Nestled into the dense woodland of the Nosely estate lies a place of magic, mindfulness and music. A place where people go to look inwards, reflect, love, dance and create. For 4 days a year, Noisily Festival of Music and Arts offers an escape that revives the soul and regenerates the mind.
After a long drive from Bristol and several wrong turns, I’d never been so delighted to see those bright yellow signs directing us to the Noisily site. As we were greeted by grinning stewards, I was already starting to feel calmer and ready for the fun in store.
The campsite was much busier than I remember it being, even arriving at 7pm it was already hard pushed to find a good spot for a couple of tents. After being bluntly told my 2 different people we couldn’t camp in the spots we’d started setting up in (these guys did not have the Noisily spirit), we found the perfect spot surrounded by lovely people who were happy to welcome us into their area. After setting up and settling in, we got down to the serious business – exploring the woods.
This year the Mind, Body and Soul arena moved from the fields into the woods and under the shade of the trees offered a cool, calming space where you could go to relax, listen to a talk, immerse yourself in various healing practices and take some important time out to unwind. On the walk to the MBS arena, tantalising displays of recycled silk jumpsuits, sparkly waistcoats and beaded collars made the temptation to treat yourself was almost undeniable.
Despite it only being the first night, everyone seemed to start the festival as they meant to go on, drenched in eco glitter, with excited eyes and dancing feet.The repetitive beat of techno drew us to the last tent playing music which was without a doubt the busiest. In fact, the tent was so rammed you could barely squeeze in and the people who had made their way to the front were dancing with such ferocity I wondered how they would keep it up all weekend.
I was getting ready for the day when I heard the infectious sound of beating drums and bells in the distance. As chanting voices drew closer and became more audible I leapt out my tent to join the opening procession. We worked our way round the campsite with our group getting increasingly larger until we reached the mind body soul arena where drummers, singers and dancers joined together to welcome the day.
We made our way down to the main arena and the energy of the crowd continued to become more excitable. For some this was their first glimpse of the artwork and installations that makes noisily so unique whilst other veterans were returning for their 7th or 8th time. Gathering in front of the Noisily stage we came to join in a circle. One of the organisers of Noisily stepped up to welcome in the crowds and thanked everyone involved and attending for their hard work and unique spirit before handing over to the ceremony leader to set some intentions.
After more songs, a moment to appreciate our privileges and connect to the earth, it was time to disperse and explore the festival grounds for ourself. We headed straight to the Noisily stage, the beating heart of the woodland where LIZE kicked of the weekend’s house and techno selection under the glorious heat of the midday sun.
We spent the first few hours flicking from stage to stage, getting a feel for where everything was, exploring what was new and discovering hidden treasures in the woodland. There are so many places to chill, interesting things to look at and people to talk to that even if the music was non existent, I still would have enjoyed myself.
We returned to the Noisily stage to catch Gus Emmett’s euphoric, get your feet moving set where the magical smoke filled bubbles were let off for the first time. I’d never seen anything like it and before long people were making a game out of them, pulling shapes and popping bubbles in time to the music.
As day turned to dusk we dragged ourselves away from the music and returned to our tent to change for the evening and stock up on snacks to keep those dancing legs dancing. We headed down to the treehouse just in time to catch E:Clipse’s dubcentric set pumping out heavy bass lines that had the whole crowd skanking. We lingered around for MC Xander’s set too after hearing so many good things about his music. Kicking things off with chilled hip hop beats before ramping up the tempo, I kept forgetting that almost every sound blaring from the speakers was actually just his voice. I was truly astounded by the talent of this guy and the way he delivered his set to the crowd who seemed to be just as blown away as me.
We ventured up the The Nook where Quash was supplying chilled world music sounds with catchy rhythm sections to an eager crowd of groovers. We were lucky enough to catch the golden hour rays shining through the trees, dousing the area in beautiful light and allowing me to capture everyone at their finest.
As the night got darker, so did the Techno playing over at the Noisily stage where newcomers were getting their first taste of the incredible light and laser show that fills the skies. This year with the addition of projection mapping on the infamous central triangle, it was without a doubt the best stage visuals i’ve ever seen and that alone kept drawing me back. At 1AM Neurodriver took to the decks for a set that tore you away from reality and launched you into a berlin warehouse. Attracting the biggest crowd of the day, the energy was electric as he seamlessly blended track after track.
Of course no day at Noisily would be complete without spending some time at the psy-trance stage. For anyone who knows me, they’ll know psy trance is “not my thing” however after Noisily this year I think I may have been converted. I adored the dedication and passion of the psytrance fans who seemingly felt that it was the only stage worth being at. Night after night I’d see the same people front right, thrashing to the perpetual kick drums under the light of fractal animations.
We stayed at the Noisily stage till the very end then joined the thousands of people in the slow walk up the stairs back to camp. Whilst others may have been complaining, my tired legs enjoyed the one last challenge before returning to our tent for a well deserved spliff.
