Review: Bristol Harbourside Festvial 2016
July 24, 2016
Bristol Harbour festival returned to the harbour side last weekend, attracting thousands of visitors. Families, couples, young friends and even hen and stag parties turned up to sample the array of music, food and entertainment on show.
Warm temperatures and sunny skies were the perfect backdrop for the festivities and the atmosphere was fun and, despite the hefty crowds that made manoeuvring around the festival difficult at times, really relaxed.
The vast array of free live music was undoubtedly the most notable and exciting element of the festival. The biggest of the harbour side stages, the Amphitheatre (a new addition this year), drew large audiences who enjoyed performances from a varied plethora of acts, including a moving tribute to the late Bristol treasure, DJ Derek. The Cascade Steps stage (where the steps themselves acted as seats) was one of the first things to be seen as festival goers approached from the city centre. Showcasing the powerful melodies of talented singer-songwriters and producers, this stage had a very light-hearted vibe and was the perfect way to capture the interest of passers-by.
The much loved Thekla also hosted the lively Dockside stage, as well as providing below-deck entertainment aboard their ship which continued well into the evening. Brunel’s SS Great Britain & BBC Radio Bristol hosted some intense and immersive performances including shows from Samba collectives and Celtic and Folk acoustics, which got all ages dancing and singing along.
It wasn’t just the music at the festival that was exotic and extensive. There were also culinary pleasures with from all over the world to be sampled. There was Indian, Thai, African food as well as fish and chips and burgers.
On the Saturday, Shapes hosted a free harbour festival event at the Christmas Steps pub; something for the electronic music fans who might not have found their interests catered to elsewhere. Due to the event’s huge popularity, there was a one-in-one-out door policy from very early on, which meant inside the small venue it was really crowded (difficult to manoeuvre through doors) and there were long waits for the bar and the toilets. The DJs and the music were on point, but sadly it was just a little too busy to really enjoy. It would be nice to see the harbour festival encourage more venues to host free electronic music events as part of festival proceedings next year, to give this demographic more places to congregate and prevent unnecessary overcrowding.
It wasn’t just the music at the festival that was exotic and extensive. There were also culinary pleasures with food from all over the world to be sampled. There was Indian, Thai, African food as well as fish and chips and burgers. As well as lunch and dinner delights, crowds could pick up alcohol and sweet treats. One of the vendors that particularly stood out was Gilchrist’s Fudge, a huge tent filled with fudge and all sorts of pick-and-mix sweets that was nostalgic for adults and fun for the kids, albeit a little overpriced.
There was still more to see beside the music, food and drink. Moving further down the harbour side all sorts of charities and organisations had set up stalls to chat to the public. Some of these really had the feel of local community spirit about them, like a charity stall dedicated to the restoration of the Blennerhasset Mill in Cumbria. They were selling quaint candle powered boats steam boats (Victorian childrens’ toys) to raise money to support their cause.
As well as family fun, the festival acted as a place for adults to drink and be merry in the summer sun, while soaking in the community atmosphere all around them. It was a chance to wind-down for many young professionals after a long week of work, and as evening set in and children began to head home, the vibe along the harbour side became one of intoxication – on the whole good-natured and merry.