REVIEW: Get Loaded in the Park 2011

Here I am!

Seems like most posts I write these days start with me explaining how I got something for free. This is not to be sniffed at and I am grateful. Still, I wonder if it gets all a bit samey for you, dear reader.

We won tickets to Get Loaded in the Park last weekend, held on Clapham Common, London.
To be fair, we hadn’t really heard of any of the bands, and the ones we had heard of we didn’t really like – so we were in two minds as to whether or not to go. We looked the lineup up on the web and listened to a few people’s MySpace page and decided that it was probably worth it, since there seemed to be some decent folk, cutting through the indie. I particularly enjoyed listening to ‘Old Grunge’ by Beans on Toast, although in the end we didn’t actually catch them.

The weather was pretty crappy for nearly mid-June. The sky was overcast and rain showers were on and off throughout the day. We turned up mid-afternoon and the atmosphere seemed as grey as the weather. There was the odd group of 15 year olds evidently having the time of their lives, as you’d expect, but generally people were mooching around looking a bit bored.

And that was no surprise! Get Loaded in the Park was absolutely tiny. There were three stages, a decent amount for a day festival, but there was no variety in the types of music they were playing – all guitar based bland pretty much. Where’s the reggae stage or dance tent we cried!

Main stage in the background

We caught the end of Patrick Wolf (bland),  a bit of what may or may not have been O. Children (why don’t bands put their name on the drums any more? Then we’d know who they were…). The band we watched the most were called The Agitator. They were a nice surprise in an otherwise desolate musical landscape. An interesting mixture of vocal, drums and percussion only I was impressed by the singer’s great pitch and strong voice and most of all by the really cool percussion in the background. Lots of fun – I have started following them on Twitter, see if I continue to enjoy them! The straw that eventually broke the camel’s back was British Sea Power. They were truly shite. We listened to three vapid, samey sounding guitar-based twaddle songs and decided, after nearly 70 minutes, it was time to give up on Get Loaded in the Park and go to the Tate Modern instead. For free.

The other stage and the four shop stalls

As for other entertainments at the festival, it was a truly paltry show. There were four shop stalls – if you didn’t want some Peruvian embroidery or a cowboy hat, you were basically shit out of luck. There was a block of about 15 food stalls on the centre of the site, all selling tiny portions at huge prices. £5 falafel wrap anyone?

There was one, slightly lonely looking fairground ride, toilets, drinking water, a lone massage gazebo in the middle of nowhere and then there were the bars. Helpfully labelled ‘North bar’ and ‘South bar’ to prevent confusion – despite all parts of the site being clearly visible wherever you were standing, these were two huge shrines to commerce. With more stalls and staff than was strictly necessary for the size of the site, you were served immediately. And with prices ranging from £4.00 for a 440ml can of ‘Limited Festival Edition’ Tuborg, £4.50 for a bottle of Brothers Cider or £4.00 for a plastic serving sized bottle of Jacob’s Creek in rose, white or red, it was clear that only the promoters were getting Loaded in the Park.

Smaller stage and overpriced food vending outlets

And here’s where I get to the crux of the problem I had with Get Loaded in the Park, and indeed the way festivals in this country are going generally. Under the guise of Health and Safety, but in reality to feed the cheery spirit of commercialism of capitalism, you are not allowed to bring in your own food or drink – although they do make one concession that you can bring up to 500ml of non-alcoholic liquid in. This festival was on from midday until 9pm (which is also a joke if you ask me) – and you are forbidden from bringing a picnic. You have to buy food from overpriced venues if you want to eat. If you want to drink, you have to buy from the big brands who are now over taking the festival scene. I would imagine that this is not to stop members of the public from bringing in glass bottles which could be dangerous, but rather to make sure that the only alcohol branding you see, albeit scattered on the floor, are the bottles and cans from event sponsors.

These attitudes means that the event is less fun. Without even a campsite you can escape to to drink your own warm cans with your mates, and sit around perhaps playing a guitar, a vital element of the festival experience is missing. We heard one person saying that he’d spent £120 on food and booze by 3pm – what a joke. I think a festival without people sat around in groups having a picnic or generally sharing whatever they’ve brought with them has lost some of its soul. People eating the same food and drinking the same drinks as far as the eye can see is just plain strange.

From what I can see on the web, a ticket for Get Loaded in the Park costs £47. In comparison, this is much better value than a day ticket for the Leeds Festival 2011, at £82.50. Guilfest is £44 or £49 per day, depending on what day you go. The mighty Sonisphere is £80 per day ticket. Leicester’s own Summer Sundae is £30 or £50 depending on the day and the Hop Farm Festival costs £70 for a day ticket. So, compared to similar small festivals it is roughly similar, and about half the price of the real big festivals, as you might expect. Given the price of gig tickets these days, if you love two of the bands, it is pretty much worth buying a ticket.

And don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that if you go to ANY festival with a good group of friends and your favourite band ever is playing, you are going to have a fabulous time. I just don’t like a festival that has clearly been designed for my maximum spend, but minimum enjoyment. Festival promoters, free our festivals! We want to stay out past 9pm, we want to listen to music that is a bit too loud and we want to be able to bring our own Pringles!


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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