Boomtown Fair 2016
Where: Hampshire, UK
When: 11th-14th August
Who: Madness, Damien ‘Jr Gong’ Marley, Leftfield
Price: £180 (including camping)
Boomtown Fair is a four-day festival based in Hampshire, UK, and is often referred to as one of the best festivals in the country. An event renowned for pushing genres less commercialised such as drum and bass, gypsy swing, ska and reggae, Boomtown is quite literally a town divided into different districts. Some of the notable areas within Boomtown include ChinaTown, The Wild West, and an all-new bass orientated Sector 6. Boomtown Fair takes place every year, around the beginning to middle of August, and tickets can be yours for £180.
For me personally, and I’m sure for others out there too, the process of getting to a festival is key, and does have some influence on your overall experience. With that in mind, Boomtown has a lot to improve on. Starting with a three hour queue for a shuttle bus, we then had to queue for four more hours, to then be told we were at the wrong gate, even though we had followed the sign’s instructions. We then had to walk all the way to the other side of the festival, nobody knew where anything was, no staff knew where we were supposed to be going, nobody was able to point us in the right direction, and there were no signage, maps or directions. We were turned away from some entrances, told we needed to go back to where we began, then there were issues with our wristbands, it really was a travesty of an experience. In total, it took eight hours to finally get into the festival.
A few more hours had passed- I’d had a beer, the tent was pitched, and finally, finally I was able to experience Boomtown. And all my gripes and complaints then disappeared, Boomtown really is as good as everyone says it is.
I’ve simply never seen more of a visual spectacle, never seen so much effort put into the execution of anything quite as intoxicating as Boomtown.The stages themselves, huge in stature, and awe-inspiring in status, are simply incredible, from the rusted and weathered Old Mines which chugs along as you’d expect a real one to, to the towering and neon-coated Palace, which features two huge propaganda-ready screens, and every colour you can imagine.
Which brings me to one of Boomtown’s many highlights- its story, which I didn’t even know existed until a month before I went. Since when the festival began back in 2009, there’s been an ever-progressing storyline centered around the elusive glorious leader Jose and her ruling policies. In 2016, the townsfolk (you the attendee) have had enough and some are revolting and taking back Boomtown in rebellious and politically-relevant fashion.
One of the most memorable moments of the festival was on Friday night, a performance that incorporated everything a show can offer- danceable music, singable music, a dance-off, a rap battle, an acrobatics display, and acting. In what was tipped as the ‘Hunger Games of Boomtown’, four rival gangs were battling for a place of survival in a fiercely strict regime, with the fearless leader Jose deciding the winner. The gangs sang, danced, climbed up and down ropes, danced around with hula-hoops, rode BMXs, all orchestrated by one of Jose’s loveable bumbling henchman, who actually turned out to be a talented MC.
Boomtown is simply impossible to summarise and celebrate enough in one review, it’s one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to. It has some issues- staff are pretty much useless, without buying a programme you cannot plan your weekend at all, the stages are notably quiet (council’s fault not Boomtown’s in all fairness), but the thought, execution and vibe are simply untouchable in a hotly competitive market. For a weekend of true and monumental escapism from reality, through a journey of art, drama and music, Boomtown is the essential UK event.
+ Engrossing storyline
+ Diversity of music and people
+ The crowd
+ So much to do and see
– Staff are near-useless
– Being forced into buying programme
– Quiet stages (not Boomtown’s fault, but still frustrating)