Citadel Festival, in its inaugural year, firmly takes its place as one of London’s most exciting and enjoyable festivals this year. Located in the leafy Victoria Park, this event boasts an impressive line-up despite its infancy, and offers its crowds top-class music and food - but there is lots more to see and do.
It’s a gorgeously sunny afternoon in London and there’s not a cloud in the sky. The crowd here at Citadel are a mixed bag, from families, to the elderly and young adults; the vibe here is calm, cool and refreshing. A lot of people are sitting on blankets drinking flat Prosecco out of plastic flutes - and it’s glorious.
There’s something for everyone: on one side of the field there’s a dance workshop where people are swing dance fighting, the other end witnesses a Disco Dodgeball match and on the sports field people are playing a game of volleyball whilst a hula hoop group look on.
At the Communion Stage however, Rhodes delivers a beautiful set to hundreds of people. It’s a relaxing performance and tracks like ‘Your Soul’ and the delicate vocals of ‘Close Your Eyes’ brings a smile to everyone’s faces. ‘Turning Back Around’ is the track that excites the crowd and his cheerful lyrics is a gorgeous moment here today.
The beauty of Citadel is that you can just mill around and you’re guaranteed to find some sort of gem. A few paces away from Rhodes, the self-described ‘progressive brass marching-band’ Perhaps Contraption own the “stage” on the What Inspires You space. The group of musical misfits are simply extraordinary; their mish-mash of brass and oompah are unforgettable to say the least.
Near the Main Stage, Sunday Papers Live is taking place in tent filled with armchairs, pillows and a chandelier; a line-up of expert speakers stand centre stage tackling current news. Maajid Nawaz is a notable speaker here: he talks about ISIS and Muslim empowerment – he even uses a Harry Potter metaphor to describe extremist ideology. It’s a thoroughly educational and entertaining experience.
Meanwhile, Anna Calvi joins The Heritage Orchestra on the Main Stage to a hefty-sized crowd. Surprisingly, her booming vocals and guitar solos compliment the orchestra behind her. Anna plays tracks from her latest album One Breath and singles like ‘Eliza’ blow everyone away.
Following soon after, Kurt Vile and The Violators bring their psychedelic fuzzy folk-pop to the stage. Kurt Vile reminds us of young Bob Dylan as he whirrs over his moody riffs. Fan favourite ‘Baby’s Arms’ is the standout track and ‘Freak Train’ brings some light relief to an otherwise subdued set.
Bombay Bicycle Club attracts one of the biggest crowds and it’s an incredible set. The indie-pop group are joined on stage with a brass band and vocalist Liz Lawrence. It’s a confident performance and it’s clear that this band, after four albums and two EPs, are still on top of their game. ‘It’s Alright Now’ has a peppering of trumpets and it’s clear that this afternoon we’re being treated to a vast and blissful soundscape – the set is stunning. ‘Shuffle’ does what it suggests whilst the infectious Bollywood-inspired ‘Feel’ gets everyone dancing. ‘Luna’ has everyone singing along and in a climax the yellow and orange streamers and glittery confetti builds the excitement to hysteria. What a show.
Once Bombay finish, hundreds make their way to catch Nick Mulvey on the Communion Stage. It’s only in a live setting where you can really appreciate the intricacies of his infusion of genres, and his self-taught guitar skills are very impressive. ‘Fever To The Form’ is a crowd favourite and ‘Nitrous’ seems oddly fitting as teenagers in the crowd literally “buy laughter from a can”. ‘Meet Me There’ has everyone falling head over heels, Nick we’ll meet you in a field any day of the week.
Headlining tonight, Ben Howard brings a beautiful close to the one-day festival. Threads of purple and red light linger in the sky as the sun sets on Citadel; Ben’s haunting echoes of ‘River in Your Mouth’ and ‘I Forget Where We Where’ is an atmospheric finish and leaves many mesmerised. ‘Small Things’ reverberates through the thousands and the lengthy instrumentals work well in this big festival setting. It’s another striking performance for Ben Howard and the smile on his face suggests it was a special moment for him too.
For its first year, Citadel has done remarkably well. The unbearably long queues for food and drink is more of an inconvenience than a hindrance, but overall the organisation and professionalism is impressive. There’s nowhere quite like Citadel. It’s the fun, relaxed, quirky festival everyone needs to visit.