Harbour Festival – A Review

Copyright: Jess Connett

Copyright: Jess Connett

This weekend we sent brand new contributor Jess Connett along to the Harbour Festival to see what it was all about, what was good, what was bad, and whether as a family event, does it manage to cater to young people?

Swindon Dance Urban Youth Academy

Swindon Dance Urban Youth Academy

If you’re little, the Harbour Festival is a daytime funfest of balloon tossing, magicians and pick‘n’mix – followed by a tantrum and a sleep in the car on the way home. The kids’ area on College Green this year featured a galaxy of pom-poms, plus a load of sticky toddlers dribbling on them.

If you’re old enough to buy an overpriced tipple, then the Harbour Festival comes alive as night falls. Hanging out with your friends in the golden evening, as Queen Square dances to a Caribbean beat, you get all nostalgic and ridiculous, and prone to hugging – especially when it gets dark and the fireworks start bursting glitter up above the trees.

For the young people inbetween, a real effort has been made this year to make the Harbour Festival more appealing, inclusive and relevant.

The Cadbury Sisters. Copyright: Jess Connett

The Cadbury Sisters. Copyright: Jess Connett

Behind the carnival stalls I found the Bandstand stage, which featured the performances of local artists involved with Bristol Plays MusicColston Hall’s programme to launch young musicians. The mood was happy and the music was brilliant – particularly the Cadbury Sisters’ smooth harmonies.

The market stalls were also doing well – I met Luke, Shivaya and Fran, all 15, looking for festival bargains.  Fran told me: ‘I’m here more for the shopping because the music isn’t really my style. Although, last year some of the stuff in the evening was quite good so we might try and get a late bus home’.

At the Young Bristol stall, Chantelle, 17, tipped me off about Millennium Square’s dance village. ‘If I wasn’t here volunteering all weekend I’d be down there all day. The breakdancing competitions are really amazing.’

Kinetico Bloco. Copyright: Jess Connett

Kinetico Bloco. Copyright: Jess Connett

As promised, the dance village was full to capacity. Swindon Dance Urban Youth performed a slick routine featuring some amazing body popping, and the crowd went crazy for their high-energy tricks. On Sunday, London’s Kinetika Bloco brought their unique carnival sound to Bristol pavements and people climbed the lamp posts to get a better view of their fabulous costumes.

The Harbour Festival definitely still hasn’t got everything right. But with more diverse music acts booked each year, the dance village expanding out to offer more participation than ever, plus more collaboration with youth organisations, the gap is slowly narrowing for those of us at the Harbour Festival who are too old for a helium balloon, but too young to join the queue for the bar.

This is the website for Harbour Festival. It’ll be back next year. Did you go? What did you think of it this year? Let us know: @rifemag