There was a pal­pa­ble feel­ing of excite­ment in the air as peo­ple made their way up to Alexan­dra Palace for Kalei­do­scope fes­ti­val on Sat­ur­day 25th July. For many starved rev­ellers, this was the first occa­sion for well over a year that they were head­ing out to a fes­ti­val, this was liberation. 

Every­one came with the right atti­tude. Smiles, ran­dom chats with strangers, danc­ing to sum­mer grooves: it was a reminder of what a plea­sure it is to be amongst a good crowd, lis­ten­ing to live music. Even the weath­er, which threat­ened rain and thun­der, did us a mighty favour and stayed warm and dry.

The brief for Kalei­do­scope was to pro­vide some­thing for every­one. The lit­tle ones had their own spot, the Play­ground, where they were well catered for by enter­tain­ers like Sam­Sam Bub­ble­man and his mas­sive bub­bles. Although maybe they should have put him at the dance arena. 

The only indoor stage, which was set in a cav­ernous space inside Ally Pal­ly, host­ed a mix of lit­er­a­ture (Irv­ing Welsh) and com­e­dy, includ­ing Regi­nald D Hunter. The Glo­ry gay bar and drag hot­house in East Lon­don pre­sent­ed an impres­sive cabaret eve – con­grat­u­la­tions to the young dancer who jumped up and land­ed full force in the “splits” posi­tion – I think we all winced. 

Ally Pal­ly’s pub ter­race mor­phed into the dance area with a line­up of DJs. Greg Wil­son got a great recep­tion and played an amaz­ing set. 

How­ev­er Kalei­do­scope’s piece de resis­tance is the main stage, set on a grassy slope, with views over Lon­don. No need to stand to watch the bands, duck­ing and div­ing to avoid those pesky 6‑footers; you could just lie on a blan­ket for the entire fes­ti­val and not miss a thing.

Mr Wilson’s Sec­ond Lin­ers got things going in just the right spir­it. The north­ern brass band roll out their inter­pre­ta­tions of dance clas­sics: they’re named after Tony Wil­son so no prizes for guess­ing some of their set list. 

More gen­tle good vibes were to fol­low with the gor­geous indie-folk sounds of The Staves. The three sis­ters were lack­ing one sib­ling as Emi­ly is look­ing after her baby, but those lush famil­ial har­monies are still there. They played a mix of old songs and some new num­bers from their most recent album Good Woman.

The main stage line­up was a bit thin, with too much wait­ing time between acts, espe­cial­ly as the House Gospel Choir had to pull out. Ibibio Sound Machine and their funky Afrobeat num­bers per­formed a rous­ing set. 

A great recep­tion greet­ed The Coral. They played a few tracks from their new album, the mam­moth 24-track Coral Island, such as Vacan­cy and Lover Undis­cov­ered which is sure­ly up there with their finest tracks. And they also includ­ed favourites Dream­ing of You, In the Morn­ing and Pass It On, James Skel­ly’s vocals still sound­ing on top form. 

Groove Armada
Groove Arma­da

Groove Arma­da opened with The Girls Say fol­lowed by a raft of their dance tracks from the past 25-odd years (can it real­ly be that long?), the qui­et pres­ence of Cato and Find­lay in con­trast to their vocal­ists who pro­vid­ed the visu­al ener­gy. Lasers and lights beamed out into the sky from the stage. 

Towards the end of the set, the swoop­ing, atmos­pher­ic open­ing notes of At The Riv­er float­ed over the Palace grounds, fol­lowed by a cou­ple more num­bers before the advent of Super­stylin’. That was a bit­ter­sweet moment – it’s an icon­ic track but nev­er­the­less a sign that we’ve reached the end of the set – and of the festival. 

Kalei­do­scope’s sec­ond appear­ance struck just the right note as we read­just­ed after lock­down although the event needs a fuller line­up. It was a fun and relaxed fam­i­ly fes­ti­val and the set­ting of Alexan­dra Palace for a day event could not be better. 

Kalei­do­scope fes­ti­val, 24th July 2021


Pho­tog­ra­phy © Olivia Rosen. Sam­Sam pho­to © Lloyd Winters

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