Neverworld; the smaller festival that you really should go to!
Updated: Mar 8
Neverworld is a small festival, just 5000 maximum capacity, and one of our favourites. It started as Lee Denny’s idea to hold a mini festival in the back garden of his parents' house whilst they were on holiday! 13 years down the line it has grown to its current size and is now held on farmland near Hever in Kent. Lee's parents probably put their foot down when asked if 5000 could pop round for the weekend!
Neverworld manages to pack in a lot of different stages or areas into a small space, eleven to be precise. They don’t interfere with each other, but are no more than a few minutes walk apart. Front row places in the audience are very close to the main stage, and a lot of thought has been put into the layout of the main stage's position. This means that it is viewable from all over the main arena, by anyone; a pretty good achievement that other festivals would do well to try and emulate.
Neverworld is also very family friendly, probably the most so of all the festivals we’ve been to. The food choice is perhaps a little more restricted due to it’s size than the others, but is excellent in it's choice nonetheless, and dare I say it, slightly cheaper on average. Drink availability is also very good, with some real choice for once. Beer is usually something of a disappointment at many festivals, with usually one choice of a large multinational beer conglomerate. Neverworld has somehow managed to get Beavertown Brewery and a couple of local small breweries involved; making by my calculations the beer choice about 600% better than anywhere else.
Band-wise some big names have played there, including Clean Bandit, Bastille, Jake Bugg, Fenech Solar, British Sea Power, Get Cape wear cape fly, Everything Everything, Slaves, London Grammar, and many others. This year saw Tom Grennan return, The Futureheads, The Vaccines, Professor Green and Craig David heading the main stage. Two legends of DJing were present this year, with David Rodigan presenting his reggae set, and none other than Grandmaster Flash, the man who effectively invented the breakbeat in Hip hop.
Neverworld is probably the only festival where the artists can be seen dressed down and wandering around watching the other stages and enjoying the food and atmosphere. Neverworld is probably one of the best festivals for audience interaction, with the artists engaging in short conversations at times with members of the audience. This is possible due to the close proximity. You can be five rows back and still closer to the bands than at a number of other festivals.
Neverworld also launched an interesting concept this year for the first time, the truly cashless Festival. My initial thoughts were that it was going to be a bit of a pain, probably because I happened for no good reason to have a reasonable amount of cash in my wallet and was planning on using some of it there. However, it proved to work very well indeed. The only hiccup (and you’re allowed one on the first try) was a slightly tricky mobile reception for the topping up point that that they conquered pretty quickly to their credit. It worked by incorporating an RFID chip into your wristband, which could be either preloaded before the festival via the internet, or topped up on the day via terminals operated by staff. Any cashless banking could be used, so card with pin, card with tap, or mobile phone app payment. Any amount could be topped up, and post-festival any remaining amount could be reclaimed for a paltry 90 pence fee. I have to say that despite my initial misgivings, it worked extremely well, and other festivals would do well to follow the concept. I'm definitely converted!
This year we were pleased to see another great line-up, with Craig David headlining the Saturday night with his one man show, TS5. One of the nicest guys in music, Craig David brought TS5, his DJ mixing deck and played a non-stop set of his own hits, mixed in with live vocals, along with many other great songs which he also sang over. I perhaps have not described it very well, but the effect is a absolute stormer of a live show.
Tom Grennan returned and treated us all to a sing along set with his backing choir and very talented band. Tom's voice is something else, and combined with a prodigious song-writing talent he will go very far in the music world.
Another big name was Professor Green, bringing rap and Hip-Hop to the fields of Kent. Occasionally you see performers clearly having a lot of fun, and really enjoying themselves on the stage. Professor Green was clearly having that kind of day! That's really nice to see, sometimes you get the impression that a band or artist is just up there to earn the money or fulfil a contract, but Neverworld seems to have avoided any of that.
A couple more noteworthy performances were from The Vaccines and Kid Kapichi. The Vaccines anthemic Indie-rock never fails to get an audience singing along, and they delighted the whole festival with their powerful performance.
Kid Kapichi were a new band to us and performing on one of the smaller stages. Energetic and visceral describes their powerful Indie-punk style. I would not be surprised to see them making something quite considerable of themselves given the right breaks.
Something about Neverworld has a laid-back and happy vibe to it. I wonder if it's the small size or the lay-out? Whatever it is once again we were impressed and entertained, with nothing that left us feel wanting.
Rounding up, Neverworld is the best of the smaller festivals we have been to. It has a unique theme of Pirates should you wish to dress up for the part, and has a very friendly village vibe. Drinks choice is very good, and food a little limited in choice but excellent quality nonetheless. Some surprisingly big names have played there, and you will not get closer to the stars and artists anywhere else.
Travel by car is easy and within a short reach of the M25, and a shuttle bus service runs from the nearby train station. Next year's dates are 30th July to the 1st August 2020. Early bird tickets will be available soon.
Neverworld is at:
John Darlings farm,
Disclaimer: We were guests of Neverworld.