Holi One: Beers, Selfies And Inhaling Paint Powder In A Wembley Carpark

Art & Culture

In an event that can only be described as “Barry”, my trusty companion Kamila and I found ourselves in attendance of Holi One Festival in Wembley this Saturday.

It all started when Kamila won tickets for the event, and a free Uber ride to get us there. On the day itself I begun to ask myself things such as “Is this cultural appropriation?”, “Is having paint thrown in my face going to be really unpleasant?” and “Will this event be full of selfie-opportunist twats?” The answers to these questions, by the end of the day, were all provided to varying degrees of surprise. So let us begin.

We were expecting the festival to take place in a green, leafy park so when the taxi driver dropped us off at the car park outside the Wembley stadium we were a little perplexed. Sure enough, from the sight of rust-coloured attendees traipsing sadly away from the site and towards the Jubilee Line, we realised that this was indeed the place. And people were already traipsing sadly away at 6pm.

The arena contained: one stage playing cheesy house remixes of classics by Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers and Prodigy; a small funfair area with death traps for rides; a bar selling one type of beer, one type of cider and Jaegerbombs; an ambitiously-placed and under-populated Pimms bar that sold £12 pints; burger vans. Oh, and more portaloos than the whole of Farr Festival.

(They were up there for a really long time)

With hopes of experiencing anything culturally important here at Holi One slightly dashed as we sat ourselves down on the chip-strewn, tarmac floor of the (and I emphasise) car park, we set about the next best activity. Getting drunk. This was accomplished quickly and efficiently so we plunged into the crowd after picking up a selection of paints to begin the task of enjoying ourselves.

This ended up actually being easier than we could have imagined. The music was awful but fun, the paint was really unpleasant but funny as we squealed and tried in vain to protect our drinks, and we actually met a large number of people in the crowd who had travelled from near and far to attend this event that I am currently ridiculing. Sure it wasn’t WOMAD, or a UN summit meeting, but the crowd was certainly diverse to say the least.

Holi in the UK has taken on a bit of a weird life of its own, rather removed from the original Indian festival, and seems to take place whenever it wants. So I had been worried (like a good, hand-wringing lefty) about the level of cultural appropriation and whether this would be offensive to anyone. I mean, the event was pretty shit and offensive to anyone in possession of five working senses, but for the Indian people I spoke to at the festival, they just seemed to be pretty jazzed about celebrating something of Indian origin and to be throwing paint around in the UK. So I guess that’s alright then.

All in all, we did have fun but Holi One was a pretty horrible event. To begin with girls in butt-cheek revealing shorts and flower crowns were making a good fist of trying to get picturesque selfies together, and lads in tank tops were putting on an OK charade of how a person-at-a-festival is supposed to behave. Local gazzers were enjoying having a budget day out close to home. Unfortunately, the shiteness of the location, the sea of murky plastic waste underfoot, and the unforgivably ratchet production kind of put a dampener on any posers’ best efforts to make the event look Instaworthy, and there was nothing else left to do but get drunk, throw paint on yourself, and dance to this DJ:

(This was the best photo my phone could muster up)

Or just sack it off and hop on the Jubilee, underwhelmed and dusted in a mixture of once-pretty paints, now the colour of Australian desert sand. It felt a bit like leaving one of those Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen Winter Wonderlands from hell that seem to happen every year, where the children go home crying because the event could only afford two elves and an elderly reindeer. In other words, in anyone’s eyes except perhaps those of a weary parent, it was obviously just a very funny day out and an excuse to drink heavily.