I was already feeling the effects of festival life so took some time out to attend a restorative yoga class in the MBS Arena before putting our art skills to the test with some therapeutic Psychedelic Colouring ( Note: you do not need to be on psychedelics to attend although it does give it an edge). Feeling refreshed and revived, it was time to head down to the main arena to find some food and have a boogie. Having lived in bristol for the last 6 years, I know the name Burger Theory all too well so when we were deciding what to eat it was a bit of a no brainer. There’s no better fuel than a Prairie Girl and fries.
As we ate our food, the incredible aerial performance started by the Interstellar stage featuring incredible acts of fitness, flexibility and strength. From spinning hoop, to daredevil silks and flying through the air using just a rope, it never ceases to amaze me what people can achieve with their bodies and a lot of focus.
We couldn’t drag ourselves away from the performers area so we stayed on to watch the stage show. As we waited for it to begin the ringleader asked for audience members to come up and perform their party trick. From doing the splits, to breakdancing, to freestyle rapping about birds and pineapples, even the attendees of Noisily are talented folk. Finally the real performances began starting with a professional whip cracker who managed to chop off the heads of roses in just one deafening swoop whether they were placed in his hand, on his head or in someone else’s mouth!
By late Saturday afternoon I had to retire to my tent like retiree for a “short nap” that turned into a good 2 hour snooze. When I finally awoke, I was more ready and raring to go than ever before. We joined our friends at the Treehouse Stage for Opuio’s neuro funk set which was glitchy and trip hoppy and bassy all at the same time. Despite the pouring rain, with hoods up and boots on nobodies spirits were dampened by the weather and many people had given up on rain coats and clothes at all.
Over at the Liquid Stage Dirty Saffi took to the stage for a polish set of pumping psychedelia where rare moments of quiet were preceded by an onslaught of kick drums and high hats. Despite the speed of psytrance, it is strangely groudly and I’ve started to see how people can get so sucked in.
My favourite day of a festival is always the Sunday. Despite the music ending earlier and having to drive home the next day by that last magical day everyone has properly settled into the festival spirit, inhibitions have been lost and the most daring outfits come out to play. From topless girls in brightly coloured harem pants to entire groups wearing matching Burn Soul unitards, there wasn’t a dull outfit in sight as people opted for their Sunday best.
Music wise, Sunday was the day I was most excited about and it certainly didn’t disappoint. We danced the afternoon away at the Parliament of Funk with a soundtrack provided by Jive Talk and Friends. Playing a mixture of upbeat disco, tropical house and remixes of funk and soul tracks, people were pulling their best moves whilst sipping on cocktails and jiving around.
At the Noisily stage the highly anticipated Oona Dahl played a unique techno set that dabbled with ambient and industrial sounds. Towards the end she bought on a singer who layer ethereal vocals over progressive techno. As the set ended, the crowd raised their arms and screamed in appreciation as Oona Dahl looked down in absolute gratitude.
The Treehouse Stage was almost entirely dedicated to dub and drum and bass come Sunday – the only thing the festival had so far been lacking. Kyrist, Icicle and S.P.Y certainly made up for it with some ot the dirtiest, bass face inducing tracks i’d heard all weekend including some tracks i’d never heard before including
Last year one of my highlights set was the WXMB 2 takeover with Lucid Stannard at the Parliament of Funk so when I saw she had prime sunday afternoon set I just couldn’t miss it. Playing an array of more chilled house beats with sounds of samba, calypso and tribal influence, we grooved our way through the crowd, exchanging grins with the people around us.
In 2018 I was lucky enough to meet so many lovely people at Noisily and this year I spent most of my time with them – a testament to the type of festival noisily is. To show our support, we attended the last yoga session of the festival ran by my friend Nicole who relaxed the body and mind through deep stretches, calming flows and guided meditation.
As the sun set, dousing the site in beautiful pink light, a feeling of contentment lingered in the air. We made our way to the Noisily stage for our final dance where Transcode had the honour of closing the show. I was a little disappointed by the D Bridge/Skeptical clash but I can always get my drum and bass fix back in Bristol.
As the last track came to a close and the crowd hugged each other, look up to the stage in delight and applauded Noisily 2019, the excitement for 2020 already started to kick in. I literally can’t speak highly enough of Noisily. It’s core values keep this festival grounded to what’s important. Love, friendship, individuality, growth and consciousness. Surrounded by greenery, the Noisily ethos of leave no trace resonates with festival goers who would rather walk to a bin than chuck a can on the floor. From banning single use plastic on site, encouraging people to travel by bus and train, charging a £10 carbon tax to cars of 2 or less and inviting Extinction Rebellion to set up a stall, the call for change has been well and truly heard.
Noisily isn’t a family festival per se but it is a family. And returning to those woods feels like going home.