First of all, I really enjoyed Vintage at Goodwood last year, sure there were things I thought could have been improved on but for a first-time Festival they’d pulled it off: decent line-up of bands, excellent decor, plenty of interesting fringe events.
Bizarrely, this year, the Festival seems to have taken a step back, and instead of improving on what had been a successful inaugural show, delivered, well, not much at all.
Just as last year, the shopping at the vintage mall, which was free for anyone to access, was excellent. With dozens of well-stocked stalls and very friendly dealers who were mostly selling at excellent prices, this really was a vintage shopping haven with an excellent mix of eras and anything from homeware to clothing and accessories on sale.
I also – again just as last year – really enjoyed the daily Chap Olympiad, which brought some much needed sharp tailoring, authenticity and a dry sense of humour to the Festival. Really, without the chaps I don’t know what I would have done with myself, as sadly, there wasn’t much else going on.
Wayne Hemmingway’s festival concept is essentially based on a main stage/line-up surrounded by a set of mini clubs/areas for each decade, which run a daily programme of DJ sets and dance classes. This worked very well last year, where each club had been carefully designed to give it an era-authentic look and feel, and the DJs sets were mixed up with band performances.
This year no amount of cardboard, bunting or disco balls could disguise the fact you were essentially in a cordoned off corner of the sveltering Festival Hall. There was at no point the feeling you had entered a 70s disco or 30s tea room – a poor effort that contributed to the complete lack of atmosphere. No festival feeling here!
While there were some interesting events going on – craft workshops, fashion shows, film screenings, swing dancing lessons – for the majority of the time the entire Festival was a few DJs playing. There were no bands during the day, none of the wealth of activities as last year. Quite frankly I didn’t quite see the attraction of sitting in a tiny room listening to records at say 3pm. Great for a while but not for three days if that’s pretty much all there is. Each evening featured an orchestra-lead revue (you needed to buy an extra ticket to see this), surely interesting to see but by no means worthy to be the highlight of a festival.
All in all Vintage at Southbank felt like an interesting fringe set-up to a festival that never happened. I was bored. A lot. As someone running a free event there I had a free ticket so I didn’t pay the £60 per day it would have cost to get in, but I would have been gutted if I had. I don’t even want to get into what I thought of the organisation and attitude towards the people volunteering their time.
The 1951 Festival of Britain was about inspiring people and showcasing the best of a nation. Vintage at Southbank was a three-day, half-hearted non-event that best be forgotten.