Since the age of 15 when I attended my first ‘proper’ festival – Isle of Wight – I have always dreamt of being able to just flash my wristband permitting me to go backstage, to get into the photographers ‘pit’, basically to seem important at such a huge event as a music festival.
Years have gone by of attending festivals all over the country; namely Isle of Wight, V Festival, Big Feastival and other smaller ones along the road. Time after time, hoping that one day I will not only be attending these magical events out of interest and love of music, but for work.
Now, I am three months into my 12-month industrial placement, as a Junior Account Executive at a PR agency in sunny Brighton. A major aspect of this job role is writing. Now let me say - I never thought I was very good at writing. I failed AS English miserably, and thought that maybe I just wasn’t that good. Since starting a blog at uni however, I’ve realised since that actually, I am good at writing, especially when it’s about something that I love. So, alongside my placement, I try to write as much as I can, about whatever I can.
It’s late one Sunday evening, and I notice that Victorious Festival is advertising online for its fifth year. I investigate into the website and find that you can apply for press passes to the event. So – me being me, I used my, ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get!’ approach which has served me pretty well thus far. Low and behold, I received a full weekend pass with photographers-pit access courtesy of CAROUSEL PR. Fast forward an odd six weeks or so, and having received the a-okay from the editor, I am pulling up to Victorious festival with a press wristband on. (Dream complete before I’ve even walked in the gates).
Having been acquainted with the lovely Carousel team, I ventured into the main festival site which was huge. I can honestly say I was not prepared for the sheer scale of the festival, given that it only started five years ago. Some 60,000 people walked through the gates each day and flooded onto Southsea common to enjoy the scorching sunshine and vibrant atmosphere. I wondered my way around the site from corner to corner, trying to take everything in and noting down everything I could. My little red book of scribbles reads page after page of ‘VIBRANT’, ‘BUZZING’, ‘SUN’, ‘WEATHER’, ‘GLITTER’, and so on… you get the idea. The main arena, the ‘Common Stage’ saw headliners such as Madness, Stereophonics and finally Manchestian legends, Elbow closing the show on Sunday. The second largest area, the ‘Castle Stage’ saw the likes of KT Tunstall, Raye, Band of Skulls, Rita Ora and Olly Murs across the weekend.
Having never been to the festival before, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew it’d be a great few days, the weather was going to be scorching hot, and there would obviously be copious amounts of glitter. However, the festival far surpassed my wildest hopes and dreams. Personally, what makes or breaks a festival for me, is the atmosphere. The music line-up could be average, the toilets could be terrible, sure - but if it’s not an energetic and welcoming atmosphere, then I don’t wanna know.
I can gladly report that Victorious definitely ticked these boxes, and then some. What I absolutely loved about this festival, is that no matter if you were 6 months old or in your late 60s, with a group of teenage mates, your mum and dad, or colleagues from work – everyone was welcome, and everyone just got on. There were fully grown men boasting some of the best glitter beards I’ve seen in my life, groups of middle aged women covered in neon paint, and babies in their onesies dancing on dads’ shoulders. Nothing and no-one was out of place throughout the whole weekend – and to quote Elbow frontman Guy Garvey himself on stage, “why is it that we all come together at festivals like this? It’s for love isn’t it”.
The festival was set in the stunning grounds of Southsea Common, right by the waterfront. We were all lucky enough to have enjoyed (or suffered, depending how you looked at it…) scorching hot sun, topping 26 degrees at one point, for the entire weekend. You couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful site, or better weather. The Clarence Esplanade, which is usually bustling all day long, was closed off to allow for an eclectic range of market stands ranging from food, clothing and even vinyl stores. The various other stages across the site meant that there was something for everyone at all times; from the Strongbow field to acoustic stage, and the waterfront Seaside stage. The music over the weekend was enjoyed by all and saw newcomers, timeless classics and one-off wonders grace the stage. The likes of Maximo Park, Stereophonics and Jake Bugg brought a smooth, eccentric and rock-lead addition to the line-up. While crowd pleasers and pop royalty Rita Ora and Olly Murs took the spotlight headlining the Castle Stage. Three artists in particular really struck me and gave me food for thought across the weekend, however. Slaves, Raye, and Band of Skulls – I had heard of them all, listened to bits here and there, but seeing them live absolutely blew me away.
Raye on the Castle Stage performed an energetic and sassy set of globally renowned pop hits with an attitude. Band of Skulls (having interviewed them a few hours prior, pretty cool, huh?) took to the Castle Stage on Saturday evening and rocked the crowd with their romantically raw sound and dramatic guitar-lead tracks. Finally, Slaves – just blew my mind. I’m not a massive fan of screamo and heavy rock, but my word, do these men know how to own a stage. They brought an energy to the stage just the two of them that I haven’t seen from a whole five-piece band before.
Being able to photograph and report on the entire weekend was a true career highlight for me personally. Having dreamt about it for years, to actually be able to swan around with a backstage wristband on and take photos in ‘the pit’ and now be writing about it now, is a very proud moment for me. I was able to practice my photography skills, in that I took nearly 4,000 photos of the weekend… I am currently and have already been improving on my writing skills, and even better, I was able to practice my interviewing technique.
Personal highlights for me across the weekend include: interviewing Band of Skulls in their dressing trailer, having been told less than 18 hours in advance, seeing Elbow perform ‘One Day Like This’ with circa 40,000 people singing along in the warm August-evening air, and first arriving at the festival and being officially accredited and meeting everyone backstage before walking round to my first ever time in the photographers’ pit. A massive thank you to Carousel PR, Gary Shipton and Johnston Press for enabling me this incredible opportunity!