Festival season: Citadel


Citadel is a newish one-day festival. Three years old this year and set in London, it is, on paper, a festival I would enjoy: it’s close enough to my house not to have to stay over anywhere, and it fields the sort of music that I like. However, it’s been my experience that festivals in or close to London are not as fun as those outside London. In order to live in London, people forget how to interact with each other in a civil manner, which is fine on the tube but not so fine when you’re supposed to be feeling chill listening to your favourite bands. To put in bluntly, people in London can be arseholes (and I am sure I am guilty of this at times, especially when people are STANDING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ESCALATORS. YES, IT DOES MATTER!!!), and so London-based festivals have to be pretty special to get my money.

I was tempted by Citadel this year, I really liked two of the bands — Sylvan Esso and Wild Beasts — and quite liked many of the others: Laura Marling, Nadine Shah, Foals. However, because I had seen Wild Beasts twice last year I didn’t think it was worth spending the money on seeing them again, but then I had the chance to meet an old friend there as part of her birthday celebrations (I was missing her party), so I was sold.

Being a London festival, it does mean that one has no excuse to look like you’ve just crawled out of a tent. If I owned anything sequiny I would have donned it (gonna trawl some charity shops with this in mind for next time). The weather was also being a bit of a pain: it was warm, but in that ‘going to be muggy and rain in a minute’ kind of way. I the end I wore a light dress with an awesome print, but with fish-netty leggings because it wasn’t the weather for a short skirt, and a long cardigan for layering.


I also struggled with what to wear on the feet, even though it was technically a local festival, I actually did more walking because I used public transport, so I wanted something really comfortable. The leggings made it hard to wear sandals (and also you have to be quite brave for sandals at a festival, they can be grim and I wanted my toes covered) so I went for glittery hi-tops. Glittery hi-tops are totally festival shoes.

Chuck Taylor All Star glitter: £85

This outfit worked really well on the day. I could take the cardigan off when it got really hot, I had an umbrella for when it rained (too hot for a waterproof), the dress was floaty and summery but the print hid the muck and beer spillages, and the leggings prevented my legs shocking any teenagers. There were a lot of people in festival gear — glitter-galore and flower crowns, but I can’t be bothered frankly. However, I can recommend an eye pencil for some grown-up sparkle at festivals or otherwise:

Colour Chameleon champagne diamonds £19

I’ve been wearing this Charlotte Tilbury eyeshadow pencil over the summer and it’s great. Long-lasting and easy to wear, it’s got a nice starry sparkle that isn’t too over the top. I bought the champagne sparkle, which is for blue eyes, but there are other colours available. This colour does like nice with my grey–blue eyes, but it would suit most people.

So to review the festival itself, Citadel was a lot of fun, and they managed to cram a lot in. Victoria Park was a lot bigger than I had realised, but I think the organisers had tried to cram too much into the space, there wasn’t enough distance between some of the smaller stages to be out of earshot of other stages, and this was really detrimental with the spoken-word events, such as the comedy and the science talks as you just couldn’t hear them.

That said, the bands were really good. The main stage was huge and had lots of screens that were so high-definition you could read the waist size on the band members’ Levis. Wild Beasts were, of course, belting out some solid tunes, although I think they do better headlining their own smaller stage.

Wild Beasts + camera man’s arse

They were on at a bit of an awkward time and overlapped with my favourite set that night, Sylvan Esso. I don’t have any pictures of Sylvan Esso because I was dancing so much; they really seemed to be enjoying being on stage, and it whipped everyone up. People were really getting into their songs, which created such a special moment, and one that seems to be rarer as I watch live music as I get older. So in the absence of a picture I’m posting a youtube of one of my favourite songs. I don’t love the video, but this song got everyone dancing:

Margaret Glaspy also did a really good set. Short, snappy grungey New-York rock, I was surprised as I always assumed she was folky. I will definitely be checking her out in the future.

Margaret Glaspy

So in summary, Citadel was enjoyable, but it’s not one of my favourite festivals. Maybe because it’s a London thing but it feels kind of manic, like there were just too many people and pineapple workshops and not enough thought about the spacing of the music or the comfort capacity of the area. If you have to queue to get into a bar, you know something is wrong. Also, I hate a lot of corporate sponsorship at festivals. I realise that without it, the ticket prices would be a lot higher (it was close to £60 including postage and booking fees, which I think is reasonable for a day’s entertainment), but it really felt ridiculously in your face at Citadel. It just wasn’t needed to have Jagermeister branding all over the Jagermeister tent. All you could buy at the bar was Jagermeister (which smells so potently of regret) so it was bloody obvious. It didn’t feel like there was a square metre that didn’t have some corporate branding on it… not my thing. Also, the litter situation was atrocious. I know it’s a festival and people want to get drunk and not put things in the bin, but when I look back to other festivals such as Greenman and Bluedot, they are pristine: they have reusable cups and the litter-pickers work very hard.

Foals playing the headline. Litter everywhere…

Walking out to the periphery to take a photograph of the main stage when Foals were playing, the were plastic cups everywhere. It looked like a rubbish dump. I took a quick snap (above) and put my camera away, it wasn’t very inspiring.

