Playgroup Festival is now in its fourth year, and it’s a year that many people doubted would happen. 2012’s disastrous summer rain led to a postponement of the event, and the consequent cancellations of acts and ticket-holders left the company facing thousands of pounds of debt. Left with this predicament many would quit the game, but not Playgroup Festival. They returned in 2013 with a smaller, more intimate incarnation; and we’re very glad they did.
Playgroup is a festival that’s always prided itself on being a little bit weird and out there, but this year showed a noticeable mellowing. The elaborate costumes were still to be seen, but on a lower percentage of attendees than previous years’. The décor remained well-planned and interesting, but the homely surroundings of a private field in Uckfield created a completely different atmosphere to the dramatic heights of Dereham Park, last year’s venue, set in an area of outstanding natural beauty. All of this, combined with a relaxed clientele that included many families, led to a more mature, relaxed Playgroup than we’d seen before.
This is no bad thing: Playgroup Festival in its latest guise returns to its origins of celebrating Brighton’s most talented musicians and performers and appreciating them fully. Twirling burlesque stars shared the bill with beat-boxers, belly-dancers and brilliant bands, and even the chaotic games in the hay-bale circle had a carefree vibe. One of the busiest spots was the Shibui Cinema tent, where dozens of people gathered as the music stopped to watch obscure films and sip tea. The most talked-about costume was a toddler dressed as Yoda, and that tells you all you need to know: Playgroup Festival was laid-back, friendly, and playful fun for all ages.
Playgroup, 16th-18th August 2013
Words by Jessica Marshall McHattie