Party time

After a very tough 18 months, the world creaked & groaned towards normality again with restrictions slowly lifting & life returning to normal for many.

The very last area of industry to return & arguably worst of all damaged by the pandemic was the creative industries including the UK’s nightlife. Large gatherings were a no-no. Clubbing simply stopped & barring a handful of illegal raves & smattering of ‘test’ events remained so until summer of this year.

I’ve written previously about this subject shadowing longtime friend & underground industry face DJ PhilGood & friends as they launched their own DAB radio station, which you can read all about below:

The strength & resilience of Phil, Jason & everyone else involved with this project has been incredible during these unprecedented times. Just two months into their foray on the airwaves, Unity DAB stepped in & hosted the epic ‘Dance Against Cancer’ event; yet another casualty of the pandemic.

What started out as a charity clubnight for 2,000 people morphed into a four-day marathon online party with some of the biggest names in the industry stepping up & doing their part raising over £10k.

Back to the present & with clubs, theatres & bars opening their doors once more, festivals also had the green light.

Phil had announced his very own festival, which was Covid-cancelled at great expense. With the door ajar again, worked his socks off to make it happen over August bank holiday weekend. He invited me down to document the three-day extravaganza, which I gladly accepted bringing the family along for a little ‘holiday’.

The festival; held on the outskirts of Clacton-On-Sea, Essex was a three-day event with each day appealing to differing audiences; Day One was the Clacton Family Festival.

As the title suggests, this day focused around young families & the little ones.

A number of last-minute Covid-related issues dogged the opening. 48 hours earlier, over 100 staff were forced to self-isolate including bar staff, stallholders & ride operators meaning some attractions advertised didn’t arrive. Again Phil & his team were determined not to cancel & pressed on.

As the gates swung open, long cues formed at all attractions. A number of understandably disgruntled patrons complained.

The troops were sent out with free drinks & refreshment vouchers as an immediate apology;

The big top hosted live performances from kids’ favourites PAW Patrol, Peppa Pig & live-action dinosaurs:

As well as meet-and-greet sessions for families to get the all-important photograph;

Once the dust settled & cues died down, the sun came out & everyone seemed to have a great time.

There were still plenty of activities available to keep guests happy including climbing walls


And laser-tag

Once the children’s performances wrapped up, Unity DAB’s roster of talent took over on the main stage with Station Manager Huck Finn kicking things off;

Unity DAB also hosted their own standalone stage at the festival streaming live to thousands of listeners

Day one wrapped with a fantastic live performance by soul legend Alexander O’Neil

The crowd were on their feet from start to finish!


Day two was strictly for the ravers. ‘Proper Fest’ had three stages stacked with talent from differing genres of the underground- each one packed with like-minded, music-loving people.

The first pair of ravers I stumbled upon were father-and-son!

For any first-timers, the house stage, hosted by Catch The Feeling was the easiest place to get acclimatised. The space was light, bright & had plenty of room to dance.

The Drum & Bass stage had a different, more seasoned feel; darker in decor, intense & absolutely heaving.

With a conveyor-belt of top MC’s keeping the crowd jumping

The Unity DAB family expertly launched main stage activities with Mr. Huck Finn joined by DJ Sides

As the night progressed, the lineup of top-tier talent intensified & I found myself darting between spaces in order to capture key performances.

Often bumping into happy revelers en-route

Nicky Blackmarket tore the roof off the D&B stage…

With DJ’s Jodi & Andy Galea a big highlight on the house stage

Back on the main stage garage favourite Pied Piper with MC’s PSG & Buzzhard were working the crowd into a frenzy

After Pied Piper wrapped, live performances began with opening act; serial chart-topper Sonique

Our host Phil(Good) & RAM followed keeping the audience on their toes

With a huge slice of assistance from the most energetic fella holding a microphone; MC Lipton

Who practically crowd-surfed at one point…

From this point onwards it was harder jumping between stages. The crowd heaving around every entrance point and with live performances coming in thick-and-fast I didn’t want to miss anyone!

Shelley Nelson followed performing a medley of garage hits

I managed to briefly slip away & catch stonking sets by D&B legend Grooverider

And a stellar, standout set from the master; Slipmatt on the house stage

It was 8pm & the crowd were electrified

Even the food vendors outside were having a good old ‘boogie’

I made it back to main stage just in time for what was my favourite moment of the evening; Julie McKnight stepped out on stage & after a piognant speech to the thousands in the crowd sang her smash hit ‘Finally’

After such a trying year, it was the pitch-perfect record & had many in tears. It was quite a moment. The image below is hands-down my favourite of the entire event.

Old school dons Ratpack were next on the main stage with a very different flavour & energy

After the emotion of Julie McKnight came the uplifting euphoria of a full-on, up-to-eleven Ratpack performance…

I dipped out again to catch Candyman & Mixmaster Max dropping some reggae-tinged bangers on the D&B stage

Then dashed back to main stage for Luck & Neat‘s show-closing set

What an absolutely epic day…


Day three started a little later, meaning some personal time with the family.

A walk along the promenade & pier, fairground rides & fun ‘n’ games

As well as the obligatory ramble along the sands & dip in the sea

And portion of fish & chips slathered in salt & vinegar!

Then it was back to the field for ‘Weeley Tribute Festival’. As a thank you to locals, Phil & his team posted 1,000 complimentary tickets through the doors of houses in the local vicinity. A classy touch, I thought…

This day centred around live music; tribute acts to popular artists, bands & groups.

The turnout was great, although once again very different to the previous day. As fun-loving, certainly, although generally an older, more reserved audience. The previous day had seen thousands on their feet dancing; at the tribute festival the main stage was filled with makeshift seating fashioned from bales of hay with most guests sitting to enjoy performances.

The setup was back to one main performance space with the first act; “Amy Winehouse” on top form.

“The Spice Girls” were next on stage dragging up the energy levels

Away from main stage, the same array of children’s amusements & inflatables from Day One were available to keep the little ones entertained

As well as performances from a BMX stunt display team

Back under the big top “Ed Sheeran” crooned the audience with an acoustic set

Followed by a very charismatic “Rod Stewart”

A special nod is owed to DJs Brooksie & Stevie ‘Way Back When’ who compered the live stage all day covering artist changes & sound checks with a boundless energy keeping the crowd entertained.

Following “Ed” we had “Status Quo” who really upped the ante with a fantastic performance

The energy remained high for “Queen”

In fact the energy was through the roof! We almost lost the roof completely…

The day and festival wrapped with a tip-top performance by “Oasis”

It was a very special end to a very special weekend

Backstage quickly filled with the hardworking team & their families that made it all happen; happiness & elation on everyone’s faces- my own included for what was a mammoth & hectic 72 hours.

In the days after the event, Phil & the team received some negative press from still-disgruntled patrons of the first day, to which he was obviously apologetic & very honest. He could’ve simply released a statement like so many other organisations in his position would have, but no.

Now the dust has settled, we’ve conversed about what worked & what didn’t. I suggested he perhaps drop out family day next year & expand on the huge success of ‘Proper Fest’ stretching it across two days instead.

A firm no was his response. “We gotta get it right” he emplored. “I can’t rest until we’ve made this right for those people“. That’s just the sort of guy he is. He’s a local to Clacton. He’s neighbours with the handful of unhappy patrons (whom have all been promised free tickets next year) & I’ve nothing but admiration for what was achieved.

The festival will return next year & I’ve no doubt in my mind he’ll keep his promise. It WILL be bigger and better.

I cannot wait.