Brainchild Review \\ Otherworldly intimacy at this community driven festival
“This is more special because it is real” speaks Femi Koleoso of Ezra Collective to the crowd attending the Brain Stage on Saturday afternoon. Talking to a fanbase of predominantly south-east Londoners with a hint of Brighton and Leeds in the mix, Koleoso captures the collective feeling of community which Brainchild has so beautifully crafted and nurtured in its thoughtful, jazz-world-funk filled line ups of incredible young talent. From familiar representatives of the ever-increasingly strong south-east London scene, part-cultivated in the hub of regular night Steez, the 1,800 attendees are enveloped in a tiny festival of music, spoken word, feminist comedy, drag kings (a la Pecs: Drag King Collective), delicious avocado wraps and the all necessary yoga with Sanjay in the morning.
Tough to decide on musical highlights amongst the breadth of talent and creativity, Ezra Collective brought a bold sound reaching the entirety of the festival field space while Friday night opened the evening festivities with a set from Susso enabling all dancers to come to the fore and celebrate the sounds of the Kora in a jazz context. Penya also took to the Brain Stage with a multi-influenced sound culminating in something tantalisingly new and exciting. From strength to strength, Kojey Radical offered a change in genre, with lyrics of honest and raw dynamism while The Dylema Collective surprised an initially seated audience in Steez Cafe who were quick to stand and dance to the spoken neo-soul. Their penultimate song, What If A Black Girl Knew, lyrically injected the open audience.
Venturing to The Kiosk, you may have been greeted by a friendly set from Harry and Chris combining quick spitting poems and soulful vocals to talk about essential topics including the emotional trials and tribulations of a killer fighting robot from nostalgic TV series Robot Wars to a light discussion of Vegetarianism. This witty duo also offer a punny quiz enjoyed by many in The Forum. This was a comforting place of story telling, poetry and sharing. There were also valuable talks exploring the meaning of Grime as well as exploring feminism with Gal-dem.
Despite everything being in walking distance, many festival goers indulge in the optional steam train journey you can take around the festival reminding one of a fairground ride and waving at the parents, though parents take the form of colourfully dressed people brushing teeth behind the tent. Rumour has it there were flamingoes to see and a peacock or two.
With everyone camping together—artists, music lovers, volunteers alike—there are no boundaries. Art, design and music meet in a comfortable space of wonderful and weird imagination. The area is used well and the only relative walk is five minutes to The Shack in the woods offering a well balanced collection of DJs with techno and more. An unexpected highlight? It was quite literal; lying beneath one of the pod installations with light sensors and neons making one feel like you have been transported to an otherworldly space and time, while breathing deeply and comfortably with strangers.
JS | Nina Fine