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Festival Review: Nozstock 2018

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“The stories are true...It all started as a BBQ...An excuse for dad to have a party, really.” Ella Nosworthy chuckled.

Image credit: Chloe Knott

Nozstock is a festival where everything is organic, home-grown and nurtured on-site which gives it a truly authentic feel. It really did just start as a family get together, with about 50 family and friends huddled around a fire while father and dance music aficionado Pete Nosworthy assembled a group of rough n’ ready musicians to play a few cover songs. Year on year, the party grew, and one day Creative Director Ella Nosworthy realised “we were holding a festival by accident! We walked out one day and…there’s about 1,000 people here and we don’t know half of them!”

Now, celebrating their 20th Anniversary, Nozstock is one big 5,000-strong family still huddling around that same BBQ for exactly the same reason: to have a bloody good time.

Smack bang in the centre of the working field sits the Orchard Stage: a steampunk-esque structure with thundering speakers strapped to one another with tens of ratchet straps, glistening lights highlighting the landmark 20th anniversary and old cinema-style banners painted by hand the night before. Meanwhile, sitting snugly next door is the Garden Stage (a structure that looks like it’s been thrown up on by Nintendo) decked out in 8-bit recreations of Mario, Luigi and Mr Toad which housed some of the dastardly, daring and most down-right disorderly.

Friday welcomed an eclectic mix of artists. A particular highlight came from long-time indie pop duo We Are Scientists, who drenched their crowd in 90s nostalgia. Headliners Chase & Status blew the barn roof off with their filthy, rambunctious brand of drum and bass, which was welcomed with rapturous screams from a large proportion of Nozstock’s punters. Krafty Kuts and Chali 2na steered the after-party ship through the murky waters of 80s disco, into daybreak with party-punching breakbeat and bass tracks, all curated with meticulously technical turntablism. Krafty Kuts didn’t finish there, offering all those “in the know” with a taste of 90s drum and bass flavour in secret underground bunker The Cubicles.

Image credit: Liam Newman

Tired punters were brought back to life on Saturday by raucous dub and big beat legends Dub Pistols, who chucked out their infectious brand of charisma by the bucketful, while headliner Grandmaster Flash schooled us all with a hip-hop history lesson spanning generations, geographical locations and genders. Over at the Garden Stage, compère Natty Speaks masterfully guided sets from Kiko Bun, The Stiff Joints and The Nextmen, who solidified Nozstock’s underlying foundations of reggae, dub and ska.

The perfect antidote to a thick head came tumbling onto the Orchard Stage on Sunday afternoon. A deliciously danceable line-up of Electric Swing Circus quickly followed by Oh My God! It’s The Church (fronted by the devilishly dirty “pastor”) delighted a spirited crowd with a mesmerising mix of funk, swing, disco and soul. Adding the final flourish to a dazzling fireworks display was electro-evangelic Goldfrapp, who illuminated hearts with flavoursome, 80s synth-pop. In a fast and sweaty climax, master decksmith DJ Marky closed out the weekend with a monster mash-up of drum and bass track through the ages.

The talent-ridden line-up of the Orchard and Garden Stages was amplified by heated, hedonistic parties tucked away in the most unexpected places. Gleaming neon lights of The Coppice broke through gaps in the woodlands, its glow only strengthened by the pulsing sounds of psytrance. The Elephant’s Grave squeezed into the gaps of the surrounding landscape and provided an atmospheric playground for some of the UK’s most exciting new DJs, while the Cabinet of Lost Secrets sunk deep in the undergrowth as a labyrinthine voyage through drums, bass, and secret (if you know, you know) sets.

Image credit: Conor Irvine

A myriad of beautiful arts, theatre, performance and comedy were easily accessible to all, in the recently renamed Department of Cultural Affairs, which kept the festival true to its roots as an enchanting and edifying experience for everyone. Mesmerising fire shows and burning phoenix effigies warmed cockles in the cool countryside evenings, while creative costuming, chuckles with Reginald D Hunter and projects with the Mad Scientist added extra pizazz to the daytime experience.

This is a festival that has family at its very core; and with that comes buckets of love, dedication and joy which bursts from every seam. Everything from its tiny 5,000 capacity to its stage creation is thought out meticulously by the Nosworthy family, with its ever-growing extended family in mind.

There’s something particularly special about Nozstock that I think can only really be found in this unique pocket of the countryside, as Mr Noz himself sums up perfectly: "When the stars go to London, they're all mobbed. But when they come out here, well, everyone's more interested in what tyres they've got on their 4x4!"

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