Feeling the love

“People are throwing off the constraints of their daily lives – the rent payments, the nine-to-five, the commute – they are primed and ready to rave.” So says Steve Gallagher, co-founder of out-there and outré concept design team Block9, on the skyrocketing appeal of outdoor music events. Within the past ten years, festivals have permeated every part of our culture, spawning fashion trends (from tie-dyed everything to Hunter wellies and Cath Kidston tents), propping up consumer brands (Carling, Ray-Ban, Magners to name just a few) and entering our lexicon (look no further than “glamping”). With more than 700 festivals in the UK in 2010, the growth the festival market has been huge; and none moreso than in London, where from June to September the city’s biggest parks are taken over with a string of high-profile events. “The scene has exploded, to the point of saturation,” says Gallagher. “It’s brilliant that people want to get together and celebrate life although things have to plateau soon. Those festivals with heart will survive, not because of money but because they are true celebrations of humanity through art and music.”

And of all the capital’s outdoors get-togethers, it’s Lovebox that most closely matches this sentiment. Running since 2002 and founded by Groove Armada, the event has grown from a club night into a three day event that takes over Victoria Park and attracts perhaps the broadest crowd of any other festival in London, its success recognised by winning the UK Festival Award for Best Medium-Sized Festival in 2008.
Clearly when booking acts of the calibre and global fame of this year’s headliners Snoop Dogg, Blondie, Lykke Li, Santigold, 2manyDJs and Scissor Sisters, as well as homegrown talents such as Metronomy, Jessie J and Katy B, tickets will sell, but with Lovebox has always been far more than just the music. As the size and scope of the festival has grown, so, too, has the imagination. Well known for being a creative-led event, Lovebox is far more than just a field, a stage and a bar, which can certainly be levelled at other events. Elaborate design, love and attention to detail have result in a network of small bars, eateries, tree houses, vintage fairs and healing and massage areas… and that’s before the specially designed stages.
And none more impressive than Block9’s NYC Downlow. Having already been one of many people’s Glastonbury’s highlights, the country’s first “gay” festival venue heads to Lovebox in the form of a very-much lifesize New York tenement block circa 1988 – murky brickwork, billboards, traffic lights and even a full-size tube carriage creating a murky setting for a resurrection of New York’s “golden age”. “We aim to create fully immersive environments in which to showcase amazing music and performance,” says Gallagher. “‘Alternative’ used to mean red velvet and burlesque. In 2010 – four years of tranny mayhem later – Glastonbury offered us the chance to produce our own area and we stepped up to the plate.” This year at Lovebox, NYC Downlow hosts the likes of Flying Lotus, Hervé and Horse Meat Disco.
Sure to be many people’s Lovebox highlight also, the attention to detail lavished on NYC Downlow typifies the approach the events organisers have taken to accommodate Londoners wildly divergent tastes, meaning this year’s event – from Snoop to Scissor Sisters, via everything in between – is sure to shake off the shackles of the daily grind once more.
by Ben Olsen
Lovebox playlist:
Lovebox is on this weekend 15-17th July for more information and tickets click here

For more information on the Block9 experience click here