Playgroup creates a weekend of home-made super fun times

Playgroup Festival 2012 review

published: Tue 25th Sep 2012

around the festival site (1)

Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd September 2012
Eridge Park, Eridge Green, near Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN3 9JT, England MAP
£95 weekend with camping, teen (1217) £77, under 12s free
daily capacity: 2000
last updated: Wed 5th Sep 2012

2012 has been a very tough year for festivals. Playgroup festival has had it's own share of heart-ache. Two weeks before before the third annual festival was due to take place in early August, the organisers made the decision to move the festival to the 21st-23rd of September. The continual downpours of the supposedly summer months meant that festival site was water-logged, and any vehicles, crowds or stages would irrevocably damage the ecologically protected site, which is completely against the festival's green ethos. But a little date change didn't deter the 2000 strong loyal Playgroup fans from turning up at the Eridge estate near Tunbridge-Wells, armed with fantastical home-made costumes and mountains of glitter, ready for all the super fun times they were about to encounter. Despite the setbacks, Playgroup still delivered a festival that was bigger, better and stands out as one of the mostly superbly organised small festivals in the UK.

around the festival site (1)

Playgroup's big sell is the dressing up and participation of the crowd, taking a unique theme to new levels of fancy dress. This years theme was lost toys, in which ticket holders were given an idea card to dress up as either a Bear, Dinosaur; Rag-Doll, a grisly monster under the bed; Puppet, Toy Soldier, Robot, and a Cowboy or Indian. Whether people stuck to the theme or not, the costumes were as creative and imaginative as the festival site itself, with the glittery transformers making a big appearance. The festival site was much bigger this year, with roomier stages, more traders stalls, more car-parking and many more creative installations, including a climbable toy-train, a dolls house with very popular mushrooms, dinosaurs and a wildlife scene. There were impressive sound systems throughout the site, and the Toybox/dance tent also boasted eye-poping visuals and a bird's-eye view camera of the DJ booth, while pumping loud yet crisp sounds audible from the camping area, beckoning people inside to come and play.

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Musically the festival showcased a variety of local Brighton names and universally popular big hitters. On Friday, it was a Ninja Tunes fiesta with velvety darktones of Anneka then Alice Russell with her live band, kept the crowd dancing as she headlined the Playpen live music stage. The crowd poured into the Toybox to keep the chill away to catch The Herbaliser laying it down Hip-Hop style, local legend High Rankin living things up with his comedy bro-step, while Reso put Friday night to bed in the only way he knew best, with tear-out drum n bass and nose-bleeding jungle. Those with the stamina kept dancing long into Saturday's small hours with a Silent Disco, or chillaxed in the night-time cinema. On Saturday the sun was shining, the costumes were glittering, and the big bands were trumpet tooting such as the Carnival collective, The Drop keeping things on a reggae tip and progressive electric wonder from the AK/DK.

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On Sunday, the heavens did unfortunately open, so hard and heavy it made some revellers leave earlier than anticipated. It was a smart move to transfer many of the acts from the main stage to the dance stage, so to keep the audience dry and dancing in one place to bands such as Resonators, Hidden Orchestra and the ultimate crowd pleaser, DJ Yoda. This is one of the benefits of the flexibility of a small festival site with room in the schedules to move bands as an when is needed, and a testament to how well organised the festival was, although updated schedules on the front of tents to keep revelers updated would have been a welcome addition.

Play is always the order of the day at Playgroup. It is impossible not to walk around the site, laughing, smiling, making new friends, and getting involved with the many activities that were cherry picked by the organisers. There were familiar faces and dens of creative activity, including the Suck My Rock's photography studio boat of love and eclectic electronic murmurings from the Betabet Collective.

around the festival site (1)
There was caberet and scientific looking ice-cream concoctions in 'The Cabinet of Curiosity' by the Animal Vegetable Mineral collective, the Imaginarium hosted themed Life drawing classes and Victorian esque activities. As always, the kids were more than entertained at the site, from the fun of dressing dressing up to the plethora of activities in the kids area,which were well thought out and catered for. There was dedicated family and quiet area camping so they were not disturbed by some of the 'wilder' attendees. The catering thumbs up have to go to Bossman's BBQ, who were selling mouth watering pulled pork rolls and finger-licking BBQ ribs, although the rotisserie chickens, pies and the Eridge's own farm shop burgers have to get a special mention as well.

Changing the date of the festival can not have been an easy decision for the Playgroup organisers, but the festival was pulled off with bags of charm and style despite what the weather man threw at it on the final day.


review by: Rosie Rogers

photos by: Rosie Rogers

Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd September 2012
Eridge Park, Eridge Green, near Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN3 9JT, England MAP
£95 weekend with camping, teen (1217) £77, under 12s free
daily capacity: 2000
last updated: Wed 5th Sep 2012


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