Byline Festival Reviewed

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The sun shone down on Pippingford Park for this year's Byline Festival, set in the beautiful Sussex countryside. The festival was headlined by The Feeling, Pussy Riot, Lowkey and Matt Bianco,

as well as boasting DJ sets from the like of Kevin Rowland, Don Letts, Jerry Dammers and Chris Sullivan. Byline sets out to promote great journalism and was set up in 2017 in the backdrop of Trump's election and the Brexit Referendum. Although Byline has a clear message, it's certainly not bogged down by politics and maintains a traditional festival feel.

Approaching my 50th next year I no longer have the energy for a Reading or Glastonbury, so found myself swapping the dance tent for talks on far-right funding, Putin and Cambridge Analytica. I tried to veer away from talks on Brexit this year and found the talks on climate change more interesting and the festival welcomed Extinction Rebellion for the first time. I did, however, sit in one talk on Brexit and during the talk a gentleman stood up announcing he was very much pro-Brexit and was met by a chorus of boo's, followed by somebody shouting lynch him. I do not, of course, condone such behaviour but was funny none the less and I do believe was said with tongue certainly in cheek. Brexit has certainly caused a divide in this country and there is certainly an element of mob rule on both sides but you certainly leave Byline discussing more subjects than ever with your fellow attendees. It's a bit like leaving a football match to some extent, discussing the days' proceedings. Another highlight of the day was a talk on Spitting Image by one of the original creators, Roger Law.

Pussy Riot

Although the festival's timetable has a large array of talks and workshops, it certainly focuses heavily on live music and comedy too. The live highlight of the weekend for me was Lowkey, who's set was truly memorable. Before Byline, I knew more about the rapper's politics, than his music but had pencilled him on somebody I wanted to see. Lowkey is a British Iraqi and is Hip Hop artist and activist, based in London. From the start the rapper engaged the audience, starting off with an alphabetical acapella and then moving on to cover subjects, such as the refugee crisis, the Palestinian struggle and Grenfell Tower. After the set, a watching Jerry Dammers came on to the mic to say Lowkey was the most important artist out there right now and you certainly can't argue with that.

Being a massive reggae fan and DJ, Saturday was certainly the best day for me. The Forest Forum stage hosted a night of Greendsleeve Records with an uplifting set from the legendary Don Letts. This stage is set in the middle of woodland, stumbling distance from the campsite and is certainly my favourite space at the festival. On Friday I stumbled across a fantastic hip hop trio from Bristol, called Ambush, missing the opening Samba Party on the main stage. Being a casualty of the 80's/ 90's clubland, I was very much looking forward to The Wag Club Night in the Future Dome tent and Dammers and Sullivan certainly didn't disappoint.

The Sunday was very much a chilled day for me as myself DJ Mabbs and my wife DJ Dobbo, had late sets going into Monday morning, on the Future Dome stage. I dipped in and out of some interesting talks and workshops, as well as sampling some of the delicious food on offer from the vendors. My DJ set followed my wife, who was djing her first festival with a mix of Motown, Northern Soul, Funk and Gospel. My set followed with a mix of Afrobeat, Funk, Disco, Hip Hop and Electronic in front of an enthusiastic crowd, despite it being late into Monday morning. This was the perfect way to end the festival for me for my second Byline appearance.

Byline continues into most of Monday with more talks and workshops but unfortunately, we had to head back to start preparing for our own mini-festival Jackfest, the following Saturday. If I had one criticism of the festival, it would be the overrunning of some of the stage times but this did not distract from what a brilliant weekend it is. It was certainly helped this year too by being one of the hottest August bank holidays on record which helped as we camped this year, deciding last year to take the hotel option. The campsite had a lovely hot shower too which went down like free ice cream. The site also had a beautiful green room this year for those of us performing. We left Byline feeling euphoric after all the brilliant bands and DJ's, as well as being more informed too. There are too many festivals to choose from now but if you want a bit of a break from the norm, then give Byline a try. Early bird tickets are available already, so go to www.bylinefestival.com Hopefully see you there in 2020.

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Read 368 times Last modified on Monday, 09 September 2019 16:47
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