Preview: Nova 2012

01 July 2012

So, festival season. It’s not started too well. There’s been Download, with its mud. And the Isle Of Wight Festival, with its mud. And the Hackney Weekend, with Kasabian, and mud. Granted, Lovebox had sunburn, but it was promised mud.

But the mud’s not the point. Trenchfoot’s strangely bearable when augmented by cold cider and a festival hat. No, it’s not our weather that’s sinking ticket sales and drowning events – it’s inflating prices, spot-the-difference lineups and a saturation point of choices between very, very similar weekends. It’s not simply a stage, a field and a few food vans that make a festival: it’s character, identity, a focus on the little details. Think of Glastonbury’s painted bins or Latitude’s spray-coloured sheep, Green Man’s burning wicker or Standon Calling’s surreal plot-lines.

It’s these little details that are at the heart of Nova, the latest debutante to the scene from the former organisers of the Big Chill. The claims made by damn near every promoter that their festival is about more than just the music are so well-worn as to have become a tinnitus drifting on the wind, but for these people it’s fair comment. There’s lots of bands, sure, but they’re not really the focus here – more another attraction amongst many, such as the ‘arty’ golf course (Dave Shrigley’s made a hole…), the fantasy woodland installations from Rankin and Damien Hirst, the bloated programme of lectures and talks, the fringe cinema and the pop-up casino and the hot tubs and the pub ales and half the lineup from The Edinburgh Festival’s Pleasance Theatre. And it’s all set within a country estate, with lakes and lawns and formal gardens nestled within Sussex’s South Downs. Think the Reading Festival with its burning portaloos and third-world environs, its adolescent baying and raw nighttime terror, and when you’re done shuddering in the cold sweat read all that again to calm yourself down.

As for the soundtrack, there’s the BBC ‘Sound Of’ alumni Ghostpoet and Speech Debelle, next-huge-thing Jessie Ware, the hipsters’-favourite and absurdly-talented tUnE-yArDs and the hobbit-folk of Fionn Regan, plus DJ sets from Belle and Sebastian, Hexstatic, DJ Food and Zero 7. There’s loads, loads more of course, spread across an unhurried, languorous four days, and if hell is other people – which it is – here there’ll only be a few thousand, easily ignored given the distractions all around.

So, just another summer festival, right? Well, no. Nova promises to be something really very different, far removed from the ceaseless branding and the dirty sound bleeds, The Vaccines drearing across the site as people wade through swamps of paper cups – more refined, discerning and enticingly intimate. Yeah, so there’ll probably be mud here too. But it won’t matter.

Nova takes place from 5th July to 8th July 2012 in Bignor Park, Pulborough, West Sussex. Tickets and further information are available from Nova Festival.

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Nova 2012 @ Bignor Park, Pulborough, West Sussex
Preview: Nova 2012