Leaving its squelchy mark on the festival calendar
Fink - Nova Festival 2012

Nova made its debut this year on the festival circuit and despite the truly horrendous/adventurous (delete as appropriate depending if you are a half-welly-full/half-empty kind of camper) weather, it more than left its squelchy mark.

From the organisers of the Big Chill, came a “wonderland of arts and music”; promising a boutique-style experience complete with live art, hot showers and an eclectic selection of comedy, burlesque and summer sounds.

Music-wise the line-up was devoid of huge headliners: Ghostpoet and The Do being the chatter of the shuttle bus. However, a lack of expectations and the “Clashfinder” - free liberty gave Nova a chance to really get on with what it was there to create: a festival.

The Big Chill’s new sibling is far more than just a museofest. From the dictator-inspired crazy golf course, which included a chance to “putt through Hitler’s legs” to the final hole which toppled a spring-loaded Saddam Hussein figurine, to the Alice in Wonderland pop-up theatre acts, bare-foot postal service (far outstripping the Royal Mail with its 60% success rate) and the energetic, quirky performances put on by the pop-up Sofar sounds crew.

Nova is not for the faint-hearted darlings looking for a few well-placed mud splashes to trim their ‘70s inspired tye-dye gum boots. The campers are barefoot and muddy, the site hit and miss and the organisers are more likely to be socialising in the Nova Arms than worrying about cancelled acts and closed car parks: this is the original log fire singing, candle-waving, camping collective. In fact, fuck it. It is a house party (without the house, and a little extra party.)

Muddy it is, but the crowd take to the slosh like pigs in the proverbial. Jesse Ware woos filth smeared, umbrella sheltered fans with her soulful, Whitney Housten style vocals mashed up with ‘90s inspired synths, reminiscent of her SBTRKT collaborations. Hexstatic, who looked for the entire world like he had just come off shift at the local Esso garage, captured the crowds with sample filled mixes and visuals that erupted in a mass stage invasion. Ghostpoet attracts an expectant crowd, but the real Nova energy is buzzing in the pockets of partiers lurking in the cabaret, casino and even the bar tents. Performances from Fink, Speech Debelle, Psychemagik and Howie B were a must see and well worth braving the elements for.

Yes, The Do and Norman Jay pulled out, but the enchanting lyrics of local folk singer Carrie Tree, whispers across the campfire chatter captured the essence of this celebration of fresh talent and original, accessible art in its entirety. The sunrises go un-noticed and by day four the earth is littered with feral Londoners trying to recall how to tie up clay-caked converse laces and negotiate their way around a train timetable.

With its fresh, keen eye for all things music, art and theatre; Nova festival has secured its place in the Summer festival calendar as the ultimate in low-key, stripped down, city of escapism.

Intimate, spiritual and not a Prada flip-flop in sight.

Words by Kate O’Sullivan
Photo by Andy Sturmey

Click here for a photo gallery of the festival.

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