31 Aug 2008: Music: Beachdown festival in Devil’s Dyke, East Sussex has potential as big as its site

Devil’s Dyke, East Sussex

In a market saturated with festivals, introducing a new one is a brave move. But having outgrown those Fatboy Slim gigs on the beach, Brighton is ready for its own four-day weekender. And Beachdown’s organisers are ambitious, spotting the potential of a tremendous natural amphitheatre up on the Downs. It’s a near-perfect site, blessed with chalky soil that quickly absorbed the squally rain which came and went over the Bank Holiday.

So, was this inaugural festival a success? Its organisers think so; after a near sell-out, they’re planning to increase capacity from 10,000 to 15,000 next year. The sweeping site could certainly do with more punters because, for most of the weekend, it looked as though half the crowd had yet to turn up. Those scattered around the site seemed impressed by staggering sea views and top-notch food stalls, but frustrated that recycling bins, important as they were, outnumbered lavatories.

For much of the weekend, people were content to hang out at the Beachdown Bar or Pintxo People’s margarita bar, where guest DJs included Wayne Hemingway. Still, the three music stages drew big crowds, with Hercules and Love Affair presenting polished disco, Fun Lovin’ Criminals offering a greatest hits set and Róisín Murphy putting on a proper show, with costume changes galore and that beautiful voice belting out across the fields. The Brighton stage showcased the city’s talent, from the Maccabees to new names Gloria Cycles and the quirky, brilliant Maths Class.

Beachdown might have had teething problems but this festival has potential as big as its site.

Best performance Róisín Murphy.
Best discovery Maths Class.
Overheard ‘Can’t believe he’s just ordered 12 jugs of margarita.’

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