It’s easy to be skeptical of new things. It’s a bad habit, but it’s one the press rely on; a healthy distrust of anything not already vetted, fact checked and confirmed. Naturally then when we received the pitch for LOST festival, a micro-festival promising us a 24 hour ‘escape from reality’ we had our doubts. These days there are a lot of festivals; from big corporate blow-outs to tiny ethical love-ins. It’s hard to imagine anyone being able to offer anything new in 2016.
However, within minutes of showing up at Alexandra Palace to get our coach to the festival’s secret location (more on that soon) it was clear that our doubts were going to be proved very, very wrong.
One of the major ways LOST differs from most festivals in the UK is that the music isn’t its main selling point. Organised and run primarily by visual artists it’s as much about getting people to interact with art outside of a gallery as it is about giving people tunes to dance to. The crew and artists spend a week on site before the festival itself setting everything up, installing sculptures, installations and whatever else might take creative director Tom and founder Jodie’s fancy.
One of the standout works was ‘The Paint Bar,’ a stall reminiscent of the type a character from a kid’s TV show might sell lemonade from. Instead of lemonade though, the folks manning the paint bar were, of course, slinging paint. Rather than operating on the tokens used across the site to buy booze and food, the paint bar was based on a system of exchange with participants having to tell secrets or perform dares in exchange for cups of paint. What people did with the paint once they got it really depended on what kind of person you become when handed a plastic cup full of paint – some painted the canvases dotted around the site, some painted the trees and some (most) just threw it at their mates.
Of course, the music matters as well and LOST’s big name for the year was Bestival founder and Radio 1 DJ Rob Da Bank, who played a late-afternoon stormer getting the crowd nicely warmed up as the sun started to dip ever so slightly above. However, the musical highlight of LOST was undeniably the Greenstone stage, run by Jay Brown, the founder of the even-more-micro festival of the same name. Throughout the day, hosts of unsigned and unknown bands took to the stage, each of which was better than the last and the majority of whom seemed to be firm friends – swapping instruments and occasionally members as the day went on. As midnight came and went, the calibre of bands was kicked up even more with Corinthians setting the bar high, only for it to be vaulted by the raucous HOO HAs and chaotic Swedes, Francobollo, who closed the stage at around three AM by having Greenstone founder Jay sing the final bars of their departing song as members of MOHIT, the HOO HAs and god knows who else piled in.
Back to the art and other installations on offer included the Losty Café – a conversation focused piece where participants were invited to share stories about things / people they’d lost with a man claiming to have arrived on earth from another dimension. When participants needed a break from it all they could head to the Zen Den, a tranquil collection of trees adorned with hanging ribbons and cast in soft blue light. The perfect chill-out zone for anyone flagging in the small hours of Sunday morning.
LOST isn’t without its downsides. Its small size can leave participants wanting more in the way of crowds and come nightfall many of the works of art had been forgotten. In the end though it was hard not leave those woods, wherever they were, without feeling like we’d just witnessed something special; a festival run for love, not money, by a group of people who clearly care deeply about what they’re doing. We were promised an escape from reality and phone-less, stuck in the woods and covered in paint, that’s exactly we got.
All photos George Mcconnell unless otherwise stated
Early bird tickets for next year’s LOST festival are available now, head over to the LOST website to get yours.
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