Considering the demographic make-up of many of the UK’s major music events, they aren’t usually the place in which under-represented groups attempt to find solace. More often than not we are met with exclusivity over inclusivity, mainstream popularity over diversity and roughly under 20% of the line-up being female. Brainchild admirably aims to be the antidote to this notion; a festival representative of a coming together of styles, communities and a crossing of artistic boundaries. Brainchild is sponsor free and runs entirely on volunteers, with surprises round every corner and no VIP areas.
Each hand stitched wonder twinkles as all are welcomed into this safe space; a positive environment encouraging exploration. A ‘hello friends’ welcome sign greets us on entry, created by graphic designers Adam Warren and Charlie Boyden, using recycled materials. Scattered with exhibitions, I found myself camped next to ‘Colour Me In’ by Betty Woodhouse – a giant concertina which is coloured in by attendees, as an array of pens are left around it. This fruitful ground is so far removed from the highly commercial, overly populated mainstream festivals that often see armies of similarly-dressed youths bouncing about with reckless abandon.
1 – Laura Misch
In tandem with the blissful birds fluttering through the trees, the dreamy, siren like tone of Laura Misch draws us into a secluded sunset scene around the Brain Stage. The crowd melts into a chilled, dreamlike trance; these Londoners need an escape and here it is provided by Misch. As interest builds around her set, it is clear she is an artist on the rise following her independent release, Playground.
Having had multiple recommendations to catch Kojey Radical before and during the festival, this gritty, fiery and implosive set was somewhat unforgettable. With the biggest crowd I saw all weekend, surrounded liberal artists chanting ‘ooh jeremy corbyn‘, this piercing political poetry has never been more fitting. Education through expression, fire fuelled beats and sumptuous accompaniment from a tight, live band – this is music that confronts genre in a league of its own.
3 – Care Stand
I’d say Brainchild is THE loveliest and kindest festival I have ever attended. Might not seem too complimentary, but what other festival hosts a Care Stand, providing FREE tampons, condoms, sun cream, plasters, paracetamol and …glitter?!
4 – Hold Tight: Black Masculinity, Millennials and the Meaning of Grime
Combining music, literature and politics, the field of Brainchild is one to engage, educate and inspire, and this constant stream of information continues with a piece curated by Marina Blake, the festival’s director, Bridget Minamore and author Jeffrey Boakye. ‘Hold Tight: Black Masculinity…’ is a book on the history of grime music, exploring its resonance within the UK, whilst also examining its representation of masculinity and varied portrayal in the media. Boakye talks us through the history of Grime via a witty and insightful tongue. Through headphones, we are read excerpts from the book and listen to tracks as we learn of what has built the DNA of Grime; from the lyrical genius of Skepta and garage queen Ms Dynamite. All whilst sitting on a pink fluffy cushion inside The Forum, where an hour ago I was watching a play, and 12 hours later I would be grooving in the silent disco.
Whilst jazzy jams and soulful spoken word encompasses the day time here, the BPMs are significantly raised come nightfall. Ross From Friends graces us with a live set on the Brain Stage guiding us into the night as Brainchild continues to showcase an expansive range of talent across the weekend, this time nailing electronic and thus igniting the rave. With a sound palette ranging from 80s Eurobeat to deep Techno-House, this South London producer was a stand out highlight of the weekend.
6 – Boko Boko
Nestled in the woods, summoning ravers with a wave laser light display is The Shack. Venturing in, we are met by a takeover from progressive trio Boko! Boko! This gender inclusive collective spin tunes from Africa, The Caribbean and South America and consist of MINA, Tash LC and Juba (aka DJ Chin). Respectively providing an electric, lively and liberating set, they soon got the dance floor shaking as shapes were being thrown in every direction; Hus’ ‘Did You See’ being a particular highlight.
7 – Resis’Dance
Ever thought you could have fun AND combat social justice? Well, London-based female, trans and non-binary events collective Resis’dance are doing just that. Hosting the silent disco in the early hours of Sunday morning, this creative powerhouse is about having a good time, jumping over barriers under-represented groups have to climb over daily, and learning that there are people out there committed to breaking them down. This isn’t a transient trend or a fashionable Instagram account, this is a political organisation that prioritise the voices of women of colour, working class women and trans women, actively shaping a forward moving and thinking environment within the music industry. The overwhelming equality prevalent at this festival is astounding. Everywhere is about collaboration, inclusion and acceptance.
8 – Juke Box Jam
The Steez Cafe is a place to nurture creativity. Borne of the Steez family, based in South East London, the collective holds an aim of sharing and expressing unconventional artistry, it’s ‘the place where it all goes down’. Jams and poetry slams encapsulate the day, with the Open Decks Juke Box Jam session from 11am – 1pm particularly catching my attention. Minus fear of judgement, anyone is welcome to share their fave tracks with the festival, trying their hand at DJing. Some gather just to practice, encourage their friends, or give it a first shot; it’s another great testament to the confidence boost Brainchild gives the music and arts industries.
9 – Cosmo Pyke
Dreamy Neo-Soul from Cosmo Pyke underscores the Sunday afternoon. Showcasing refreshingly care-free lyrics and languid rhythms, a chronic feeling of bliss remains around the Brain stage. The blunt and socially aware singer dazzles us with his laid back demeanour, effortlessly oscillating between time signatures and charmingly off beat melodies as he shares with us his latest EP, ‘Just Cosmo’.
10 – Disco Bra Making Workshop
And just when I thought I’d seen it all, at midpoint of the weekend, the perfect pick me up came in the form of a free Disco Bra making workshop. Glitter and bras; two things I could not live without. There really isn’t anything this festival has to offer.
Brainchild is a magical festival. The fact that the only thing I am left frustrated by is that there is so much I know I missed, is MAD. In such a small space the amount of creativity buzzing is admirable. I can’t wait to see what this community will inspire in years to follow. Thank you to everyone who built, managed, programmed and performed at this intricate wonder of a festival. ‘The Arts’ is not as lack lustre, depressing or downtrodden as we may think. Despite cuts being made, it is commitment from the brains behind Brainchild which ignite positivity within creative communities. Millennial artists are grafters, educators and all-embracing; Brainchild being where it all begins.
All images courtesy of Hollie Fernando