UK Festival Awards 2009

United Kingdom United Kingdom | 22 November 2009

Even the bravest festival promoters wouldn’t have staged an event in weather this bad. But as the icy wind and rain whipps around the outside, we step into London’s biggest tent - The Millennium Dome - for this year’s UK Festival Awards. And even inside in the warmth there are still crazy festival echoes with some stilt-walking neon freaks, a two headed horse creature and an old school underwater diver greeting us.

The downstairs area of the indigO2 theatre is decked out in traditional awards ceremony style with candles and round tables but we go for the standing room only up top. After a nifty little video package which reminds us why we love festivals, We Were Promised Jetpacks come on. A bit undercut by the ‘festival experience’ video the boys are a little slow to start but come their second song/segue they’ve charmed us with their Scottish post-rock sonics and a lead singer who sounds like Bono before U2 disappeared up Brian Eno’s arse.

Just before the 10pm watershed the first winner is announced for Best Family Festival and out of nominations, which included Latitude and Sundae On The Common, Camp Bestival scooped the award. Although initially thwarted by a duff microphone Rob Da Bank dedicates the award to “6,000 under 12 year olds” and their own kids. T In The Park grabs Best Toilets and tiny boutique beauty Croissant Neuf Summer Party bags the Greener Festival Award from some of the bigger boys. The multi-venue Camden Crawl takes the Best Metropolitan Festival award from Dot To Dot after they slimmed down. Neither Blur’s Damon Albarn or Lily Allen are here to collect their Festival Fitty award so we go into an okay musical interlude from Starsailor’s James Walsh before hard rockers Sonisphere stake their claim to Best New Festival.

LeeFest deservedly get the Grass Roots Festival Award with their tiny festival that began in “Lee’s back garden” a few years ago. From nominations which include Pet Shop Boys at T In The Park, Thom Yorke at Latitude and ZZ Top at Download, classic indie band La Casa Azul take the Critics’ Choice Award for their appearance on the Elefant Records Stage at the unique Indietracks Festival (where trainspotters and naval gazers meet) - although both promoters and musicians are too shy to collect the award. Less unsurprisingly Florence Welch isn’t around to collect her award for Best Breakthrough Act for her energetic rigging climbing performances in Florence And The Machine

The UK Festival Awards don’t need to go that far to award Best Overseas Festival for Ireland’s Oxegen happily claiming the prize. And Kings Of Leon ode to STD’s, ‘Sex On Fire’, blazes the festival anthem. It isn’t a huge surprise, considering that Blur were nominated for both their festival appearances, that they get the award for their storming Glastonbury set. Later the festival continues to hold sway over all as they once again collect the Best Major Festival. However on the other side of the coin, Beach Break Live equal Glasto on the award stakes by getting both Promoter Of The Year and Best Small Festival for their student based event. And Rob Da Bank is also able to double up after his main event Bestival wins the Best Medium Festival Award.

Taking a leaf from Bestival’s book, tiny Lounge On The Farm proves you can still do a lot after their eclectic mix of festival regulars, rave eccentrics, daring new acts and crowd pleasers ensures they take away Best Line-Up Award. And finally we are able to pay tribute to one of the cultivators of the boutique experience as The Big Chill’s Katrina Larkin is deservedly awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award. It is particularly pleasing to see Katrina bounce back this year following the torrential previous year and a superb but undersold festival this year which resulted in the event needing to be save by Festival Republic. But after hearing her speak it seems that the creative spark is still in place and hopefully this festival will continue for many years to come and at the same time keep its very special identity.

The stripped down rockin’ buskin’ of the Hot Rats (Danny and Gaz from Supergrass) play us out and successfully strip 10 years off all of us and whet our appetite for another festival year. Now we just need to get this pesky Christmas out of the way.

By Dan Davies.

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