With Leefest 2013 set to once again wow all involved this weekend with its honest grassroots party atmosphere, Virtual Festivals charts its rise from garden party to music festival.
It all began with LeeFest 2006, on a hot day in August. 16-years-old Lee Denny was told by his parents that they would be going on holiday and leaving him all alone and so, doing what comes logically to all teenage boys, he organised a party. Borrowing the stage from his school and transporting it to his garden in shopping trolleys, Denny built a line-up from local artists. That party has since flourished and become one of the most talked about dates in the festival calendar.
Whilst the first year’s event did involve a stolen stage and a selection of local bands, it was ultimately a cheeky party whilst parents were out of town. In the second year however things got real, it was Leefest 2007 that saw the arrival of the festival’s very first portaloo, marking the passage from party to festivalhood. Attended by around 300 people and hosting a canopy stage and an acoustic tent, LeeFest was gaining momentum. Unfortunately the now newly toilet authenticated festival had outgrown the Denny’s back garden.
For its third year Leefest took to the playing fields of Denny’s school Langley Park School for Boys. This let the festival literally double in size and Leefest 2008 saw around 600 people turn up and enjoy the festivities and the six portaloos (that’s six times as many as the year before).
LeeFest 2009 was the year things got really serious however. Realising they had something special, the LeeFest team had also grown. With over 70 volunteers Denny now had to knuckle down and start reading up on health and safety, licensing and all the other boring but essential aspects of festival planning. The hard work paid off with LeeFest winning ‘Best Grassroots Festival’ at the 2009 Festival Awards. The festival had grown exponentially with the fourth edition now welcoming over 1500 people to its site. This was also the year LeeFest first partnered with the KidsCo charity, whilst donating the profits to various charities in the years previous, LeeFest now gives all profits solely to KidsCo. For you portaloo fans, the loo count had now hit 14.
It was LeeFest 2010 that was the festivals trial by fire. The council had banned them from holding the event again because they were far too noisey. LeeFest went on a hunt for a new site and found Highams Hill Farm which has been its home to this day. This allowed the festival to expand to a two day event and provide camping to its patrons for the first time. This transformation wasn’t easy though, Lee Denny again had to delve into books on licensing law and the physics of noise. They took the LeeFest fight to court and their passion and hardwork paid off, paving the way for the future of LeeFest. 1800 people enjoyed LeeFest 2010 and the portaloo count had now hit 23!
If 2010 was a trial by fire, 2011 was a trial by inferno. LeeFest 2011 was set to take place on their newly settled venue Highams Hill Farm on August 12th and 13th. Two days before the festival was set to kick off however disaster struck in the form of the nearby London riots. The plume of smoke from the Croydon fire could be seen from the LeeFest site and they had to hold crisis meetings with the council and police. After much debate the festival went ahead with a lot of extra safety measures in place. In stark contrast to the riots just up the road LeeFest 2011 proved that they had a community and atmosphere encouraging togetherness, charity and a backyard party atmosphere. Possibly even more impressive however the portaloo now numbered 30.
LeeFest 2012 marked the beginning of LeeFest as an established and respected festival. It had already won awards but now it had found its place and was being fine tuned into a fun loving machine. Now with six stages, a 2000+ capacity, camping and a line up including the likes of Mystery Jets and Ghostpoet, LeeFest was now competing with the big boys. This didn’t change any of the ethos of the festival though, which remained a strictly not-for-profit event and continuing their work with KidsCo charity. LeeFest retains that illicit ‘parents away’ party feel, it’s built by people who love music and who love to share that love with people they love.
With more loos than ever before, LeeFest 2013 is set to be the biggest and best yet. LeeFest remains independent of sponsors and corporate investors after running a successful Kickstarter Campaign to grow the capacity of the festival to 5000 (there is going to be SO many portaloos this year). LeeFest 2013 offers up the cream of the music crop – Noisettes, Delphic and The Skints respectively top the bill for each of the three days – so prepare for a bumper harvest of hand-picked talent that will make your weekend on the Bromley/Croydon border a beautiful one. Become part of the story of this party festival!
The festival will return to Highams Hill Farm, Bromley, South London from July 12-14.
LeeFest tickets are still available now priced at just £70 for a standard ticket.
Click to buy LeeFest tickets.