New festival series: The Great Escapism

Volume two in our series looking at new festivals for 2012

Photographer:Jim Stewart

Alex Fahey - 09 May 2012

Music is a powerful art. There is music for all occasions; it supports success, it sympathises with heartache and it animates memory.
So of course, it is of no surprise that music finds a place in times of austerity – not that it gives a jot about the state of the nation – to its listeners who do care about the situation in Britain it offers an escape from the daily onslaught of negative press.
Of all the musical genres, dance music makes perhaps the strongest case as being the most escapist; the role of a DJ’s set by its very nature is to keep the partying going. If a continuous driving beat gets your feet shuffling and your fists raised high, you’re heading towards hedonism not considering future fiscal policy.
The artist behind the decks has to read and respond to the mood of the crowd, using subtle changes in drum-pattern, eight-beats of recognisable bass hooks or sing-a-long vocals, their goal is to select tunes that rise and rise to a collective-climax with the audience, the aim is to keep the crowd dancing; pure perfection at a festival.
Two new festivals hoping to provide such a distraction in 2012 are Norfolk’s Natural Rhythm Festival and Dimensions Festival in Croatia.
Organiser hopes must be high for both festivals. Dance music is currently riding the crest of a wave and it’s not just the sound of Leftfield propelling it forward (that Guinness promo seems a touch classier than the dubstep advertising children’s action figures).

Dimensions’ Director, Jonathan Scratchley says of the current genre, “so much brilliant music is being made in this area at the moment, experimental music with a soul that is connecting to a young audience,” and his knowledge in the area is far from unfounded.
Scratchley is also the Director of the festival’s sister event, Outlook, which like Dimensions, takes place in Croatia. His festival pedigree and drive, “after having run Outlook festival for four years we felt as a group that we wanted to expand our musical horizons,” demonstrate to those interested in the new event that the reigns are in very capable hands. It’s a point that just a glance at the line-up will cement. A Mount Kimbie live set sits neatly next to Carl Craig performing under his celebrated 69 moniker while the formidable and fantastic Four Tet’s IDM seems vanilla in comparison to the madness of Moodyman.
Whatever dance tribe you belong to; electronica, IDM, techno, house, drum & bass and dubstep, the wealth of depth in the line-up is enough to satisfy the most prejudice of tastes. Dance is in great shape, vinyl saw a 39% surge in sales last year and even if a fraction of that plastic went towards chart dance it’s a hard case to argue against that, following the success of Skrillex and David Guetta, dance music has anything but a firm grip on the music buying public.
Stuart Banks, founder of Natural Rhythm Festival, has been in the dance game long enough to remember the first ascent of dance culture when the beats of acid house sounded out from the fields and the warehouses of early raves.
As part of the team that organised infamous Eclipse raves, Banks has decided that two decades later, 2012 is the time to return to an outdoor event. “All our favourite festivals had grown so large that we felt it was the right time to bring something more intimate to the festival calendar,” and Natural Rhythm is certainly intimate. A mere 1000 attendees will grace the woodland of East Anglia and among the line-up whom by name-alone, DJ Marky, Krafty Kuts and A. Skillz, radiate all the celebration of a sun-drenched carnival, festival-goers should expect, interactive art, live acoustic camp-fires and an alternative Olympic games.

Although the focus is still on the music such additions help flesh out the simplicity of by-gone raves to create a wholly realised event. But how much tougher must it be to organise a modern day festival?  “Surprisingly,” says Banks, “legislation has been made easier, the main difference is the competition...and the amount of it!”
Certainly Global Gathering, Glade and Creamfields are three such examples of festival mainstays which offer opposition to Natural Rhythm Festival but Banks appears confident that his new event has enough additions to change the dynamics of the original festival idea. “With the right people involved and with the right location we felt that Natural Rhythm Festival would provide something new and creative,” and he suggests it is for anyone, “who appreciates good music can come with an open mind and a good and friendly attitude.
Despite both being dance events, locality dictates that Dimensions and Natural Rhythms Festival aren’t in direct competition with one another. The former is due to take place at Fort Punta Christo in Croatia, so the UK festival market should only be considered distant opposition.
It means however that it does face different competition from other global dance events. Ibiza has been for years the go-to destination for British clubbers and with the Super Clubs still managing to get away with 70 Euros door entry it appears (to club managers at least) that San Antonio isn’t going to wane in its appeal anytime soon.
The Miami Winter Conference too is another global event which, as dance music has been revitalised, is growing in demand with British tourists and has many making their way across the Atlantic in search of the best new electronic music.
But Scratchley it seems, in significance and value-for-money, to have created a real alternative to the global events which can be unsympathetic to the wallet. “With our festivals we try to build something that will grow into an important event for the scene globally, spreading good music over just commercially successful music and supporting artists who create what they love to.”
Both Natural Rhythms and Dimensions festivals are created by people who love what they do. Scratchley and Banks are the architects for your summer’s bout of escapism, “good festivals need great music, the right people and an incredible set up,” says Banks.
Two of the three have been already done; all you need to do is buy a ticket for your Great Escape.


Dimensions takes place at Fort Punta Christo in Pula, Croatia from 6-9 September, Dimensions Festival tickets are on sale now and priced at £130 (including booking fee).

Click here to buy Dimensions Festival tickets.

Natural Rhythm Festival takes place on Harlocks Farm, Cambridgeshire from 6-7 July, Natural Rhythm Festival tickets are on sale now and priced at £70.50 (including booking fee).

Click here to buy Natural Rhythm Festival tickets.



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