Brainchild Festival 2016: A Review

Held at the picturesque grounds of Bentley Wildfowl and Motor Museum in East Sussex, Brainchild festival took place from the 8th – 10th of July and was a breath of fresh air to the festival circuit with its complete independence creating a truly open-to-interpretation atmosphere.

Passing flower-lined walls I emerge into the heart of the festival on Friday afternoon, greeted by a soundtrack of ambient electronica, courtesy of Maxwell Owin. The artistic aesthetic of the festival itself is imminent and I spend the first hour of the day inspecting the interactive installations. Dreamt up and created by young architects, artists and carpenters, the festival boasts on their website that all artists will be in attendance, happy to discuss their work.

The ethics of Brainchild are clear. No divides between creators and appreciators, between young and old, or between male and female. A community which all attendees can call home, at least for the weekend. Walking the perimeter of the site I muse over how the whole thing echoes a school playing-field, the simple sweetness of it all. Here creativity is abundant and encouraged; from writing classes to impromptu wheel-barrow-races. Brainchild, unlike other festivals, acknowledges our child within on a deeper level. Having become all too accustomed to headlines of deaths and violence at festivals, it feels refreshing to be a part of something so different. Brainchild is a place where you bump into someone and they apologise. Brainchild is where you can walk around barefoot and know the only thing you’ll step on is grass. “Brainchild,” Marina, the festival’s creative director and co-founder tells me, “is a very community based thing”

Poppy Adjudha’s soulful jazz and blues eases us into the first evening, bringing the docile mainstage crowd to their feet, one by one. Before the end of her set a swarm dances below her and festival go-ers shuffle past my seat on the grass to join, transfixed like zombies on the singing ahead. The melodies compliment (or perhaps create) the mood of the surroundings and a half pint of pale ale has never tasted so good. Later that night, we dance to Banoffee Pies’ set at what is referred to as The Shack; a small but intricately-constructed dj booth in the middle of a clearing in the woods. Though the sound-system leaves a little to be desired, the trees are lit various colours and a corner is full of fluffy pillows and reflective materials making the whole scene that of a dream world. After what feels like hours when I’ve had enough of waiting for the drop – my drum and bass soul too restless for the techno-induced ambience – we trundle back to the main area. To my dismay we are met by techno from every direction and I call it quits for the first day after being persuaded by the vibes at the Steez Café for another dance.

It’s clear that the team behind the festival worked tirelessly to pull it off. This is their third time organising the event, and though the number of attendees has grown, they remain happy with how Brainchild’s ideologies haven’t diluted: “It still feels like you get to know the people you’re with and that warmth is what I think we are about. Also no divisions between artist and audience, it’s really important for that atmosphere to exist” explains Marina.


What’s brilliant about Brainchild is that it demonstrates the harmony that young people are capable of creating when they work together. “We started this when most of us were 19,” Marina tells me. The political awareness at the festival is powerful, with talks being held on the Brexit in the festival’s Forum area. I’m particularly impressed with the maturity of the discussion from both the panel and the crowd at The Age of Anxiety: Young People and Mental Health talk, where emphasis was held on the importance of creativity for the mind.

The range of artists makes the sets over the weekend intriguing yet never alienating of those who came to hear a different genre, but perhaps that’s down to the core of Brainchild’s ethics being acceptance.  Moments to remember included Barney Artist taking a couple minutes of his set to acknowledge the ongoing injustice in the world and asking us all to hug someone near in order to spread the love. In my opinion, in world of Reading’s and V’s, Brainchild is a separate entity entirely; a celebration of life rather than a two-day bender. I’ve never left a festival with such a feeling of faith in humanity and Brainchild will definitely be seeing me next year.

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