Neverworld – Festival Heaven in Kent
We’ve been to a fair few festivals over the years, but Neverworld, formally known as Leefest, is one we had missed out on. Tucked away in a quieter part of Kent, Neverworld festival seems to live up to the secret world ideal, despite the fact that shuttle buses are available from the local station.
Neverworld is much smaller than the normal big festivals, but you wouldn’t know that by the very decent names promised on the billing. Clean Bandit and Bastille were the main headliners this year, and it was a pleasant surprise to find that the bands are not a distant speck on the horizon as can sometimes be the case at festivals. Backstage we were amused to see that Clean Bandit got their own clean loo, although the same compostable type as the rest of us.
Neverworld, for a small festival, gets a lot of things right, that others don’t. It is very child-friendly, with plenty to keep the little ones amused outside of the music. The food and drink is excellent and locally sourced in a way other Festivals seem to have forgotten about. The Beer was a case in point with offerings from several Southern English suppliers, Beavertown being one no less! Big Beer companies and dull wine offerings are often the only choice at many festivals so this was a very welcome change, and not unreasonably priced either.
Another thing Neverworld got right was the main stage placement. Any outdoor venue is subject to the layout and cambers and slopes of the field they are in. Several larger festivals have chosen convenience of backstage service over customer view, with fans being forced to view the stage uphill in some cases. If you are shorter in stature (like me) then this really doesn’t help. Neverworld placed its main stage at the lower end of the field which meant that there was a gentle slope from the back of the field all the way down to the stage. It makes such a difference.
- Neverworld – Storytime in Wendy’s house
Neverworld also caters pretty well for children, with various activities available, and also a dedicated children’s crèche/activities area. Some festivals are just not appropriate for smaller/younger children, but those that are family oriented need something to keep the children entertained and Neverworld has been one of the best we’ve seen in that respect.
We were unfortunately only able to attend for one day, but still saw a good variety of bands and artists. One thing that seemed common among all the artists, was that they genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves too.
- Two of We are Scientists enjoying the festival before going on stage
It’s understandable that newer talent will always tend to be grateful to be there, but at this festival the bigger names also seemed at ease on stage and smiling and chatting with each other in between numbers. We spotted Tom Grennan waiting in the queue for some food, and a courting a steady trickle of fans who came over to say hello, get a selfie and a hug, and Mr Grennan was a non-stop example of a decent, generous human being. A really nice bloke.
- We are Scientists on stage a little later
The Indie-rock band We Are Scientists were clearly just continuing their afternoon of having great fun in general by nipping on stage and knocking out a very decent performance in the middle of it, with some great banter between them.
- Elvis raised from the dead to front Nirvana
The indefinable, but probably best labelled as “Bonkers!” Elvana absolutely smashed their slot, with a huge crowd bouncing up and down and screaming along to their Elvis-fronted Nirvana covers!….. yes, really! Definitely a band to add to your bucket list alongside the Cuban Brothers. Sheer unadulterated entertainment!
Tom Grennan is a man with stage-presence of the best kind. He knows you’re there for him, he knows he’s there to entertain you, and he engages. He sings his songs with his gravelly, full-flavoured voice and chats in between to check you’re having a good time. The only artist we’ve seen who apologised to any mums for slip-ups with his self-defined “Potty-mouth” but also told us how he loved mums everywhere.
Bastille were the headliners and arrived on stage with the big light show pulsing. Bastille have mutated from a small but talented indie-pop band to something much larger. Everything has improved, the singing, the writing, the playing, but they still know where their core fan base lays. Once again they seemed to be really enjoying themselves, the frontman and vocalist Dan Smith at one point happily descending into the audience for a walk-around during one number.
Sometimes you have to go to the big festivals to see an artist, as there’s no real alternative. They don’t play the smaller stuff. The trouble is, it can leave you a bit cold standing in a field 300 metres or more away from the stage with 30,000 other people all talking and chatting. Yes, you saw the band or the artist in question but the experience just wasn’t that great. Neverworld seems to manage to be the polar opposite, with decent names appearing yet still giving everyone the chance to get close-up and involved. I’m not sure how Neverworld achieves that, but may it long continue!
Earlybird tickets for Neverworld 2019 are already on sale on their site.
Neverworld 2019 will be held between 1-4 August 2019
Edenbridge TN8 7LP