Weekends to last a lifetime: How We Out Here Festival is building a community
There aren’t many festivals where Dennis Bovell’s lovers rock segues into a drill set from Kahn and Neek.
Where you can seek soul-cleansing from Yussef Dayes after Ahadadream’s hard drums in the Lemon Lounge; or warm up the hips for Shanti Celeste’s mean techno set via Lynda Dawn’s soul-stirring vocals. For attendees of We Out Here’s 2021 edition, this was all entirely possible. This year expectations are no less, with a programme that spans dance music pioneers Masters At Work and Underground Resistance; some of today’s most exciting up-and-comers George Riley and John Glacier; and international jazz legends Azymuth and Pharoah Sanders.
‘There’s an incredibly wide range of music which attracts people from all walks of life’, We Out Here family member Ruby Savage tells us ‘The reason it works so well is because we’re all connecting in our open state of mind’.
Along with many others including Steam Down, Kokoroko and Josey Rebelle, Savage will make her third appearance at We Out Here this year, incarnating one of the festival’s chief priorities of building a family and community around the festival. Whilst We Out Here prides itself equally on platforming emerging talent, it’s not unusual to recognise the majority of programmed artist names from previous editions. Far from being a product of budget restrictions or creative dearth, this is a conscious decision to allow artists to grow together with the festival, its crowds and its networks. ‘It’s like an investment in an artist, like saying we really believe in these people and we trust that the audience will, too’, Savage continues. ‘It builds trust in all directions’.
It’s true that every stage at We Out Here comes with the promise of meticulous curation, thus facilitating the constant discovery of new artists as attendees need not have any strict agenda. According to Savage, ‘That’s the beauty of We Out Here. The culture encourages crowds to just follow their nose and see where they end up. And that’s when the most special moments at a festival unfold’.
“It’s beautiful to be sharing the love of music with people from all walks of life, different ages, backgrounds, everything.”
Also returning for the third time is DJ, curator and radio broadcaster Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy, whose input extends to hosting the Love Dancin’ tent alongside Trojan Sound System’s Daddy Ad. It’s here that Murphy broadcasts her two Worldwide FM shows Cosmodelica and Balearic Breakfast live from Love Dancin’s travelling audiophile sound system. ‘Sharing that deep audio experience with people who haven’t had the opportunity to hear something like that before is truly special’, she tells us. ‘And Worldwide FM itself was a lifeline to many people during lockdown. That’s one of the ways We Out Here’s community-building aspect becomes a round-the-clock commitment’.
For Colleen, an equal component of the festival’s value lies in its promise of facilitating ‘a worldwide family gathering’. Reflecting on a particular instance when she spent time with an octogenarian DJ from Hong Kong, she calls We Out Here the ‘most diverse festival I’ve ever been part of in terms of ethnicity and age’, as its welcome is extended to families with young children as well as teenagers – including her own – who can happily go off on their own.
It’s a sentiment echoed by almost everyone who’s had the pleasure of experiencing it, and one reiterated by Savage who sees We Out Here’s family aspect reflected in its inclusivity and eclecticism. ‘It’s beautiful to be sharing the love of music with people from all walks of life, different ages, backgrounds, everything’, she affirms. ‘It can feel pretty lonely in this world. We Out Here is a place everyone can come together and experience joy collectively’. For Savage, these experiences aren’t analogous to clubbing when, often, it’s a case of ‘in and out’: ‘You’re experiencing people in all states throughout the day and night so it’s a much more intimate and vulnerable space’.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t come without its downsides. Open spaces and crowds can facilitate behaviour which wouldn’t be tolerated elsewhere. This is what inspired Ruby to launch Don’t Be A Creep, an initiative that aims to tackle abuse and harassment within music and nightlife culture. ‘Responsibility gets passed around in big crowds’, she tells us. ‘Once we see that we’re all responsible for each other’s safety, we can provide safe spaces for everyone’.
Don’t Be A Creep was omnipresent at WOH 2021, with billboards surrounding the site and a talk co-hosted by Savage entitled Tune Into A Higher Frequency which encouraged listeners to see the safety of fellow attendees and a joint responsibility. ‘All festivals need to step up to the plate to ensure their people are being treated properly’, Colleen adds. ‘This includes accessibility, food, health and welfare and of course, toilets!’.
With these things in place, this year’s punters are able to focus their attention on a stacked programme including names like Obongjayar, Channel One, Yazmin Lacey and Jossy Mitsu. Savage predicts it will be the biggest yet, with post-lockdown inhibitions finally shifted ‘we can really let loose. I’m excited about that’, she smiles.
When it comes to this year’s set, Colleen’s preparations are already well underway. ‘ I’m already pulling aside records for WOH. Every festival and every club and every party set is different. I play for what the vibe is there and then. When you go back to the same festival/club/party it makes it easier to prepare as you have a better idea of what to expect’. As for the things she hopes people will take away from her set, the answer is three-fold: joy, love and the life energy of music.
For Ruby, being a returning artist also grants the opportunity to experiment with her sound and share her development with an audience. ‘It’s really fun to be pushed to offer something new and fresh each year, like “What will I go for this time?”’. She also particularly values the chance to play to crowds dancing in the open air, saying it opens people up spiritually. ‘There’s a special kind of magic when you play under the sun. It’s a real sensation that I’m inspired by, the feeling that the sky’s the limit. That’s the energy that inspires my preparation’, she affirms.
It’s exactly these things that make We Out Here’s offering to the UK festival circuit so unique. Artists are encouraged to explore all avenues of their sound, together with open-minded audience members who feel able to put their full trust in the programme’s meticulous curation. Together with Worldwide FM’s round-the-clock broadcasts which make the festival’s presence felt all year long, this puts community-building and family at the core of We Out Here’s ethos, and it’s one that can be felt viscerally when artists are performing and crowds dancing.
To give a taste of what you can expect this August bank holiday, we’ve made a (by no means comprehensive) We Out Here 2022 playlist. Dive in below.
We Out Here is taking place in Abbots Ripton, Cambridgeshire on the 25th – 28th August. Tickets are on sale now, buy them here.
Masters At Work - The Ha Dance
George Riley - Time
John Glacier - If Anything
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra - Promises [Movement 1]
Kokoroko - We Give Thanks
Obongjayar - Still Sun
Yazmin Lacey - I'll Never Stop Loving You
Puma Blue - Velvet Leaves
Ojerime - Nothing
Hagan - Shape Shift