LeeFest presents Neverland – Review
We arrived at Neverland on Saturday lunchtime. The drive took a little longer than expected but the journey was beautiful and the signage helpful. The festival itself was situated in a woods, tucked away among the fields of the Kent countryside. The first things we set about doing was finding some food, the selection was fairly small, proportionate to the festival, but had a decent variety; from BBQs, to cheese toasties and Asian dumplings. We both chose the dumplings which were pleasantly healthy and not too filling.
As we were eating the first act, Miamigo, began playing on the Bangerang stage. They played an upbeat pop/rock set with a good beat and clear vocals. It was a strong start to the festival and drew a decent crown who all sat and listened intently. We stayed for the full set, enjoying the fleeting glimpses of sunshine and warm weather. One thing that we both really liked was that all over the festival the floor had been covered in straw; this meant that it stayed dry despite the occasional light rain shower. This made a very pleasant change from the usual mud found at festivals and made it possible to sit on the floor wherever you were.
After the strong first act we went to explore the grounds and areas. The festival took its inspiration from Peter Pan’s imaginary land of Neverland and they did a great job representing all of the areas around the site. As you enter the festival you are greeted by a large storybook, what Neverland is. Next you arrived at Mermaid Lagoon; which had the one stage Wonderlands Beach, equipped with real sand, and where all the games and fun activities took place. The lagoon also had hot tubs and a Tiki Bar. They did a worthy job bringing the beach to the countryside. Later in the day they also had mermaids at the entrance to the area enticing you in with their shimmers and moves.
The main stage and stalls were all situated in the Lost Boys area in the centre of the festival. Here there were two stages; Bangerang (the main stage) and Tootles Circus, as well as Tinkerbells Taphouse bar which held music later in the evening. Dotted around the outside of the space were various stalls selling merchandise and food. There was a tent full of child friendly activities as well as hair braiding and henna. The traditional festival merchandise stall was replaced by an original ‘print your own t-shirt’ stall, allowing people to fully customise their purchase and feel involved, doing the screen print themselves. I thought this was a super feature and definitely unique
Finally two more stages could be found in Skull Ridge; Hooks Rock where the heavier rock music was played, and The Goldmine which had DJs playing drum and bass in the daytime with well-known dance and drum and bass acts in the late evening. I found it unfortunate that the bars here didn’t open until later in the day and this meant that the joining area was often left open and bare. But here we did discover Gentleman Starkeys; for a slower pace and alternative side to the festival with spoken poetry and comedy performance throughout the day. We were able to catch both of these different types of performances through the day, with variety across the performers we saw. I felt that a clearer program of the day would have been helpful so that we could have chosen the acts we wanted to see or even which type of act was performing; on the day we just kept popping in to the tent and luckily saw things that we enjoyed.
After exploring the site we spent most of the day around the main stage. Nimmo played the best set of the day that we saw despite starting at 3:30 in the afternoon. They began by getting everybody to stand up, instantly creating a lively and bubbly atmosphere. Their indie disco-pop music made a very pleasant change from the more folky solo acts and the upbeat, unusual rhythms had the whole crowd dancing. Nimmo did a great job of maintaining this energy throughout their whole set and the crowds that gathered mirrored this. Watch this act as I think they will go on to do very well, bringing something new and original to the music scene.
At the Tootles Circus, also in the main stage area, we later watched psych-pop band She Drew the Gun, who won the ‘2016 Emerging Talent Competition’ at Glastonbury Festival. The group were very pleasant to listen to, ideal daytime music, and I loved that they had a strong message behind many of their songs. It’s refreshing to hear a band sing about pressing messages such as the environment, and using their fame to help this message get out. Keeping the music so enjoyable at the same time is a true credit to their talent.
Later on we discovered the Wendy House which was hidden behind the main stage area in the woods. It was a beautiful windy path the lead there from the site entrance. This twisted and undulated through the trees and at the end we found a small wooden hut it with colourful ambient lighting. When we arrived there was an excellent folk couple playing some lovely soulful music. Again as there was no detailed program (and the couple didn’t announce it at the end) I was unable to find out their name which was a real shame. Later on in the night the venue changed to have more dance based music and other festival-goers commented on how beautiful and mystical it was at night. A hidden gem in the festival site.
We managed to find some time to pop over to the mermaids lagoon in the afternoon to see what the atmosphere was like there. Luckily for us we stumbled upon the Glitter Wrestling that was happening between the acts. This was highly entertaining with the aim of the game being to pull a sock of the other persons foot, rolling around in the paddling pool filled with a layer of very glittery water. The host was excellent at keeping the crowds interest and adding a twist to blind fold some of the contestants. They also had a mermaid dancer to entertain the crowd in between changes. I loved the fun aspect of the game and it kept the crowds at the stage between the acts. We then stayed to listen to Soulcheeba who played a set mixing live singing with dance music. It got us dancing just as the sun came out, and adding to the magical feel there were lots of bubbles floating around. I felt that the set-up here was excellent however the crowds didn’t respond as well, slowly dwindling. Hopefully this stage lives up to its decor and ambiance in the evenings once everyone in more in the dancing mood, it was still quite early with the festival running till past midnight.
Finally back at the main stage we watched We Are Scientists before having to head home. It felt very nostalgic having a band from the 00s playing and perhaps this meant that there was also quite a high expectation of them. The crowds arrived thick at the start of their performance, embracing the reminiscence that came with their performance of ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’. However after the strong start the band chose to play some newer material which only some of the crowds seemed to know. I felt that their energy deteriorated from here on; the crowd still enjoyed the set but I didn’t feel it lived up to my expectation. The earlier acts in the day held my interest much better with the fresh and more unusual material.
Overall I felt that the festival was lovely and initiate, the campsite had only one field so there wouldn’t be any worries about losing your tent! The décor was well thought out and planned with a clear theme which the festival-goers could easily interact and join in with. Considering the size of the festival I felt that the line-up was well chosen with many up-and-coning acts who put on a great performance. I think that it was a shame that not all of the areas were busy or open during the day but I’m sure if you came for the whole weekend you would get to fully experience it all. The food was nice but for three days the choices were a little limited. I loved the stalls and original, interactive merchandise which made the festival feel unique and gave the impression that the festival-goers came first. Finally the crowd really made the event, all of the people we met were friendly and helped the festival to feel relaxed and homely.