I probably would go again, given the ease of getting there, but they would have to have some really good bands playing and the bonus of catching up with some old friends, which was by far the best part of the day.

In terms of attending with a disability, it was good. the ground is smooth and flat and there are accessible toilets if you need the extra space. It was hard going, but I limped home happy.




Festival season: Bluedot 2017

It’s that time of year again, when a music lover’s mind turns to days devoted to listening to their favourite bands live in the sun, and when my arthritic bones start complaining about element exposure and long standing times in fields. Yes, it’s festival season, and if you have arthritis and love music in equal measure (I REALLY have arthritis) it’s a double-edged sword.

After enjoying Bluedot in 2016 I decided to do it again, as the fact I can combine a single day at the festival with staying at my mum’s house makes it a really attractive option. It’s nice to see my family and catch up with them, and the festival turns it into a little bit of a holiday, especially as it has a good range of science talks and kids’ activities.

3,200 tonnes of science

So, as I always recommend, I checked the weather forecast religiously in the week before the festival, which suggested it would be 17°C, and as last year I remember being really cold when he sun went down (which is hell for arthritic bones) I packed a jumper, gloves and a hat. Of course the day before the festival, the meteorologists realised that the approaching cold-front wasn’t going to hit until the following day and instead would be 24°C and sunny. If I had had access to my wardrobe I would have worn a dress or a pair of shorts, but making an outfit from what I had, I went for a shirt and cropped jeans, and it worked pretty well:

Jeans: whistles. Shirt: OtherStories. Trusty gig bag: Boden (all old, bag is bloody ancient). Scarf: Rockins

On my feet, I wore the Clarks Tri Angel, which are a great choice for a festival if you have arthritis and don’t feel the need to make a statement with your shoes. There was plenty of glitter at the festival, but generally people don’t do fancy dress for Bluedot: people realise it’s a field in Cheshire, not Coachella, and I only saw one flower crown. Comfortable, flexible and light, the Clarks Tri Angels really helped me last all day: I ended up walking over 7 miles at the festival, but my joints didn’t feel too bad at the end of it.

My daughter’s infinitely cooler converse trainers and my Clarks angels

So, the festival itself, Bluedot is a good one for families or if you’re with people who like music but get bored just doing it all day. There were lots of interactive science displays from all over the country, interesting talks, comedy and activities for children. Maybe it was the weather, sunshine makes people chilled out and chatty, but I ended up chatting to lots of scientists over the course of the day, and I learned a lot. My favourite was discovering a robot I would actually like living in my house:

Miro robot: cute AND clever, get a robot that can do both

I don’t want robots that do stuff apart from be petted and enjoy my company, because then they won’t want to kill me (I’ve seen sci-fi, I know what happens).

Musically, on the day I attended the festival was OK. Alt-J were the headliners on Sunday and played a good mix of old and new songs. They’re not the band to see live if you like a lot of interaction, but they always have great stage design — their lighting is always beautiful — which makes up for it:


But aside from Alt-J, there weren’t that many musical highlights that grabbed me. Warpaint (who were given the penultimate slot) were so insipid that I wandered off to a tent where people were coding electronic music live, and you could see the coding and algorithms they were using (yes, it was super nerdy, but it was really interesting and it’s the sort of thing that allows more people to make music, which is no bad thing. I was inspired to have a go at coding music, and I don’t code):

Drop some weather report in there

The early, lesser-known bands and performers had lots of energy and were better festival fodder, my daughter had a great time dancing to them:


A particular highlight was the Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band, which did a set on stage, playing various sci-fi themes, and then joined the crowd later on in the day, getting everybody dancing with some traditional music:

It was impossible not to dance to this

Another highlight from Bluedot is that although there was some corporate sponsorship, it was fairly low-key and not too much in your face (the worst offender being Blue-Moon beer), but generally it didn’t feel like you were in the middle of a massive advert like so many festivals. Also, the litter pickers were AMAZING, Bluedot not only had great recycling bins everywhere, the teams worked really hard to keep it spotless. You can see from the photos, it was pristine and that really made a difference to the atmosphere for me.

My one criticism of Bluedot this year was their decision not to allow re-entry on a day ticket. The best way of managing a small child at a festival, is to take the child to your mum’s when she’s had enough and go back for some grown-up festival experience. If you have a really family-friendly festival, they should be issuing wristbands because a) kids need to be able to leave if it gets too much and b) it’s great to be able to leave coats, picnics, changes of clothes and all the stuff kids seem to need rather than carry it round all day. I know some kids can get by with very little, can eat anything, will be chilled out all the time etc… I do not have one of those kids. In addition, if it’s hot, you don’t want to be carrying a coat, but it does get cold when the sun goes down, which can be hard on people with arthritis, so being able to go back to your car to get a coat and sweater, or maybe a pair of warm socks, is a massive bonus.

I hope Bluedot changes their stance on this next year, because it probably is a deal breaker for me, and it would be a shame to miss it because it’s a great festival.

Stay classy Bluedot