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Review and Photos: Splendour Festival 2018 at Wollaton Park

27 July 18 words: Alex Keene and Anna Murphy
photos: David Hammond and Nigel King

Sun shining, six-week holidays tantalisingly close, ice cream vans tittering merrily in the distance… Summer has arrived, and this July, so did Splendour. This year, we partied like a ten-year-old as the festival opened its metaphorical doors to another musical bash that celebrated the completion of its first decade in true style...

What’s great about Splendour is its diversity. From its conception, it was heralded as a family festival and it’s really stayed true to that, but it also doesn’t solely align itself to those who come armed with pushchairs; this year, there really was summat for everyone. The picnic blankets were readied, the glitter was flying, and Nottingham came out in full force to join in the celebrations.

Nusic’s Future Sound of Nottingham 2018 winners The Dandylions took to the main stage to open up the festival with their dayglo wrestlemania costumes; a sight to behold. Backed by the “tuneless choir”, this Nottingham act succeeded in winning their place on stage after a runner-up finish in the FSN competition last year.

After Bria kicked off the acoustic stage, it was time for George Gadd. Accompanied by his guitar, Gadd put in a commendable performance and even slipped in a tune dedicated to mental health awareness. Then Joey Costello – Chicago-born but Nottingham-based – enticed a respectable crowd for his set on the same stage. With a voice that’s definitely conducive to putting on an awesome live show, Costello impressed despite the questionable acoustics of the courtyard.

This is possibly the first and only time we’ll ever write this sentence, but one of the standout acts was Sophie Ellis-Bextor. You forget just how many songs she’s had and there was just hit after hit, without so much as a pause for breath. Her pièce de résistance was her debut single, released with Spiller, Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love), which then mixed in with Moloko’s Bring It Back, SEB’s silver sequinned midi skirt reminiscent of Roisin Murphy’s mirrored dress in the video. The skirt’s from Zara, if you were wondering.

Nottingham lass, Katie Cooper, provided chill-out tunes in the afternoon, although life didn’t seem to be on her side. Initially battling against an unsympathetic sound system which didn’t seem to be amplifying her voice, plus a mammoth queue for the ladies which spliced through the courtyard and then her guitarist slicing his finger open, may have proved that bad luck goes round in threes. But her soaring vocals, soothing melodies and laid-back delivery produced an unflappable and confident performance.

Nottinghamshire’s own Ferocious Dog certainly know how to put on a show. Imagine an eighteenth-century band made of pirates who have thousands of people jigging away and you’ve got Ferocious Dog’s Splendour set. Lively, passionate, and melodic yet fiery, the pace and rhythm of their songs was impressive and incredibly infectious.

Björn Again, the ABBA tribute parody act, won over the crowd, with teenagers, families and hipsters all bopping and singing along. It was one of the most impressive parts of the day and I surprised myself at a) how many ABBA songs it turns out I know all of the words to, b) actually how well the members of the group performed, and c) what great fun it was. The act was absolutely hilarious, with awful-yet-amazing fake Swedish accents (I’m talking borderline offensive), synchronised dances and outfits that were so synthetic I was worried about their safety should they encounter any naked flames within twenty paces. Seeing thousands of people dancing to ABBA in the sunshine after having consumed a few bevs gave a right warm fuzzy feeling.

No Splendour Festival would be complete without a comedic element. Mrs Green, Andrew Bird and duo Brain Damage and Krystal fulfilled their aim to get the audience laughing this year, some even adding a nice musical touch to their performances.

The Charlatans arrived to a warm welcome on the main stage. Their set, with a stand-out performance of Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over, resonated across the park. However, a disappointing crossover between their set and The Stranglers’ meant a migration of people across the near-wilting grass as 8pm arrived. As the sun went down, the The Stranglers sped things up a bit, with G.M.B.H a clear crowd favourite.

After To Kill A King had to pull out of their headlining slot over at the acoustic stage, Rob Green stood in and came with one of the stand-out performances of the festival. With just five hours to prepare, Green’s energy, attitude and talent was clear from the get-go. While we all wish for To Kill A King to be able to get back to performing quickly, we were well chuffed to see Green’s performance.

Finally came the act everyone had been waiting for: Paloma Faith. Having just returned from post-birth rest, and performing on her birthday, it was clear she was happy to be back on stage. And the ballad-esc pop was a perfect end to the evening.

Here’s to the next ten years!

Splendour Festival took place at Wollaton Park, on Saturday 21 July 2018

Splendour Festival website

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