Unphased by Swine Flu, punching well above its weight, and helped along beautifully by a weekend of sun, a line up of well over 100 acts and one of the most memorable festival performances we have ever seen we visited the Summer Sundae Weekender, and not a waterproof in sight.
The Summer Sundae Weekender is a small, 5,000 capacity festival that started in 2001 and is held in the grounds of Victoria Park and De Montfort Hall in the middle of Leicester, so is easily accessible by public transport, which is a far cry from most festivals where you need an experienced navigator and a Sherpa to get to. Now I am not usually a fan of the small festival, where you are faced with a poor line up of mainly local bands and very limited facilities, but the Summer Sundae seemed to offer a reasonable range of acts from the unknown to the ones to watch right up to established industry names so it seemed worth a go.
The festival is Local Authority run, so there is always a sense of trepidation on arrival but this was unnecessary as there has obviously been a great deal of thought put into the organisation of the event. With four stages, two additional tents, a childrenís area, five bars and a large range of food and shopping stalls there was enough to keep everyone entertained, in fact, I have seen less facilities at festivals much larger than this. Thereís the open air Main Stage, set at the bottom of a sloping area and having great views, the Indoor Stage, set within De Montfort Hall with a tiered seated area upstairs, the Rising Stage Tent and the Musician Stage.
There was a dedicated Childrenís Area, the "Garden" around the side of De Montfort Hall, with plenty of activities, including a set of safe graffiti screens where people could deface them happily and a huge bed for pillow fights. The latter was exclusively for kids, but the former attracted a slightly more adult clientele. Anyone who ventured there would have also come across the splendid "Sonic Manipulator", a Spaceman playing a collection of electronic musical gadgets. Difficult to describe, but great to watch.
Because the site is compact and not crammed with people you can easily get around in a matter of minutes enduring that you see as much as you want without the prospect of a long hike though thousands of people. As we were blessed with great weather I spent my first festival of the year in trainers and enjoyed the site of grass.
Listing solid, yet modest headline acts such as Idlewild, the Charlatans, the Zutons and the Streets (see later) the festival would never attract a 50,000 crowd, but thatís not what the Summer Sundae is all about. There was a great range of exciting emerging bands to entertain from the Dykeenies and Baddies to Mum and Mr Hudson, and it was a chance to catch some acts that you had never seen before in a relaxed setting, and unless you tried to see Imelda May or Hugh Cornwell in the somewhat small Musician Stage Tent, you were in with a good chance of getting a great view as well. If you didnít like an act, you could simply mooch to another stage and see another. It was win win.
Overall the Summer Sundae Weekender delivered well for its capacity, with no real negatives but with one exceptional performance from the Israeli group, Monotonix, who injected a serious dose of excitement to the proceedings on Sunday. So letís see how the weekend panned out...
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