Shambala Festival 2012 review

'One of the most diverse, imaginative, exciting, fun-packed festivals'

Photographer:Sara Bowrey

Phil Brady - 28 August 2012

The award winning Shambala Festival 2012 has evolved from a fancy dress themed family fait to one of the most diverse, imaginative, exciting, fun-packed festival weekends on the British calendar to date. This wonderful event is now the epitome of the word ‘festival’. If you close your eyes and think of your wildest fantasies and adventures in wonderland, the sequence of events that follow at Shambala will stretch much further than the realms of your own imagination. This is a playground for dreamers. One overwhelming thing about this festival is the shear joy reflected in the wide smiles on people’s faces. This is one happy collective. Simply, a celebration on the beauty of life. As The Tunnel of Love team meet and greet punters at the gates it is evident just how happy people are to get here. Teams of bike riders arrive from as far as Birmingham, London and Bristol, cycling into the festival together as this event shows us that we can make a cultural explosion with minimum impact on the planet. The event is powered 100% by sustainable sources of energy.

Taking a leisurely stroll through the beautiful grounds at Kelmarsh Country Estate, we encounter a plethora of delights. The Enchanted Woodlands with its dramatic surreal sculptures, beautiful soundscapes, live theatre and huge AV installations. Onto The Lakeside - a tranquil space full of good energy, a huge country manor house overlooks a calming lake where a man dressed in steam punk fashion cycles past playing a full size piano and blowing horns. A 12-foot nun plays makeshift bagpipes made from bits of old washing machine and sewing needles as an alien recites poetry while sat on a mobile toilet and these are just some of the festivalgoers. Across the bridge into The Meadow we find The Permaculture Garden with its friendly bee keepers, organic refreshments and inspiring workshops. Around the vibrant Kids Field where an outstanding act named simply, Pearl (10/10), an 11 year old Ariel Silk performer, climbs to dizzying heights up a ribbon of silk, weaving herself into an array of shapes and falling great lengths, she catches herself inches from the ground along with the heart dropping attention of the large crowd sat watching her. Down through the Craft Village we meet more walkabout acts before we feel the thumping bass coming from Chai Wallah’s tent where Polaroid 85 (6/10) take us on an orchestral journey with a piano led, bassy and haunting vocal collage of cinematic music as they open the musical proceedings on Friday afternoon. Sticking around for more music from The Mayflys (6/10) and Rory Mcleod and The Familiar Strangers (6/10), the atmosphere is buzzing as the beer and cocktails flow and the milling crowd meander in the sun outside.

Yes, sun. Shambala 2012 is one of the only festivals of the weekend not to be washed out with rain. Moving on to Kamikaze, a large stripy big top for an extravaganza of talents from Kamikaze Cabaret (8/10), before singer/songwriter and political activist, Billy Bragg (6/10) captivates his audience over on the Shambala Stage as his comrade Tony Benn (7/10) talks about the history of anti-royalists and left wing politics accompanied by the music of Roy Bailey over in Sanafaka’s. As night begins to fall the swelling crowd head down to the bass heavy dance stations of Kamikaze for Cheeba (7/10), a live set from Hint (7/10), Parker (7/10) and Toddla T & MC DRS (8/10) as The Destroyers (8/10) fill the stage with a mixture of Gypsy, Balkan, Klezmer and beat poetry and DJ Moneyshot closes Friday night at Chai Wallah’s with his take on club bangers, hip-hop classics and funky breaks.

Saturday is another Sunny day, only a hint of the forecasted downpours hit the fields of Shambala and the wellies stay in the tents. Everyone dresses up today and the costumes are spectacular. Down at Random Workshops we make pinhole cameras and nipple tassels and learn some street magic tricks while in the Dance Workshop the revellers warm up their limbs and build their appetites with a bit of belly dancing, samba lessons and sabar dancing, a West African dance from Senegal.

The food here is wonderful and reasonably priced. FareShare down in The Landfill Café prepare a six-course fine dining feast. The chef, Danny Hill who also made the food at Bristol’s Feed The 5000 feast in May this year, cooks up the culinary delights in this swanky restaurant. The clientele are dressed to the nines and filled with anticipation, as they are about to eat food and drink fine wine that has been rescued from the landfills. Yes that’s right, Fareshare rescue food from food manufacturers and retailers that would otherwise be thrown in the bin due to stringent policies.

Jacqui Reeves who runs FareShare Southwest tells VF “We rescue food that would otherwise be sent to landfill. We use some of the areas best chefs to cook it and we serve it to disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our community for free.”

Fareshare will be at Brisfest next month and will also be feeding tens of thousands of people throughout the year to come.

The Police Rave Unit (8/10), a specially adapted riot van equipped with a full sound and lightshow, drive around the site warming up the crowd for the evening blasting out bass heavy tunes all over the fields while over on the Shambala stage DJ Yoda (7/10) entertains the masses with his video/musical spectacle. Coming on stage with a bang the screen behind him shows what looks like the intro to a blockbuster movie and the name of the film is Yoda. All tongue in cheek self adoration. A full brass band join him on stage for some of his mixes and get the crowd well in the mood for the rest of the evening.

In the tiny Wandering Word tent John Cooper Clarke (8/10) entertains the crowd that are lucky enough to get in early as this arena is too small to hold such a big character. With his jet black straggly hair shades, suit and tie, his thick Mancunian accent and his dry and cutting edge humour he has the tent in stitches with ‘Evidently Chicken Town’ and ‘Beasley Street’ along with some new material with limericks telling us: “You can’t do a limerick about Limerick as nothing rhymes with it.”

Headlining Saturday night, Roots Manuva (8/10) plays a booming set including ‘Witness The Fitness’ and tunes from his latest album ‘4Revolution’. An inspiring performance from this British heavyweight though Micky Finn and Aphrodite (9/10) take over the night as The Kamikaze tent is full to the brim and the bouncing crowd spill out onto the fields outside playing ‘Bad Ass’ and ‘All Over Me’ this is the highlight of the evening.

Sunday and the final episode of Shambala kicks off lazily with a mix of breakfast aromas and hangovers washed down with glitter which has made a prominent appearance over the weekend. Getting glittered up at The Jazzification Station is a must-do at Shambala and will take away any feeling of weariness after a night on the tiles. Who needs posh showers when you can have instant glittery glam?

After a day of fun and frolics with parades and charades, fun fair rides and high wire surprise, the lake sculpture fire show begins and as the moon rises a spectacular fireworks display lights up the sky and reminds the festivalites that this is the final night and the last chance to dance in the utopia that is Shambala. Highlights of the final night include Radikal Guru and Cian Finn. (8/10), Buggsy (8/10) playing ‘Break Down’ and Mungo’s Hifi and Soom T (9/10) playing ‘Everyman’ and 'Did You Really Know?’

The Resident Shambala DJ’s (9/10) play Chai Wallahs into the early hours and as the sun comes up on Monday morning, Shambala’s adventures in utopia and it’s clowns and costumes are put back in their boxes for another year.


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