I arrive with moments to spare before Iggy and The Stooges take to the stage, and despite a few ‘insurance mule’ heckles, it’s plain, fast, hard punk-rock fury from the start. They plough their way through I Wanna Be Your Dog – its droning guitar hooks still savage and unrelenting, but it’s easy to be distracted, firstly by the camera panning to Led Zepplin’s Jimmy Page, standing side of stage, secondly by an increasingly atrophying, slightly bow-backed Iggy Pop, covering himself in water. At 65, the ravages of time have not been kind, but he’s still every inch the compelling frontman.

However time has been kind, if not overly generous, to Chris Cornell. Fresh from their impressive Download set a month ago, Cornell is all smiles and foppish curls as he greats the dedicated crowd. The Seattle grunge-merchants are formulaic in their initial endeavour; Spoonman, Outshine and Fell On Black Days are brilliant, yet routine. It’s not until Gun brings a little slovenly-then furiously-paced doom into the equation that you realise how heavy they can be. Black Hole Sun is dropped, perhaps purposefully, as the rain forms in sheets, and it’s the band’s cue to take their energy levels up a notch.

They’re incredible musicians; Kim Thayil’s fingers move with the deftness of a pirouetting prima ballerina, Cornell isn’t about stomping grandiose stage presence, he’s statuesque and graceful, Ben Shepherd sinister bass hauntings collide with Matt Cameron’s harmonious crashing – they’re a patchwork quilt of magnificent artistry that’s so sublimely fused.

With so many rock bands, reforming, retouring and revisiting the past, Soundgarden are one of the few that truly hold their own majesty, without a revisionist rose-tinted glaze. Cornell’s voice might have lost a little of its falsetto and power – it’s perhaps the reason, disappointingly, they haven’t played Birth Ritual at either show. But he’s still in possession of one of the undeniably finest voices in rock.

Anita Bhagwandas


High point: Chris Cornell is a very, VERY attractive man. I’m just putting that out there.

Low Point: The sound was a wee bit on the quiet side. I wanted to be deafened by fuzzy guitar joy.

Food: Burgers with wholemeal buns. Fancy.

Atmosphere: Seattle circa 1990. Complete with Mother Love Bone t-shirts.

Quote of the weekend: I’m not sure any can be repeated without damaging my professional reputation.

Why should you go next year: In 2010 it was Pearl Jam, last year was Bon Jovi, this year Soundgarden - I’d give my little finger for next year’s headliner to be Stone Temple Pilots or something from the days of my youth.

Unapologetically old-school rock: Bruce Springsteen at Hyde Park

The last time I went to see Bruce, I was dragged against my will by an ex-boyfriend (big believer in staying friends) and left him aghast when I admitted I had no idea what Thunder Road sounded like. This time it’s all changed – we’re now happily shacked up together and Bruce has become my constant soundtrack. I even know the new album. Thankfully unlike many singer-songwriters of The Boss’ generation – Springsteen is not content to rest on his early catalogue (nor has he ever had an ill-fated drum’n’bass period). Building on epoch-making songs such as Born In The USA and Dancing In The Dark, Bruce’s new stuff from Wrecking Ball is angry, political and uplifting in equal measure, putting younger voices than his to shame. He is the ordinary man railing against the crushing economy and self-serving politicians – a situation that sadly hasn’t improved since the mid-Seventies when Springsteen made his name with 1975’s album, Born To Run.

In fact, Bruce is so angry he should really be at odds with the middle-of-the-road crowd happy to sing along to Because The Night and Glory Days, drink flat Tubor and wolf down £6 foot-long hot dogs. The only thing that does upset them is the patchy PA system which seems to be set to low. But thanks to the sheer verve of Bruce’s showmanship magnificently backed by the legendary E-Street Band featuring Steve Van Zandt (better known to Sopranos’ viewers as Silvio) as well as guest support from Creedance Clearwater’s John Fogerty, the crowd is generally exultant – even when the English rain makes its inevitable appearance halfway through the three-hour set; they know they’re in the presence of legends.

It’s Springsteen’s ease of moving between stadium rawk and heart-rending pared-back versions of the aforementioned Thunder Road and The River which makes you realise why this crowd loves him so much. From the skinny-jeaned teenage hipsters to the middle-age waistcoast-wearing Baby Boomers relieving their youth, this music hits you right in the heart and refuses to let go. In fact, it’s almost a disappointment when ex-Beatle Paul McCartney joins Bruce on-stage for I Saw Her Standing There and a crowd-accompanying Twist And Shout (no doubt upsetting the millionaries’ flats nearby). Yes we’ve had three hours of the Bruce but we want more goddammit. As if hearing our pleas, the organisers react by turning off the mics. And you wonder why Bruce is still so angry…

Francesca Brown


High point: [All together now] “Born down in a dead man town…”

Low Point: The off button

Food: Veggie burgers are your friend

Atmosphere: Boss love

Quote of the weekend: “I think that’s Paul McCartney…”

Why should you go next year: The crowd - they are here to rock

Wireless Festival, 6-8 July, Hyde Park

Hyde Park is best known musically for the boisterous, three-day music marathon that is Wireless festival. It’s one of the few festivals that is simply all about the music, no cupcake stalls, photobooths or eccentric creatives running around to distract from the pure unadulterated pop gems on offer. It’s back to basics with large old-fashioned festival bars, tasty food stalls and huge booming sound than can be heard right across the capital.

