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Isolation Fest 2020: We Shall Overcome Festival review

22 April 20 words: Caroline Barry

Our Community Editor, Caroline Barry, swapped tents and portable toilets for oven chips and home comfort as she checked out Isolation Fest 2020: We Shall Overcome Festival. Here's what she thought...

I have a very clear style when it comes to festivals.

I’m usually to be found, warm plastic cup of beer in one hand, up to my knees in mud at small festivals. I don’t do ‘the big ones’ like Glastonbury or Electric Picnic (my home country's big gig) but I prefer to stick to the local ones. Indoor Fest 2020: We Shall Overcome, however, was to be my first ever indoor festival.

I decided to write about We Shall Overcome when I was contacted by one of the organisers who knew I loved Grace Petrie. A collection of over 28 different artists starting at 12pm until 12am meant one thing: I’d better include some cans in my essential shop.

The festival started off strong with poetry from local group, Poetry Aloud Presents; Lytisha Tunbridge introducing Katy Gearing, and Trevor Wright and concluded with a lovely animated poem from Hazel Warren. It even included a surprise guest appearance from a cat who sadly did not read any of his poetry.

The best part of an online festival came with something I hadn’t realised I would enjoy as much as I did: watching the comments and messages of sheer supporting coming in over the live Facebook feed. I got involved sending as many hearts, likes and laughs as I could. It was genuinely uplifting to see so many people connect. This is the warm fuzzy feeling you get at gigs when everyone sings the words but without the kick in the back of the head from a crowd surfer.

It was at this stage (several cans in) that I decided I’d better visit the festival ‘facilities.’ By which I mean my own bathroom and, while marvelling at the novelty of clean, functioning non-portable toilets, I had flash backs of the terrible ones I’ve encountered at actual festivals. Special shout-out to the toilets at Indiependence Festival Cork 2009 who were so bad I still can’t talk about it.

I had started this evening feeling that the connective gig hug that you get from being at a live venue could never be replicated by anything online. But I ended it feeling like I’d been part of something so much more

Highlights of the festival were sets from Attila the Stockbroker, who did a few poems to a flurry of Facebook emojis, and Grace Petrie. I’ve seen Grace a few times now and I am blown away at how emotive and fun she is as a performer every single time. Both Attila and Grace are political performers who have incredibly sensitive and thought-provoking messages to their work. The evening was rounded off by a serious performance from Billy Bragg, live from his living room.

I had started this evening feeling that the connective gig hug that you get from being at a live venue could never be replicated by anything online. But I ended it feeling like I’d been part of something so much more. Emojis replace claps, comments replace the whoops of the crowd but nothing can compete with the feeling of having raised over £27,000 for vulnerable people in need. I was one of many from not just Nottingham but all over the world with people tuning in from Australia, America, Brazil, continental Europe, Vietnam and India.

I have the cans, the oven chips, the facilities and deck chairs on standby though as I’m ready to do it all again on the 24th of April for an online pub gig to raise money for Nottingham charity, Mesopotamia with performances from Paul Carbuncle, Ian Clegg, Jack Scrimshaw, spoken word from Lytisha Tunbridge, Emma Ireland and Rachel Joy Eagling, on top of which livestream sessions from Andy Vee and Pixie Styx Music. All donations will go towards a raffle on the night.

Virtually see you there...

Fundraiser for Mesopotamia - a WSO Virtual Pub Gig and Raffle takes place on Friday 24 April at 7.30pm