By Jimmy Blake & Olly Douglas
Part I of Jimmy and Olly’s Nova Festival coverage can be found here.
The weekend’s largest deluge awoke us on early on Saturday morning and after exhausting the excuses as to why we should stay in the tent all day we thought it best to explore the middle day of the festival. With the site being so small, we soon bumped into an array of campfire acquaintances from the previous evening. Perhaps more staggering than the range of teens, young professionals and mainly families who shared their experiences was the fact that an anonymous character, we’ll call him ‘drug lord,’ who remained in the darkness of his tent wearing sunglasses, was welcomely out of place at the festival.
The multi-coloured mayhem continued into our life drawing class as we were greeted by luminous orange, blue and yellow body parts and a 3B pencil in the cinema tent. But as rain stopped play yet again The Nova Arms made for a homely retreat in the form of the ‘Sounds Familiar Music Quiz.’
As the clouds briefly parted there was the chance to indulge in activities around the site. The Hurly Burly café served tar with a smile and an infectiously catchy beat while the woodland sculpture walk provided a taste of Alice in Wonderland inspired escapism that Nova proved to do so well. That said, with no ‘drink me’ potion available in the house on stilts the miniature stools and tea pot were a sobering reminder of how family orientated many of the activities were during the day. With tandem space hoppers and clown shows left to the under-6s, we had to work hard to discover the best kept secrets of the festival, but it was worth it. The Edinburgh Fringe style ‘Nurse Knows Best’ installation and an eye-opening yet suitably unorthodox talk on euphoria proving the most intriguing finds.
– ‘The best-kept secrets of the festival…’
Having earned a dose of music it was time to once again brave a downpour to return to the Valley Stage. Rising star of melancholic electronic pop Jessie Ware effortlessly charmed smiles back to faces with singles ‘Running’ and ‘110%,’ among a number of tracks form forthcoming album Devotion. A cancelation from The Phenomenal Handclap Band (“due to unforeseen circumstances”) left a distinct lack of energy in proceedings before Mother Feather unleashed their New York brand of amazing Scissor Sister tribute act ‘pop-cock-rock’ unto the ‘we forgot about the rain hours ago, get over it’ crowd.
– Mother Feather
– Jessie Ware
Mud was soon back on the menu however as the Fearless Theatre Arena became a comedy club. A well polished slot from The Beta Males made for a memorable headline act, mainly thanks to a naked stage dive that saw a larger member of the foursome gliding not so elegantly across the front row. Despite a pleasant evening in the arena, it had none of the same communal chaos of the evening before, perhaps a hinderance based on the size of the festival that will be ironed out in years to come, and as the masses dispersed to the campsite we decided to called it a night.
– The Beta Males
We awoke Sunday morning in a bit of a daze, and apparently we weren’t alone. As an exodus of mud splattered, weary-faced festival-goers fled past our tent, we set out on the final days events; it was beginning to feel like the Hunger Games.
– ‘Mud-splattered, weary-faced festival-goers…’
The Nova Arms was playing host to a the pub quiz hosted by the ‘Quizzer Sisters,’ which we saw as our chance to shine. Having decided on the team name ‘Quizlamic Extremists’ we were (yet again) let down by the weather as we were forced in and out of the Nova Arms by the intermittent rain. Despite a taking advantage of the pub sign round by drawing a largely ridiculous logo we were consequently completely overlooked in the prize giving ceremony, came joint last and got a quite soggy for our efforts.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon contemplating why not only the campers but also some of the exhibiters were leaving. As people started to head for the exit, there was an overwhelming feeling of anticlimax and almost embarrasment when we thought about the lack of people showing up for arguably the set of the festival, Ghostpoet. Just as we thought, wading down to the main stage we were greeted with the unfortunate sight of absolutely nobody keenly waiting for the appearance of Mr. Poet. He walked on stage looking somewhat disappointed by the crowd but continued on with what he does best and had the small but lively audience rocking by time he played closer ‘Cash and Carry Me Home.’ After the set he admitted that he had played far bigger crowds that were not a patch on the group of muddy nut-cases he had just performed to. Having shifted up a gear we decided to watch a little burlesque in the Fearless Theatre. On entering the tent a curvy girl on stage began to remove her last item of clothing before diving like a walrus into the mud from the stage, swaying and gliding on her front across the mud like a mad sow with nipple tassels–yeah, we weren’t sure either. Before wiping down, there was just enough time to watch the Valley Stage closer–the slightly mental Tune-Yards whose chaotically eclectic yet strangely soothing set personified the festival.
Throughout most of the things that we had seen, be it art, music or theatre, there was an underlying vein of disorganization. It felt as though both artists and stewards were pretending to be such, reassuring the unassuming muddy punters that everything was okay, when in fact they rarely knew what was going on around the site. In many ways this is encouraging, as it echoes the way in which early festivals worked, and gave people a taste of what an event can be like without so much corporate-sponsered organized fun. But that’s not what people paid for. The idea that it was near impossible to get cash from anywhere on the festival site was a real let down and unsurprisingly caused many people problems. The weather was a typical byproduct of a British festival and is something we can regrettably do nothing about. We hope that this festival will make a triumphant return next year and learn from its mistakes. The area and landscape is beautiful and despite the rain there was an outstanding amount of new music, theatre and art on show that fittingly matched the surroundings with whimsical charm.