It attracts huge names and this year Deadmau5, The Roots, Drake, Nicky Minaj and Example gave the weekend a more urban feel, while Sunday was ripe with pop goodness from Rhianna and Jessie J. I nipped into the VIP area to escape the crowds for a while, spotting Calum Best, Lisa Snowdon and several of Britain’s Next Top Model contestants adding a little long-limbed glamour to the proceedings.

I got chatting to Delilah, who captured our attention on the Pepsi Max stage as we first walked in through the entrance. Her deep, soulful vocals hard to ignore, as were the stunning Alexander McQueen lace up thigh high boots she was strutting the stage in. She’d lost her voice a little, no doubt due to gruelling performance timetables as she’s so in demand, but her performance was pitch-perfect and so much more professional than her tender 22 years would suggest. She’s a real one-to-watch at the moment, so keep your eyes peeled over the next few months.

On my way out of the VIP area, squeezing between the artists trailers, we get ushered to stand back as we spot Nicky Minaj who has just arrived on site, head covered by a blanket and flanked by her entourage – most of whom were refused entry backstage as passes hadn't been handed out. Drake is next to arrive but we make a sharp exit from the chaos and head out to the main stage, edging our way into the middle of the sea of umbrellas (not the stunning sunset backdrop of previous years, sadly). The crowd seem to be taking it in their stride, however, enjoying his set and spirits don’t seem too dampened by the dour weather. Another great London festival weekend.

Clare Ferguson

Curate your own Bestival

Two of the Stylist team are off to Bestival in September, so when we stumbled across this 'curate your own line-up' poster on the Bestival website, our mid-morning procrastination was found. If you'll be joining us, have a play yourself - it's got us so excited about September!

Lovebox Festival, 15- 17 June 2012, London, E9

A decade ago Groove Armada had the genius idea of hosting their own music event on the doorstep of the city, featuring lesser-known dance music acts with an underground, intimate vibe. Who would have guessed Lovebox would become the Londoners’ festival of choice? This year all 60,000 tickets sold out in days, and it’s widely become known as the coolest and most popular of the capitals offerings.

Starting in 2003, the festival was first staged on Clapham Common, but quickly moved to the more picturesque setting of Victoria Park in Hackney two years later, attracting bigger and better names each time. This year had the ultimate line-up with Emilie Sandé, Lana Del Rey and newcomer Rita Ora all taking centre stage.

Sitting on my friend’s balcony, overlooking the park with a pre-festival cocktail at midday on Saturday was idyllic. As a local, I’ve had Lovebox marked in my diary for a number of years now – the lure of a 10-minute walk from my house and a bed that isn’t a tent are added bonuses.

Gathering the group and making last minute emergency outfit changes to accommodate the great British weather, I managed to herd everyone into the park, determined the drizzle was not going to put a dampener on our dancing. With several dance tents, numerous make-up stations, drinks stalls and photobooths to flit between, there’s so much to do – not to mention the outstanding music.

The weather was soon forgotten as we navigated our way to the front of the sound tent, several bottles of cider tucked under our arms, unable to help ourselves dancing as we made our way through the lycra-clad fluoro crowd. A quick refuel with burritos and burgers at one of the many organic food vans gave us much needed energy to dance non-stop through Kelis’s set.

With one of the best atmospheres and a strong fashion vibe, the style-spotting is almost as fun as the dancing. That’s the charm about Lovebox, it’s the ultimate London party. Emilie Sandé’s soulful set was by far my favourite of the day, cleverly adapting her single Our Version Of Events to accommodate the demands of the boozy, excitable crowd, receiving cheers as the sun went down. But, Friendly Fires were also a high point - their infectious samba beats creating a carnival atmosphere and encores of Hawaiian Air and Kiss Of Life brilliantly rounding off the day.

As the last cheers roar through the crowd I always find myself having a moment of drunken nostalgia; it’s moments like this which really make me love this city. This just might have been my biggest and best Lovebox yet.


High points: The outfits. Make fashion notes, it’s East London after all.

