Nova Festival – year one!

Photos taken from the Nova Blog, where there is a post by Katherine McKenzie containing a beautiful collection of photos from Nova Festival 2012 with contributions from fans and artists. 

Learn from the experts

Here at Nova, the best age to do a festival appears to be 7-11. Far from hiding in their tents from the interminable rain, these people have divided themselves into similarly-sized tribes, and are running amok, Lord of the Flies style, tying each other up, whacking stuff with sticks, playing with fire and going into trances whilst eating crisps.

All are wearing head to toe waterproofs, miniature wellies and grubby faces. Many are loosely attached to laid-back, handsome festival dads and delighted, hands-free mums.

The main tenets of a brilliant festival shine through the Nova mud plains.

Lovely, relaxed people plot around the Magpie’s Nest fire, managed by a huge pair of red fire-proof gloves with a man called Tom inside them. The fire is best for said feral children during the day, and munted grownups chatting nineteen to the dozen at night.

Here at the fire, drying my boots becomes a community effort. Thanks guys.

People mix it up in cake-fuelled bohemian cafes like Kubla Khan and the Hurly Burly tent, where staff break out into flash mob style performances. There is much browsing of the very few, very independent, creative eco-luxe clothes stalls, but not much trying on (in the rain – no thanks), and a healthy co-existence of punters with high-calibre art installations.

In the taxi on the way to the station, a Danish Ballet Boy tells me how he was asked by ‘a lady’ whilst painted orange doing performance art if she could “see his cock” to see if it was also orange. He agreed, and then she offered him a sweetie.

I saw quite a few genitals at Nova one way or another; the worst being an entirely conical penis during a show called Late Night Gimp Fight, which was thankfully followed by glorious and ruthlessly professional comedy genius Doc Brown.

There’s a walled stables and courtyard with DJ’s which they call the Nova Arms. It’s the best country pub ever, with happy-faced ravers under inky black rain clouds and flint-walls enhancing the acoustics.

They have introduced a cool new system for reducing waste and litter. You pay a £3 deposit on your self-consciously designed, stackable, self-supporting beaker. The results are that the beautiful site, far from being annihilated by rubbish after a single day, remains pristine to the end.

Any litter would have been subsumed into the never-ending bog anyways, but it was still was great because it meant that boots could be jettisoned in favour of wading around in the mud without fear of injury.

And there’s something endearingly equalising about the fact that everyone is clutching their very own standard-issue mug.

Equal rights

There are no VIP areas. The ‘bell tent hotel’ nestles amongst all the other tents, instead of being separated in its own posh camping compound, an elitist feature trending at other festies.

The whole site is small enough not to have to make a single arrangement to meet anyone: you bump into all of your friends old and new with no effort whatsoever as you strike out in the mud.

An air pocket ‘Bliss Dome’ has cool visuals and a cosmic yoga teacher who makes everyone laugh, (later whispering in my ear “that was my first ever class!”) and there is a lush cedarwood hot tub garden, complete with a gorgeous picture-book lily-pad pond, where you can soak while the rains do their worst.

I shared mine with four teenaged boys, who were excellent company.

The toilets are composters, taking all of the waste back deep into the earth, cubicles constantly furnished with a plentiful supply of bog roll. They stink inside but carry no horrible trailing smells, of waste or chemicals, and no need for fossil-fuelled shit-hoover trucks to deal with them.

Security are funny, good humoured and given the weather, resigned.

The West Sussex paramedic, barefoot in the mud, bops along to the beatboxer.

I can hear DJ Shepdog from my tent and the dancehall vibes lure me out to investigate…later most mooted band of the fest, Mother Feather, take the stage, shortly followed by the gorgeous Psychemagik. Their reworking of Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere renders my guilty pleasure public, accepted and even cool.

It’s nice.

A new era

Nova has been laid on by the core team from the now defunct Big Chill Festival. The Big Chill was acquired and then finally killed off by muscular festival developers, Festival Republic. Big Chill used to attract around 30,000 people or so at its height. Nova has a capacity of 5,000, and due to the rains, about 1/3 of those have turned up.

The effect of an experienced team used to putting on a major festival downsizing to this extent means that there is a sense of distilled quality. It’s all about a curated, cherry-picked cultural experience. Or it would be, if we weren’t all so busy transcending into zen weather-tolerance mode.

The rains act as a filter. Levels of cheer dictate staying power. People peel off at various points during the weekend, so on Sunday only the most supremely cheerful people remain. ‘A good atmosphere’ doesn’t really cover it. It was fucking great.

No one can ignore climate change in the context of our miserable summer and global weather anomalies, and the laid-back, fun but rooted atmosphere, a far cry from the screechy, money-haemorrhaging, look-at-me fancily dressed crowd who have tended to dominate at various other festivals in recent times, seems to resonate with the dawn of a new era in festivals, of quality and finesse over quantity, exemplified at Nova.

It’s a great start, and bodes well for the future.

Nova was the best for networking of any festival I’ve been to. Granted that might put quite a few people off, but it shouldn’t. The simple reason was that there were a lot of interesting and interested people there. I suppose when the weather’s vile people talk more instead of dancing into oblivion? Who knows, but it was a good formula.

The ubiquitous festival stalwarts the General Store, its friendly owner Dom and his delightful, Zumba-ing crew, were a reassuring sight, glowing dry and well-stocked at the top of the camping field, an emporia of low grade bogroll, last minute tents and survival essentials like bird-ball style pats of spirulina.

Unexpected highlights of Nova were, ironically getting sunburn, toned legs, and very, very smooth feet from being bare foot in mud all weekend (maybe the earthworms I saw having an uprising towards the end of the weekend excreted acids which ate away at my skin?).

All the great people I met, learning how to string cable overhead safely for not much money, from Stu the Nova production manager, (don’t ask). Sleeping in the open air, hot tubs in the rain, the inscrutably mud-free sauna which looked like a mixture of a gypsy caravan and a whisky barrel, The Staves…

…and the catharsis of mud removal on returning home.

Go to Nova Festival Website

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