I'm a big fan of old school (mainly roots) reggae, so looked forwards to my 6th One Love after missing last year. In a different location again - this time in Somerset - it would be interesting to see what differences there were, while a line-up promising Mighty Diamonds, Johnny Clarke, Twinkle Brothers, Iqulah, Johnny Osbourne and more alongside the soundsystem tents would keep me very happy.
Some arrival niggles: with a campervan ticket I arrived Friday lunchtime to find the fenced campervan area was already full, and a line of vans were already sited outside along the fence, in the car park. And with security having recently been told to do a stricter job by the police (or council?), searches into the campsite were excessive with pat-downs as well as bags being searched, and pat-downs & a metal scan too when going from the campsite to the arena. These are forgivable on the festival, but I cannot see how these can be justified without good reason; "a festival" is not reason enough in my book. Festival go-ers are not criminals.
Between the campsite and main arena was the Field of Love, a nicely laid out and cosy-feeling space with the new-addition Kaya Stage to one side, and stalls and treatments and information around the edges and encroaching towards the stone circle in the centre. On first arrival this area was busy, but this turned out in part to be because the main arena hadn't yet opened, waiting for the licence to be signed off. The first performers on the 2 live stages inside unfortunately played to an empty space.
With the main field soon opened, we walked through to less of the cosy and more of a big empty space, populated around the sides by a good number of stalls along with the live stages and the two soundsystem tents. At the bottom was the bar, with decent ales, lagers and ciders (and more), with most pints at £4 - which makes for happy drinking.
I couldn't find anywhere selling programmes but found one to photograph. Similar to other years it was sometimes a work of fiction with changed times and changed acts, although (as far as I'm aware) most of the listed acts did appear at somewhen close to the correct time.
After a good nosey round the field to check out the stalls, it was great to see a woman behind the decks as Birmingham's delightful Rusty Rebel woke up the Dubshack. Back to the main stage Earl Gateshead was warmed up the early crowd, followed by French band Pulsasion who were pleasant enough. A bit later were Zion Train featuring Brother Culture who drew a decent crowd, but (as far as I know) headliner Cutty Ranks was a no-show.
I checked out the 'Battle of the Dub Plates' in the Saxon tent, although with four crews to set up into the sound-desk it took an age for them to get going. Of what I heard (I dipped in and out) these were more-modern in their tastes with far-fewer reworkings of old classics to the crews of previous years, and consequently my own enthusiasm was lessened and I didn't get back in there over the weekend with other things grabbing my attention. So it was back to the Dubshack to take in Channel One to round off the night, which is a long way from a bad thing.
Saturday had a bigger-name live line-up including Carroll Thompson with the Upper Cut Band. She was followed by Keith Poppin, a name I somehow knew from his 70s UK hit, although I failed to recognise his songs. Johnny Clarke, backed by Dub Asante, was his usual imposing self, with a set including 'Every Knee Shall Bow' but not 'Blood Dunza', and hugely enjoyable.
The Mighty Diamonds were a no-show which was disappointing, although headliner Johnny Osbourne, backed by the Upper Cut Band who were putting in another shift, delivered with plenty of passion.
The first main stage act on Sunday - Junior Jungle - sounded hilarious from the campsite, although i've no idea if it was meant to be funny. Later, with aching knees from too much dancing, much of the day was spent sprawled in front of the main stage, taking it in. The Emperials (I think), and North East Ska Jazz Orchestra (I think) delivered familiar covers, while sandwiched between them Little Roy gave the Upper Cut Band another run-out. Next was Iqulah, who I'd enjoyed hugely at One Love in 2015, and who delivered a powerful and passionate set again.
I'm not hugely familiar with Alborosie, once of Italy and now of Jamaica, but have enjoyed what I've heard and he's one of today's big reggae stars so I had big hopes. Unfortunately things got a bit precious, with set-up and soundcheck going on for what must have been at least an hour, and then the performance all seemed a bit flat.
Luckily there was better to come in the form of Dennis Bovell and Nick Straker of Matumbi, backed by two of Natty Dub Sessions from Venezuela who Bovell has worked with in the past and have played One Love in the past.
Finishing off - and showing Alborosie how it should be done - were Twinkle Brothers. They arrived late but were up and running within 5 minutes of hitting the stage, putting in a blinder and squeezing in as much as they could in their shortened time. The curfew cannot be broken.
From the organisation to the timetabling to the enjoyment One Love is a relaxed festival, and lovely with it, with more than enough to keep reggae fans entertained. If you love reggae you really should be there!
latest on this festival
One Love 2018 review
line-ups & rumours
festival home page