Friday 24 - Monday 27 August, Pippingford Park, Nutley, Uckfield

BYLINE Festival is not like other festivals.

Designed to tackle social issues, fake news, alternative truths and Brexit, Byline was back for the second year at Pippingford Park to “dance, discuss, laugh and change the world”.

This festival seemed to be a haven for budding journalists and those looking to challenge society, but actually felt a bit white-washed and conservative.

On arrival, we were given wristbands and directed in with no bag checks or any form of security which already felt weird.

One of the comedians on the first night actually talked about how easy it would have been to bring drugs in, or anything we wanted really.

Not once were we asked to show our wristbands again, and lots of people had entered the festival without having to even show a ticket.

There were no people on the entrance/exits for the rest of the weekend.

The lack of security/festival staff will be mentioned more later on in this review as there was a near-death incident that should be talked about…

Sadly, we missed seeing John Cleese as they’d put him on the listing at 3pm on the Friday which was, in my humble opinion, a bad choice.

The Friday was very empty as most ticketholders would have been coming after work, like we were.

So, no John Cleese but we did get to see Badly Drawn Boy headline.

Many of you will know BDB for his song ‘Something To Talk About’ which featured in About A Boy.

Disappointingly, he did not play this song, but the rest of his set was OK.

Nothing special and it lacked any real enthusiasm.

Later in the evening, the Fly Circus from New Orleans swung into action and put on a wonderfully bizarre show full of aerial tricks and odd things with spaghetti, so that perked up the evening.

The highlights of the festival were definitely Pussy Riot.

The Russian feminist punk group brought the tent down with their politically minded and empowering songs.

There was even someone climbing the rig of the tent and co-founder of the festival Peter Jukes had to climb up to convince her to come down.

It was quite the juxtaposition of events.

Another highlight was Gary Lineker being interviewed by Lisa Maxwell.

He spoke very frankly about his honesty on Twitter and how it is OK to have an opinion even if your job isn’t one within politics.

There were moments when the crowd thought he may not make it to the end of the talk though as the weather at this point had turned dreadful and a the tent started leaking all over the screen behind him.

Talking of weather, here is the story of how my friends and I nearly died at Byline Festival.

On the Saturday night, while we were sleeping, a tree fell over and crushed our tent. A huge tree. Thankfully, our tent had two sections and only the part where our bags were got damaged.

No one knows when or how it happened but waking up on Sunday morning and having to try and climb out of essentially a treehouse into the rain was not ideal.

Moving the tent was also a struggle as there was no one there to tell, no security to report it to or any knowledge of where we would go to report such an incident.

We managed to salvage our tent and move it but by this point the tent had basically flooded.

On leaving the festival, there was also no one around to assist in directing us how to get out, or any signs pointing to where we should go.

It seems like the festival had such good intentions but how it passed a health and safety check is beyond me.

There were lots talks that were very powerful and important.

They covered issues from Islamophobia to sexism, austerity to consent.

There were also many workshops that were designed to help educate and inspire.

No matter your age or interest, there seemed to be a talk or workshop for you.

The concept and ideology is something that is not often seen at mainstream festivals and if executed properly, could be a hub for people within media or starting out within journalism and a great festival, but it has a lot of faults that definitely need to be tackled.

Jodie Allan