Review: Brainchild Festival
noun, plural brainchildren.
1. a product of one’s creative work or thought.
On my way to Brainchild Festival, I was still debating whether or not I was edgy enough to spend the weekend at a creative arts festival. As I arrived at Bentley Country Park, I took in the scene. Sunshine and reggae beats welcomed the crowds that were pouring in with colourful gap year trousers, glitter make-up and yoga mats. The site was small with the main stage, tents and installations only a short walk from the camping area. In fact, the installations were the first things I noticed: wooden domes, giant broccoli, and slides. My apprehensions soon died down as excitement took over.
The main stage was a constant source of incredible talent. The music was as varied and eclectic as anyone could have asked for, with the weekend bringing freestyling MCs, jazz, funk, electronic folk and much more. My favourite main stage act was undoubtedly Tank and the Bangas, a group from New Orleans with explosive personalities and soulful rhythms. Brainchild ensured the music continued into the early hours with varied DJ sets and impressive sound systems at the ‘Shack’.
no artist feels unloved in this community
While a small communal vibe can be found at other festivals, the sense of community at Brainchild festival is arguably unique. With a backstage of little more than a couple of fridges, you often found yourself vibing alongside artists and crew members. Over half the artists stayed the whole weekend, camping, eating and collaborating with other guests, challenging the typical distinction between performers and consumers. When I spoke with artists about their experience of Brainchild, they all highlighted the opportunities for collaboration. Many of the artists performed in several groups and were involved in multiple projects with other creatives from the Brainchild community. Brainchild also collaborated with Steez, a South London based creative community, to host the Steez Café, a space for intimate performances and open jams for musicians and poets. When I asked a couple of musicians why they were at Brainchild and their response was “no artist feels unloved in this community”. What more can be said?
In addition to musical performances, Brainchild hosted the Cine Yurt, a small space for short films, animation, hard-hitting documentaries and visuals. However, without question, the highlight of my weekend was the Forum, the “spoken word, theatre, dance, poetry, workshop, talks… ‘not music’ space” (Bridget Minamore, co-founder).
Theatre pieces ranged from Henry St Leger’s hilarious exploration of relationships in the social media age to a thought-provoking and emotive piece on sexual violence and victimisation in Bigspoon Theatre’s ‘Jane Doe’. There were also life-drawing sessions, yoga, debates and all-female drag shows. My personal favourites from the Forum were Maria Ferguson’s brilliant depiction of her relationship with the F word (food) in her spoken word and dance piece, ‘Fat Girls Don’t Dance’; Skin Deep’s exploration of the relationship between race, politics and music; and Tank and the Bangas’ (yes, them again) entertaining spoken word piece about falling in love in a supermarket.
— Brainchild Festival (@BrainchildFest) July 11, 2015
I particularly liked it because there was a lot of collaboration between all the different parts of my world. The film world was there, I knew lots of people from the film festivals I go to, all my architecture friends were there from university who had done the installations, all my spoken word poet friends…
Nadira Amrani, Designer Film-maker and Photojournalist
Like any festival, camping with hundreds of people has its downsides: being woken up at 4AM by conversations about coleslaw in the neighbouring tent, choking on second-hand smoke and Portaloos that threaten disease outbreaks. Thankfully, there was a reasonable supply of toilet paper and a bountiful amount hand sanitiser was provided. While the food was reasonably priced, the queues were painfully long. Whether this was due to the small number of volunteers in the kitchen, lack of training or inadequate cooking facilities, this painted a notable stain on the weekend. Shorter queues, in addition to promotion of ethical, organic and even multicultural food in keeping with the themes and values of Brainchild, would have scored this festival 10/10.
Brainchild festival was a refreshing weekend of creativity, entertainment and enjoyment. They have been nominated for Best Independent Festival in this year’s AIM awards and I have voted for them because, when all is said and done, they absolutely smashed it.
Thanks for a great weekend Brainchild, see you next year!