Nova offers a few discoveries and remains upbeat despite the rain

Nova 2012 review

published: Tue 10th Jul 2012

around the festival site (1)

Thursday 5th to Sunday 8th July 2012
Bignor Park, Pulborough, West Sussex, England MAP
£139, teen (13-17) £60, children under 12 free
daily capacity: 5000
last updated: Mon 14th May 2012

Before setting off to Nova Festival I had few expectations. I knew that the organisers had been in involved in running The Big Chill so we were in professional hands, I knew there were only a few acts on the line-up who I recognised so I would have the chance to discover something new and I knew the weather forecast.

around the festival site (1)
On the grounds of Bignor Park, West Sussex, Nova sits comfortably next to the South Downs hugged by woodland. A picture of English countryside at its best, it creates a relaxed and pastoral atmosphere. The arena itself was closed when I first arrived on the Thursday evening as, due to the mud, the setting-up had been delayed. Thankfully, The Nova Arms, a pop-up Pub situated in an out-building, was up and running with the usual festival priced booze served in a novelty Nova plastic cup which cost a £3 deposit. I was slightly disappointed by the pricing of the drink as, in an interview with eFestivals in late 2011, Victoria, one of the founders said "I think its respectable prices rather than you getting a warm beer for £3.50 in a horrible plastic cup". Instead I got a cider (Swedish rather than the local product they had promised) for £4.50 in a £3 cup.

Later that night the arena opened and I grabbed some food from one of the mouth-wateringly good food stalls. Choosing which one was one the hardest decisions of my life. It had everything from pies and gravy to Indian street food which would have satisfied any soggy welly-wearer.

We Were Evergreen
The Friday started for me with a rain shower. However, after dragging myself towards the arena I came across music on the Valley stage which seemed to clear the rain clouds away for the majority of the day. I watched a few bands who were playing under the name of Sofar Sounds who describe themselves as "a movement which brings music lovers together in secret living room locations to hear some of the world's most cutting edge artists." Leaving their "secret living room locations" for the humble Valley Stage seemed a good move for them as they brought their mixture of young talented bands to the, although small, engaged audience at Nova.

The Valley stage also provided acts such as Crazy P, a disco-pop band with an extravagant and fun front woman to Mercury Award winning rapper Speech Debelle who brought a professional, confident performance to the event and the New York band Mother Feather, a glam rock group fitted with studded leather jackets, black and white face-paint and cheesy lines between songs such as "I wrote this song for you, but I didn’t realise until just now!". I spent most of time at this stage enjoying the variety of acts and the sets from DJs like Tim Love Lee in between the live bands. One of my favourite moments being when Notorious B.I.G was played and suddenly all the people who had been standing around, pint in hand, started dancing and singing in their rain-macs.

Late Night Gimp Fight
Not to forget the other venues such as the Fearless Theatre which gave us performances like children's theatre, comedy (Doc Brown, and Late Night Gimp Fight standing out for me), theatre companies, burlesque and late night DJ sets like the one provided by JFB. He used incredible record scratching and video clips to create a real buzz which people of all ages were dancing the night away to.

around the festival site (2)
The Wordsmithy had an array of poets and acoustic music to experience while you tucked into their delicious and unusual cakes (courgette and lime flavour for example). Hurly Burly also attended, a well-known café which travels around festivals and serves you your vegetarian food with very entertaining dances from the waitresses and music from the artists that perform of their small stage.

You could also spend some time going around the Crazy Golf course/ outdoor art display which included attempting to get your ball through the large upper body of Hitler triggering him to shout "Nein Nein Nein!" and raise his arm in a Nazi salute.

The festival as a whole was relatively family friendly however, there was only one children's tent and so I can imagine that any parents struggled slightly to keep their kids entertained. Although, the 3 year old I was camped with seemed pretty content with just splashing in the puddles.

around the festival site (Zen Garden)

The Zen Gardens offered a place where you could find massage, sound healing, hot tubs, jewellery making workshops, immersive theatre and art pieces. One thing that surprised me was the lack of art that I could find, even though I believed that art was going to be a big part of this festival as it was in the early days of The Big Chill.

The facilities at Nova included Posh Wash Showers, which were a splash of luxury and toilets provided by Natural Event which were extremely colourful, typical festival toilets were "compost is your flush". There was also an interesting inter-festival postal system called The Secret Post Office where you could address a letter to "the woman who caught my eye in the bar" and have a 'postman' deliever it to whoever they thought you meant, which I thought was a really charming idea.

One of the main downfalls of Nova in their first year was that, although in theory it has everything that you want from a small festival, the activities were few and far-between and between them you found yourself without anything to do which was really draining when it's raining as much as it did. The slight boredom may be down to the 'mood' of the festival not being completely established yet, or the seemingly low turn-out of festival goers or simply because there wasn't enough going on. Mostly you can excuse this as it is only the first year of the festival and they were battling the weather, however, the ticket prices were relatively high and so, understandably, the expectations were high too.

around the festival site (1)
I left on the Sunday morning due to the weather. I have been to festivals most of my life and come across my fair share of rain and mud but it seemed that Nova was unprepared for the shear amount that the site ended up with. All vehicles (including 4-wheel drives) had to be towed out of the campervan field I was in, using only one tractor so leaving the festival was an ordeal in itself. It seems unfair to judge the festival in this way but I think that any British festival should anticipate British weather.

Overall, I enjoyed my time at Nova. I discovered many new acts not only in music but also comedy and theatre, the DJ sets were brilliant and most of all the atmosphere of the event, which was friendly to people of all ages, meant that even when people began to leave prematurely, the mud came close to flowing over my welly and the rain was so heavy my mac seemed to lose all of its waterproof abilities, I could look around and see people with smiles on their faces. Whether or not this festival will continue or not I do not know, but one image that summed up the festival for me is, hung up above the Valley Stage, the glittering mirror ball dripping with rain but still managing to look optimistic.

Crazy P
review by: Emma Naef

photos by: Emma Naef

Thursday 5th to Sunday 8th July 2012
Bignor Park, Pulborough, West Sussex, England MAP
£139, teen (13-17) £60, children under 12 free
daily capacity: 5000
last updated: Mon 14th May 2012


latest on this festival

Nova Festival
festival home page
last updated: Wed 9th Mar 2016
Nova 2012
photo galleries
last updated: Mon 9th Jul 2012
Nova Festival 2012
festival details
last updated: Mon 14th May 2012