Splendour 2016 returned to the grounds of Wollaton Park on the 23rd July for the eighth year running, promising a great line-up. The festival was a sell- out with 23,000 spectators turning out for the self- billed family festival. There was glorious weather with not a drop of rain and many festival goers arrived anticipating an excellent day ahead. As well as three music stages, there was a comedy stage and kids area, providing plenty for all the punters attending to enjoy.
Despite the queues, nothing could dim the excitement of attending a festival at Wayne Manor. Heading over to the main stage at half- one, the crowds had already started amassing to begin the day and local act Ady Suleiman provided the chilled out vibe required, with his slick, sunny blend of Soul, Hip Hop and Reggae. His music provided the perfect opportunity to relax and prepare for the fun and festivities ahead in the heat of the day and was warmly received by the crowd. He was followed onto the main stage by South African singer- songwriter Jeremy Loops, who deftly merged growling beats with rhythmic folk. Jeremy has stated previously that he prefers playing live because he likes getting the crowd involved – something that was clear to see here. Turin Brakes kept up the momentum, fusing together a tapestry of sounds and soothing the crowd with their indie sensibilities, their 2003 hit “Painkiller” was a particular winner.
The Confetti stage also had its fair share of enjoyable acts, namely Nottingham duo These Your Children, with their lilting melodies and gorgeous, soaring harmonies. This couldn’t be more at a contrast to another act that performed on this particular stage, Stiff Little Fingers. The punk rock band from Northern Ireland thrilled the crowd with their spiky, jagged vocals, coupled with energy and anger to spare. Their upfront style has always pleased their fans and this set should have won them a whole bunch of new ones.
All this doesn’t mean that there wasn’t plenty to enjoy on the other stages and these were definitely worth a wander over to the courtyard. The Funhouse Comedy stage hosted a variety of comedy acts, with a particularly memorable act being a hit or miss set by “hospital DJ” Ivan Brackenbury. Over on the Acoustic Rooms stage, spoken word artist Raphael Blake was worth checking out, if only to see Blake’s words placed against a backdrop of jazz and drum n’ bass. It is great to see the Nottingham poetry scene being represented at an event like this one and fingers crossed it will lead to bigger things for this artist. For those who stayed out in the sun a little longer, Ellie’s Keegan’s set later on in the afternoon was a treat. Originating from Warsop, Ellie cites artists like Ed Sheeran and the Nashville music scene as inspiration for her sound and these influences came across in her music. Her tune “Change Your Ways” was a delightful ditty and the tender performance style and her sweet awkwardness added a rawness and charm to the performance. Hopefully we will be seeing more from Ellie in the future.
One of the anticipated highlights of the festival, UB40, provided a backdrop to the party that was unfurling across the grounds and supplied a few singalong hits, amongst them “Red Red Wine”. Their performance at the main stage was the first time the band had played Splendour, after a sell-out show at Rock City in 2014. The atmosphere over at the Confetti stage for Glaswegian trio The Fratellis was throbbing and the band smashed it. The crowd’s reception to their two top ten hits “Whistle for the Choir” and “Chelsea Dagger” was epic and provided a memorable moment as the evening kicked in and left those assembled with huge smiles on their faces.
For those who were in the mood for 80s nostalgia, Sheffield band The Human League delivered in droves, performing their back catalogue of synthesizer-drizzled pop hits. They were pretty spectacular and frontman Phil Oakley knows how to work a crowd. Those who resisted the lure of leaving early to see the Darkness start their set over on the Confetti stage were rewarded with a rendition of “Electric Dreams”, followed by a version of the classic “Don’t You Want Me” in which the audience filled in the lyrics.
The Darkness’s set reminded us what a fantastic rock band they are. They may have separated and since re-reformed, however for those who loved them first time around, or even those who are fresh fans (like the eight year old in the crowd), their raucous brand of joyous, spiky rock and roll shows how fortunate the world is that they reformed. Their energetic performance of “One Way Ticket” was probably heard across Nottingham (if not the whole of the county). They also performed their well- known hits such as “Love Is Only a Feeling” and “I Believe in a Thing called Love”, before Justin Hawkins launched himself into the crowd, riding aloft on an adoring public’s shoulders, before finishing their set off with an amazing guitar riff.
And so to the final act; the headliner, Jess Glynne. Having seen her perform at previous festivals, I had doubted her ability to transform herself into a mainstream star. I shouldn’t have doubted her. Performing for the first time in her role as a headline act, she brought her polished brand of shimmery pop to the grounds at Wollaton and proved what a fine performer she is. She entertained with several of her hits, including “Right Here” and the emotional “Take Me Home”, before finishing with the electrifying “Hold My Hand”, which probably lingered in most people’s heads long after her performance had ended. Her act proved a fitting finale to a superb day of music.
There are so many other acts to mention, but it is difficult to talk about them all. The Rifles and Jamie Lawson gave particularly excellent performances and I will be checking them out on Spotify. Splendour 2016 was an enjoyable summer day out. Like the confetti from which the stage took its name, the acts were varied and there was plenty at the festival for everyone, regardless of musical tastes.