Exeter, Devon UK • Jul 19, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Music Live Review: Poltimore Festival

Live Review: Poltimore Festival

James Wijesinghe reviews Poltimore festival
5 mins read
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James Wijesinghe reviews Poltimore festival

At Poltimore Festival, ‘artist’ and ‘audience’ are not different things. Not only do most of the festival’s producers and performers also experience the day as punters, but with intimate stages and hands on activities, attendees and artists are always at touching distance. Luckily, people don’t mind if you put your face right up against a painting, but don’t do that during someone’s gig.

The day began with a forecast of consistent cloud and hay fever at the hay bales. But in a small glen, the Women of Colour Poetry Showcase kicked off with Mubanga Kirsten Mweemba, Exeter’s Creative Writing Society President. This ran throughout the day, with profound spoken word coming from a variety of talented voices. Following the path through the woods, yoga sessions and creativity stations could be found, where ‘nice’ messages were being written and hung from branches. There were plenty of opportunities to train your tree-climbing skills, as well as a bouncy castle and loads of smiling puppies. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

the sun arrived and the line between artist and audience was boogied into nothingness

The festival is like a big collective picnic. Everyone chips in, sits in the grass and has a good ol’ Sunday. As is tradition, Soul Choir opened up the Garden Stage with a series of joyful covers, including Childish Gambino’s ‘Feels Like Summer’, despite the sun not yet breaking through. Battle of the Bands champions, Foniee, played a fun, brass-oriented set with a few covers and some fun new material. Their cover of Saint Motel’s ‘My Type’ was especially entertaining. A stand-out performance came from Datura Roots Collective, their dubby hybrid brought saxophones to drum and bass for an energetic rendition of Pendulum’s ‘Tarantula’. Thanks to Poltimore mainstays Pattern Pusher, a crowd of ex-chair-sitters moved forward, only to be met by bassist Ben jumping from the stage to dance with them. While he played from the crowd, the sun arrived and the line between artist and audience was boogied into nothingness.

The only grumble I heard was someone’s stomach when the vegetarian options ran out. Most vegans then swapped dinner for cider, and didn’t seem too bothered after that. Poltimore House is shrouded in scaffolding, but inside the perplexing structure lies its derelict beauty. Past corridors of artwork from Bethany Saunders, Chelsea Lee, Passion for Compassion and more, explorers could find a humble cinema room, the library, and the eerie Courtyard Stage. It was in this semi-collapsed space where Mesadorm gave their chilling performance with strings, a miniature xylophone, and Devon Pop Up Pianos’ Cheshire Cat upright.

The festival’s focus on art creates a balance between enjoyment and poignance. In the Chapel, visitors could watch the inspiring ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ directed  by Emily Anderson-Wallace, along with Piggy Nose Theatre’s one-woman show ‘EST’, and plenty of Shakespeare. Then the evening set in, and disco-duo Private Agenda took to the mainstage to show how far they’ve come since the festival’s 2017 launch party.

It was in this semi-collapsed space where Mesadorm gave their chilling performance with strings, a miniature xylophone, and Devon Pop Up Pianos’ Cheshire Cat upright

As the evening drew to a close, Black Honey emerged for their closing set. As Izzy Philiips donned the stage in colourful cowboy gear, she asked all the women to come to the front of the stage, noting a need for women to feel safe at gigs. Despite technical difficulties, Black Honey pushed through with thrilling energy and buzzing guitar riffs to make for a memorable night.

Festivals are often criticised for their whitewashed and male-dominated line-ups. Poltimore Festival hosts a diverse collection of artists with unique capabilities. Join in, become the artist (and art) yourself.

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