Fields of Gold: End of the Summer Festivals

XWHY does Field Maneuvers

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise…

Replace the cucumber sandwiches with a line up of exceptional mainstream and underground DJ talent and swap out the fuzzy plush toys for tie-die sporting party people and you’ve got yourself the best darn Teddy Bears’ Picnic this side of the Summer solstice.

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(Photographs courtesy of Katie Palmer and Meg Sharp)

The name Field Maneuvers, despite being a Funkadelic track, has slightly militaristic overtones, which is a touch misleading. Other than the precision with which Ele Beattie and her team – Leon, Maz, Julia and Henry – executed the whole affair, there wasn’t anything remotely soldierly about it. What about grinning voluntary staff in fluoro-necklaces and floral coronets says army training to you?

Tucked away in a clearing in Oxfordshire, with tents that bordered on the music stages and DJs freely bopping around with the 500 lucky ticket holders, this is a festival of delightful intimacy.

In it’s first year, the guestlist largely comprised of friends and friends-of-friends of either the organisers or the DJs themselves, ramping up the cosy-factor by about ten notches. The spider’s web of connections linking nearly everyone together was seriously impressive and made for some brilliant hook-up situations.

“Actually, one of the DJs turned up without a tent,” laughs Ele, “and I had to offer him the other half of mine. When I came back to the camping area later I found him with a girl in there!”

As the festival grows, which it undoubtedly will, this intimacy will be a considerable part of its appeal. Where else can you jump around to a dizzyingly good Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs DJ set one minute, and the next minute chill at the fire pit with the man himself?

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Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

When it comes to curating a good line up, Radio 1’s Ele and the rest of her crew – Leon, Maz, Julia and Henry, know a thing or two about dance music. Calling in favours from some of London’s trendiest parties (including, but not limited to: Deep Shit, Standard Place and Yeah, Maybe), they organised a constant stream of groove-busting tunes across all three days.

“We just wanted to have brilliant music on all the time. You never know when you might want to dance, or who’s just woken up from a powernap and wants to jump around again”, says Beattie.

That’s one of the best things about festivals isn’t it? You can flip the bird at standard operating hours and flail around like it’s after midnight and you’re seven cans in, when really it’s three in the afternoon and the only thing rattling around in your stomach is some jerk chicken.

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Granted, TEED and Oneman put on a rollicking show for the Friday nighters, and Drums of Death killed it for evening two, but some of the most high-energy hours actually took place on the sunny Saturday afternoon.

“Yeah we organised Saturday as the Old School Afternoon and had Mark Archer from Altern-8 in the main tent – a classic rave outfit  who came down with a party called I Love Acid – and their set was one of the most fun of the whole weekend. Next year we might make this even more of a feature and have it out in the sunshine slightly later on in the day,” Beattie muses.

Give a Little Bit

Round up a bunch of soul, funk, electro, house and RnB lovers and plonk them in a field with some great DJs and you’ve got yourself a party, but it takes a bit more than that to make a festival.

For Field Maneuvers, the debauchery-loving Devil was definitely in the detail. Apart from the hay bales, giant beanbags and vintage leather sofas they had strewn about the place, there was also a bunch of other little gems to keep the punters happy.

A flowery photobooth, some toad stools, plates of freshly barbecued chicken, a psychedelic Jazz Hands piano (try playing this when you’ve had a few shots too many – it’s a real trip), some ridiculously confusing rave glasses…

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The laser dome, a particular favourite among our lot, was definitely a Field Maneuvers win. Igloo + smoke machine + DJ + lots of red lasers and not much in the way of other lighting + quite a lot of very drunk people = porthole into another, much weirder, much messier alternate dimension.

Also, they had a great big fire pit. Name a man that doesn’t love a big fire pit.

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Working Nine to Five…

…Oh no they certainly weren’t. Not to make too much of a song and dance about it (geddit), but we’ve just got to say a word for the festival’s organisation. For a debut event, expecting the odd disaster seems like par for the course, but the Field Maneuvers team worked round the clock for three days, and probably a great deal of time leading up to it too, to ensure that everything went off without a hitch.

The loos were clean, the bars were well stocked (and well-priced), the water was flowing, no one was sent home in an ambulance and they even managed to engineer full-on streaming sunshine across all three days – god knows how many favours they had to call in for that!

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Future, Sex, Love, Sounds

So what’s next on the Field Maneuver’s horizon?

“I think the intimacy definitely our USP,” says Beattie. “There will be a point where we will inevitably want to start expanding, but we don’t have any plans to be the next Secret Garden Party or Bestival any time soon.”

“We’ll only ever probably go to a couple of thousand. I think the festival which is most comparable to our idea is Free Rotation, which happens in Wales. It is never more than two thousand people and much of the same crowd returns every year, so it ends up like a reunion and you really look forward to seeing people.”

“We’ve already spoken to a lot of our DJs about coming back next year as residents and we’d like to keep it really similar and to bring back the same crowd and try and emulate this year as much as possible,” she concludes.

Sounds like a plan to us…

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IMAGES: COURTESY OF KATie PALMER AND MEG SHARP

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