Finessing the vital components to create a successful music festival in today’s climate can be a challenge to say the least, so starting up as a new event Kelvedon Bash has to be applauded. Situated just outside of London in Brentwood, Essex and overlooking the idyllic setting of Kelvedon Hall, we were invited to check out the festival during it’s opening night to get a taste of what the new venture has to offer before opening to the public next summer.
Sporting a fairly eclectic line up, (dance and electronic heavyweights like Sister Bliss and Daddy G grace the main stage over the weekend alongside indie upstarts Palace) Friday night’s opening antics sees a host of DJs take to the stage. Richie Fingers showcases a mix of soulful reggae in his set while David Rodigan blends contemporary chart remixes with old school club classics, keeping the Kelvedon crowd very happy indeed before a closing set from Normski.
Stepping away from DJs, a particular highlight of the evening is Roots Manuva whose natural and instinctive showmanship captivates Kelvedon effortlessly. Backed by vocalists and a DJ, tracks like ‘Witness (1 Hope)’ still sound just as fresh as they did back in the early 2000s. Speaking ahead of his opening night performance the critically acclaimed rapper enlightens us he has recently got back from a trip to Russia, performing in Moscow and St Petersburg with a new live line-up. “Whenever you try a new line-up it’s risky, it’s one of those things but it makes it exciting and it did pay off. People in Russia really appreciate seeing you when they don’t get to see you that often.”
From Mercury’s to MOBOs the artist has been nominated for and won some of the most prestigious awards in the music industry, but when so many honours have been bestowed on him Roots questions where to go from that point. “One appreciates the accolades but then it’s like, ‘Where do I go now?’” On a new UK tour it would seem, before heading to Australia later in the year – a place which is most notable for the musician. “I don’t want to piss everybody off because I always do that, but the enthusiasm for Roots Manuva live in Australia really is another level. I’ve never seen people act like that before in my life.”
With such a heavy emphasis on DJs during the opening night and a decaying club scene in the capital thoughts easily turn to the role of a festival within current club culture. Richie Fingers opens the event on the main stage and in his own words says, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve known the event organiser for about 20 years after meeting in the clubs, so the whole South East England club scene I’ve been affiliated to for quite some time, I’ve seen the whole transformation of it and the whole movement.”
And while Superclubs like Ministry of Sound may still be thriving, how can venues closing be remedied to make the scene just as vibrant as it used to be? “England’s got to realise that dance culture is something to value like they value it in Germany and Scandinavia – they really embrace it. They bankroll it and make room for it because they realise how rich it really is and how important it is to society and the social structure of any democracy. We won the battle against the closure of Fabric, a lot of artists came together, so let’s keep reversing it,” reckons Richie.
Although his club gig days are few and far between now, Norman Jay agrees the culture needs reviving. “More young people are coming to the capital to be living, working and studying so it’s a pointless exercise to be closing venues when there’s more and more young people coming into London every day,” says the DJ fresh from two sets at Glastonbury the previous weekend.
As night falls and artistic projections appear upon Kelvedon Hall the opening night of the first Kelvedon Bash draws to a close. It’s no mean feat to host a festival from scratch and this event in particular has the line-up, location and look to go the distance, now all it needs next summer is you.