Low points: Predictably, the queues for the toilets and bar which annoyingly interrupt the flow of the night

Food: A delicious mix of Mexican, organic burgers and cupcakes for dessert. I’m sure there is a veggie offering in there, somewhere…

Atmosphere: A party crowd that feels excitable and naughty. Easy to make friends so make sure you get an invite to one of the numerous after parties, 11pm is too early to go home!

Quote of the night: “Is over 30 too old to wear hot pants?” Friend: “You’re never too old for hot pants in East London.”

Why should you go next year? It’s on the doorstep if you live in London and the names just get better each year. I can’t wait for the 2013 line up!

Words: Clare Ferguson

Download Festival 8 - 10 June 2012, Donington Park

As the rain sweeps, somewhat half-heartedly, across the gargantuan festival ground, I’m questioning my own motives for being here rather than nestled into the pillowy folds of my duvet. Because maybe this is the one Download weekend that I should have stayed at home, drizzling truffle oil on my scrambled eggs and creating never-to-be-purchased wish lists on Net-A-Porter. But bizarrely, I’m not put off. Not even slightly perturbed by the oozing mud underfoot and on my leather jacket, with a little matted into the ends of my hair for good measure like a rural dip-dye.

Because at Download, nobody cares if you’re best friends with Kate Moss or whether your wellies are Hunter. It’s entirely about the music, and as I look out at a sea of over 80,000 lighters waving during Metallica’s headline set, it’s evident that Download is probably one of the last remaining authentic music festivals in the UK.

It’s been nearly 10 years since my very first Download experience and it’s fair to say that it’s a beacon in the UK festival industry, going from strength to strength in size and quality of the line-up. And although the unapologetic line-up choices – say, for arguments sake, Chase and Status playing just after Machine Head on the Friday – are both bold and brilliant, where Download truly succeeds is that it plays a colossal part in nurturing new talent across the entire music industry.

I spent so much of my weekend in the heart of the action, watching bands like Acoda and Adelaide take to the Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage – a moment for them that marks the culmination of relentless months of hard work. Getting to this point of playing at one of the UK’s most popular festivals is gruelling; each band uploads its videos online then, from over 7,000 entries, a final selection get to play a live set from their bedrooms which is shown on Finally, music industry bods like Radio 1 Rock Show DJ Daniel P Carter and Download organiser Andy Copping pick the final eight that will play the summer’s biggest rock festivals; Slam Dunk, Hevy, and the holy grail, Download.

To say it’s a dream come true is an understatement, David Williams, guitarist of band-of-the-moment Adelaide, told me: “We’re living like kings, this whole experience has been unbelievable.”

At a time when the music industry is struggling, the idea of supporting and providing a platform for new talent is both refreshing and admirable – and the Bedroom Jam stage plays a huge role in this. What’s also heartwarming is the chance to play the same festival as your idols, as Williams explains: “My rock ‘n’ roll moment happened last night. I was stood next to James Hetfield from Metallica, as he was eating a massive bag of American crisps. And all I could say to him, my idol, was ‘That’s a big bag of crisps.’ He didn’t reply, but still, who gets to say they spoke to one of the world’s biggest rock stars?”

ABOVE: Hanging out backstage with the Red Bull bands, including David Williams (centre, left) of Adelaide.

The unpredictability and sense that anything can happen runs central to the festival’s core. Canadian rockers Cancer Bats are dropped from their early main stage set, but end up headlining the smaller Bedroom Jam stage later that evening, with bodies poured into every inch of space as singer Liam Cormier pounds the stage. As I stand and watch from backstage, looking out over the towering amps and soft focus violet light, you can only imagine how incredible this is for a first time band. It’s the stuff dreams are entirely made from.

It’s those first experiences that make Download so brilliant; I did my first beer bong here in 2004, I’m still mentally scarred by Society 1 doing a live suspension in 2005, but was equally blown away by Slipknot in 2009, Aerosmith in 2010 and seeing Soundgarden this year. May Download weather the festival storm well, and live to ripe old age.


High point: Watching two teenage boys from Bridgend try to crawl through bushes and a small stream in the pitch black to meet Black Sabbath.

Low Point: The general camping is loud and packed. You’re definitely better off spending the extra on a B&B (book very early) or the RIP packages that get you access to the guest bar (And the Saturday night party.)

Food: Burgers, meat, the food of rock. And the occasional Falafel.

Atmosphere: The general camaraderie and atmosphere at Download is unrivalled – contrary to popular belief, rock festivals are both peaceful and child-friendly.

Quote of the weekend: “From now on, all the best things shall be named Metallica. We’ll use it like an adjective. Example: ‘Today the sun is shining, it’s a Metallica day.’”

Why should you go next year: The party never stops, the music keeps coming and next year’s tickets are on sale, now.

Words: Anita Bhagwandas