‘Dance, Discuss, Laugh and Change the World’ is Byline’s byline. This month sees the festival’s third year. Last year 4,000 people came – to the site in Pippingford Park, Nutley; this year they expect 5,000. “We started it just after the Referendum and Trump’s Election”, Stephen Colegrave, who founded the festival alongside writer Peter Jukes, tells me. “We wanted to do something a bit different – not just a music festival – though also that. But something that inspired people, and made them think as well as laugh and have fun.
“So, we do have a great music line-up – this year includes Lowkey, The Feeling, Pussy Riot (again) and 80s legends like Suggs from Madness – and comedy too, but also three talk tents. We’ve got Extinction Rebellion coming – because we think the climate crisis is the biggest issue today. This year, we hope to encourage people to actually go out and change the world.”
It’s all about hope and change, he tells me. “And getting a lot of people together. We never meant it to be a political festival with a capital P, but politics are important. “We’ve also always been massively exercised by ‘fake news’ – and pro rigorous, investigative journalism. We’ve recently launched our own newspaper, Byline News. And we always run a Bad Press Awards – bit like the Bad Sex Award – though the winners never turn up to collect their gongs!
“What we’re really interested in is inspiring people to think about the future. At the same time as having fun.”
This year Byline is partnering with the Curious Arts Festival (see opposite), which will run on the same site – a ticket to either will get you into both – and the Frontline Club. “Lewes Women’s FC will also be there,” says Stephen, “running a chanting workshop, and 5-a-side football.”
There are loads of workshops to choose from – “learn how to write a punk song; or make a podcast in your bedroom” – as well as “immersive experiences”: a human library, where you can borrow a ‘book’ – ie person – and hear their story for fifteen minutes; or the empathy museum, where you literally walk in someone else’s shoes – through the forest, listening to their story through headphones.
Or what about the embodiment cloakroom? “Leave your emotional baggage to one side for the weekend, by writing it on a paper jacket, and hanging it in the cloakroom.” Then, why not (re)visit the Wag Club? The iconic Soho club will be recreated onsite for the weekend by its original co-founder, Chris Sullivan – plus, a vintage 80s clothing store for any who wish to dress the part.
“The opening event this year is a big Samba party, with five bands, no less. Plus, the Refugee Choir, which had me in tears last year. Also there are lots of family activities.
“What I love about festivals is how people arrive on Friday, in their weekend gear – that’s actually quite grown-up – and leave on Sunday looking completely crazy – face painted, and dressed in togs they’ve picked up on site. Job done, from our perspective.”
23rd-26th August. bylinefestival.com. Byline News at bylinetimes.com