We Out Here festival 2022: a celebration of diversity and community
The 25th August saw thousands flock to Abbots Ripton for We Out Here festival’s eagerly-awaited third edition.
What’s striking as you arrive is the diversity of crowds: people of all different ages, races and genders coming together to indulge in their appetite for Hagan’s percussive afro-bass, Kokoroko’s joyous jazz, and Channel One’s soul-cleansing dub. Unlike last year’s programme which compiled some of the most current DJ’s in today’s circuit, this year it was streamlined to prioritise legends, and We Out Here friends and family.
In the place of 2021’s offering of Joy Orbison, Shannen SP and Anz, this year’s punters could go back to the roots of techno, house & jazz, courtesy of sets from Underground Resistance, Masters At Work, Azymuth and Pharoah Sanders.
All images courtesy of Rob Jones (@hirobjones @khroma collective), with the exception of the last one which is courtesy of Brynley Davies.
Surrounded by water, forests and hills, the festival site is an asset in itself. Look to the right of the main stage and you’ll see a glorious lake, and if you’re in the mood for a dip there’s another one more hidden. There’s something particularly special about dancing near a body of water, and when combined with We Out Here’s vibrant stage design, you’re able to truly immerse yourself in its world. The site is easily navigable and includes a talks tent, chill-out zones, and plenty which are dedicated to repose; meaning we’re able to savour our energy for Thursday night’s stacked programme.
The excitement is palpable. Tonight Masters At Work will take to the mainstage, Parris and dreamcastmoe will shake the trees in The Woodland.. But all our giddiness is made still by a particularly poignant performance at Lush Life. John Glacier takes to the stage. She leans against the mixing desk whilst performing songs taken from her 2021 SHILOH album, in between – and sometimes during – taking puffs on her vape. Her spaced-out demeanour and crystalline vocals have the crowd eating out the palm of her hand. Later on, George Riley would continue the theme of young London talent, pulling a sizeable crowd with her futuristic iterations of soul and r’n’b. She’s a natural performer and has us singing along to last year’s collaboration with Anz, as well as more recently released material from her forthcoming album.
As the sun sets, deciding where to spend the rest of the evening is no easy feat. We bounce between stages, beginning at the Main Stage where house legends Masters at Work delight the crowd as they skillfully blend tribal house with less anticipated selections like Champion’s ‘Lighter’. Playing a rapturous 4 hour set, we’re taken on a real journey even when dipping off to see Koreless’ awe-inspiring esoteric live set, and to The Forest to catch a Ransom Note takeover which compiles some of the most exciting names in dance music. Vanessa Maria brings her rhythmic selection of UK Funky, Kuduro and Afrohouse which features a cameo from her Dad who gets on the mic to hype up an already-ecstatic crowd. Next emerging talent Mirasia steps up to deliver her take on global club flavours, before Tim Reaper takes things up a notch, playing his signature high-energy concoction of old and new school jungle.
After last night’s antics, Friday offers a soothing combination of Camilla George’s soul-stirring sax, Nigerian megastar Obongjayar’s rock-infused afrobeat and Alabaster Deplume’s poignant jazz. Deplume’s performance resembles a stand-up comedy show. He has the audience in stitches with playful takes on his classics ‘Don’t Forget Your Precious’ and ‘I Was Going To Fight Fascism’. But he leaves plenty of room for sincerity. ‘Whisky Story Time’ was enough to turn our laughter into tears, and his silhouette against the the haze of a smoke machine made him appear as a lonely busker straight out of a New York-situated movie.
Before we know it, the sun has set once again, and it’s time to get a groove on. At Rhythm Corner as emerging talent BAKE flits between Swedish techno outfit Off The Meds, and Russian brother Simple Symmetry. Those craving something a little different can catch a set from Goddess of Rhythm, Karen Nyame KG who brings a percussive groove to The Woodland just afterwards. And for the rest of the night we’re in safe hands with the Hessle Audio posse who bring the night to a UK Bass-filled close.
On Saturday a sit-down affair is welcomed. London-based organisation Create Define Release (CDR for short) are hosting a panel with Mark Flash, Jon Dixon and De’Sean Jones of Underground Resistance in the Talks Tent. It’s an absolute delight. The trio laugh and joke, free from any egocentric haughtiness. It’s a reminder that they have been working together for years and now see each other more as brothers than collaborators. But before we get too comfortable, an unexpected guest is announced on Rhythm Corner. UKG mainstay El-B kickstarts Josey Rebelle’s stage takeover, beginning his set with jazz-infused broken-beat and ending on dark garage which primes us perfectly for Josey’s set later on.
But before that, a festival highlight came courtesy of London-based alt-rock band Comet Is Coming. During their whiplash performance there were ample moments when it was easy to forget we weren’t at a 160BPM DJ set; the way they transfer energy between tracks, each one as danceable as the last, make them an absolute must-see. Speaking of must-sees, Comet Is Coming hand over the stage to Underground Resistance, who guide us through the principles of hi-tech jazz via Dixon’s deft piano tickles, James’ roaring sax, and Flash’s DJ skills.
Sunday is about two things: jazz and dub. Worldwide FM resident Haseeb Iqbal warms up the Rhythm Corner stage for legend Jah Shaka who keeps a full house skanking as they copy his own impressive dance moves. The vibe is right; the sun seeps through the trees and our experiences of the last few days all compile to form a distinct contentment.
Over on the Main Stage, the standout moment of the entire festival is about to take place. After his saxophonist child Tomoki confuses a tender-hooks crowd by prancing around the mainstage in a way that would be impossible for a man of Pharoah Sanders’ age; all becomes clear when Pharoah himself is wheeled into the centre, and handed a saxophone of his own. For a main stage crowd, the silence Pharoah yields is incredible. We all stand awe-stricken, with tears in our eyes as he plays in intervals – as much as he can manage in his frail state. It’s a moment of absolute magic, one that left most feeling unable to occupy their mind with the thought of seeing any more music that day.
But just as well, what was on offer was Brazilian jazz-funk trio Azymuth to ground us and get the hips moving once more. As the final sun set over Abbots Ripton, we reflected on a weekend of world-class talent and close-knit community. We Out Here’s third edition proved it to be one of the UK’s the most carefully-curated festivals and continues its promise of being a haven for people from every background.