You can never quite tell with a new local festival: is it going to be worth your time and effort or, well, just a bit crap?
We were invited** to check out the first ever On Blackheath Festival – two days of family friendly fun and live music on Blackheath Common with headliners Massive Attack, Grace Jones, Frank Turner and the Levellers pulling the crowds.
When we arrived, the dulcet tones of Aloe Blacc were filling the main stage, sunshine was streaming across the common and there was a lovely, relaxed atmosphere.
We wandered around the foodie tents watching Michelin-starred chefs demo some kind of bouillabaisse while in the Gizzi Erskine Dining Club tent, expectant looking diners waited to sample their wares. The sit-down feast was an eye watering £27 per head, although frankly I might have saved up and shelled out to avoid queuing more than an hour later for a dry, lukewarm Fine Burger (all the food queues were INSANE)!
Moving swiftly on…
With a delicious apple and gin Craft Cocktail in hand, I led the babes to the kids area where there was a dance floor with lindy hoppers and hula hoopers, a rather cranky pirate, and that family festival staple, circus toys.
Spotted: TV presenter Brenda Emmanus (with daughter) juggling like a pro. That lady’s got skills!
The boys had most fun at the ping pong table outside the big Movember truck, where there were also free wet shaves and a DJ was spinning feelgood house (this area turned into a pop-up rave after dark).
For me, it was all about Ms Jones. I had great expectations for her set and she surpassed them on all fronts. At an unbelievable 66, Grace is pure swagger. Changing one item of clothing and chatting constantly between songs, she was as deliciously crazy, funny and fierce as ever. And her voice was powerful and resonant, especially when she encouraged the crowd to sing along a capella.
Two highlights for me were Grace singing Pull Up to the Bumper in a sparkly helmet, leotard and tutu while spanking her own butt cheeks. And the finale, Slave to the Rhythm, when she hula hooped throughout the song, band intros and stage exit. Work that core, mama!
‘She’s pretty weird,’ Ezra had remarked half-way through her set but by the end he was on his feet grooving, a Grace Jones convert.
Abiye joined us in time to catch the final act. I wasn’t sure what Massive Attack would be like live but they were fantastic, enveloping us in that moody, layered sound, with goosebump-raising vocals from Martina Topley-Bird, Horace Andy and Deborah Miller.
Jed was starting to flag towards the end of their set but throughout most of the show, my mini ravers were getting loads of props for their dance moves. Afterwards, one lady tapped me to say:
Watching you bopping away with your kids is mega. It’s a joy to see. Music is such a wonderful thing to bring kids up with, you’re giving them a great education.
I really appreciated her words because they speak to my core values and what this blog stands for. I feel so lucky to be able to share these experiences with my kids and to inspire more families to get out there and make amazing memories.
On Blackheath is a brand new festival to treasure. We couldn’t make it for Day 2 but I have everything crossed that they bring it back next year.
On the Spot
Justin and Isadora, age 6 months
‘We came in from north London. I came to see Massive Attack, Grace Jones and Gilles Peterson. I think she’s having fun, she’s especially entertained by the older kids. It’s her first festival, can you tell?’
I couldn’t get good photos or video of Grace on stage (main two pics courtesy of On Blackheath) but I’ll leave you with this clip of her hooping through Slave to the Rhythm at another show. Enjoy!
Visit onblackheath.com for details of next year’s event
**free press tickets
Photos 1 & 2 of Grace Jones via On Blackheath