Live Report: Kaleidoscope Festival 2021

Live Report: Kaleidoscope Festival 2021

A joyous day at London's 'highest' festival...

London’s first fiesta to go ahead in two years leaves a notable impression as 10,000 festival-goers get the chance to enjoy live music, Q&As and DJ sets in and around the epochal North London venue Alexandra Palace.

A single day of entertainment at London’s ‘highest’ festival, Kaleidoscope delivers a smooth-running and considered - if not modest - performance schedule across five stages.

As an immediate sense of relief of getting through the entrance at the top of Alexandra Park sets in, having shown proof of Covid-19 status using the NHS app or a negative lateral flow test result in text message format, the idea of there being some safety provides enough peace of mind, and checking what the day has in store begins. - Its location in acres of parkland, the green surroundings are a big selling point, boasting sweeping views over the city provide an idyllic scenery. The warning of terrible weather conditions does turn out to surprise in positive ways, as thundery showers are exchanged for dryness, mild temperatures and some sun.

Getting through the entrance area quickly is necessary to catch Edinburgh-born, ‘Trainspotting’ writer extraordinaire, Irvine Welsh, who is due to appear at the Fringe Stage, where he will be in conversation. A mind-bending and inspirational hour passes quickly, as passionate real life experience is shared in generous quantities. Not one for limiting himself to one topic, the punk-inspired writer is a character who’s really up for engaging in conversation, addressing just about any topic.

Growing up on housing schemes around Leith, West Pilton and Muirhouse, Welsh took the decision to move to London aged 17. Tackling what’s just about anything from writing routines, favourite books, how to – try and - get published because, the world of “publishing is very conservative”, punk culture, multiculturalism and race. Not only is the list of topics extensive, getting his perspective on all the aforementioned really does show how curious he is, and how fascinating his career has been.

Talking about the influence of social media on young people, he’s keen to hit the nail straight on the head “social media hasn’t fucked up young people,” he insists “It has fucked us up.” It is refreshing to hear someone speak so honestly and freely.

Next up, on the same stage, is award-nominated writer and comedian Sophie Duker. Warm and personable, she connects with the audience who can relate to the points she makes. Tackling racial identity and being black through her comedy sketch, core points are filtered through a personal and social perspective. The natural, easy delivery of her writing, the tackling of heavier political issues could see her break into more mainstream comedy territory. Although her set is only a quarter of an hour long, she makes good use of every minute.

Ninety minutes gone already, which means it’s time to check out some music. Ibibio Sound Machine are playing the Hilltop – the main music stage – outside, and they are suitable fit for this event. Fronted by Eno Williams, the group’s musical specialism consists of their unique blend of electronic and African music elements combined with funk. It’s a charismatic and energetic performance that gets the crowd moving and dancing, and the set feels as though it was created for sunny days just like this one.

Kaleidoscope Festival is about the celebration of an iconic London location, local community, families and friends getting together. The majority of ticket holders seems to consist of families and groups of friends. The large combination of the two groups creates a cosy and chilled, feel-good atmosphere.

And this cosy atmosphere is ideal for Merseyside’s psychedelic indie-rockers The Coral. The Wirral based band are rather excited about playing live again, and this festival is a good gig for them. The band’s fourteen track setlist covers new songs from the band’s acclaimed 2021 double album ‘Coral Island’ to classic hits, of which there are many. Smoothly interweaving the old with new, frontman James Skelly leads the group through a well-composed performance. Opening with the striking dark layers of ‘Bill McCai’, the energy is lifted with ‘Pass It On’ and the upbeat ‘Change Your Mind’, transposing the vibe of the set in an instant.

Not remotely unaccustomed to tackling high up the bill summer festival slots, the scouse group’s twenty-year career has seen them headline festivals and play high-profile events, domestically and internationally. It is an experience that shines through, setting them apart, and it makes them stand out. It is a stunning set.

Released in May 2005 ‘In The Morning’ reached number six in the UK singles chart, and deservingly receives a cheer and a sing along from everyone, who has gathered in front of the stage. Now it’s time for a few more new ones, and so ‘Vacancy’, ‘Lover Undiscovered’ and ‘Faceless Angel’ are delivered with the exact same ease as the older songs. It only makes sense to then excite everyone with the likes of ‘Jacqueline’, ‘Goodbye’ and mega hit ‘Dreaming of You’ from 2002, the latter gets everyone dancing, citing the words with accuracy.  

Perhaps, this is a case of where modesty on the events programming side is designed to make you appreciate the setting more. You have got to at least allow for this to be a possibility, because Kaleidoscope definitely feels like a lovely day out in the company of friends, as much as it offers enjoyment of great art and culture.

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Words: Susan Hansen
Photo Credit: Lloyd Winters

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