I want to be really positive about Big Top, it had some brilliant artists, some nice decorations and tickets were cheap. However, that is where the praise sadly comes to an end.
In the hope of not coming across too negative I will start with all the positive aspects. Entrance to the festival was well organised with short queues and plenty of staff so it all kept moving. This was a welcome surprise in comparison to the usual festival experience of standing for hours in a muddy field waiting for a single electronic scanner to get through twenty thousand tickets. Through the gates waited a large open space, with clear signs and plenty of places to sit. Overall first impressions were good, I may even go as far as saying brilliant after seeing the stage decorations, but sadly it was all down hill from there.
As indicated by the name the Big Top tent was the main stage, 12 hours of music bought to you by big name acts, such as Maya Jane Coles, Ben Pearce and Jamie Jones. Within the cavernous tent there was plenty of space for all, a welcome prospect to anyone who doesn’t like the sardine factor of many festivals. However, with a large tent a large sound system is required and I amongst others on the day felt that it was just a bit too underpowered for the size of tent. This led to half of the tent being empty, as you had to get up to the front to be able to hear the full force of the music.
Complementing the Big Top stage were two side stages bought to the festival by legendary Portswood party people, Future Garden, and their Pompey counterparts Concrete Music. Each tent put on a good show throughout the day, featuring guest names and their own DJ’s. Despite their stages being part bar-part dance floor both tents were packed throughout the day and featuring sets from the likes of Karma Kid and Max Graef. Despite both stages popularity intimacy was kept through carefully designed sets, with a notable mention to Future Garden’s disco theme.
Away from the music the only other attraction was a slightly expensive fairground, leading to many flocking to the two bars on site. Despite looking big the bars were busy, expensive and out of stock. It is never pleasant waiting 45 minutes to pay £4.50 for a Red Stripe only to find it had sold out at 3pm. Although staff were doing non-stop runs to shops to stock up, it wasn’t good enough. If you are putting on a day festival for 5,000 people you should be expecting them to be drinking a lot of alcohol.
As the evening wore on so did the music. Thirsty and by 8pm a little bit tired I couldn’t help but feel that once you have heard 8 hours of non stop house music you have heard it all. Despite trying to give the main stage a chance I just couldn’t bring myself to go back, opting for the disco vibes of Future Garden. Filled with disco vibes we danced on in to the night.
When the time came to leave a well organised shuttle bus and taxi rank were waiting to whisk people away to after parties or train stations, but it soon became clear that the bus was packed and the taxis were pre booked, leaving a long, dark walk to Airport Parkway Station.
Despite its issues it is clear that Big Top has the potential to be massive and am looking forward to next years event already!
Positives: Ease of entry, good security, plenty of space
Could be improved: More variety, bigger side stages, better stocked bars.
A good first attempt, but much to be improved