Shambala festival’s over a decade old now & going from strength to strength. In their own words they are a “pioneering, intimate and truly innovative” festival which “blends creativity and participation perfectly”. Read Halima Amin’s review of this years festival to judge for yourself how close they came to achieving their goals. (Hint – it was very close).

Shambala Festival was an absolute triumph of colour, community and eclecticism.

Following on from an exceptional 2011, Shambala 2012 captured the real spirit of the festival in a roaring explosion of workshops, fireworks and music.
Running from Thursday 23rd to Monday 27th of August in Market Harborough, travel ranged from Shambala coaches around the UK, a free shuttle bus from Market Harborough Station and GoCarShare links from the Shambala info site, meaning no real fuss in travelling to the Midlands from all over.

Workshops make Shambala what it is. The vast majority of workshops were only suggested donation and ranged from wicker to laughter workshops and clay creations to homeopathy. Even learning about social and political issues such as migration myths and the truths surrounding the lives of asylum seekers is part of the Shambala experience, a mental and social stimulation. This was also supported by The Emporium of Valuable Insights, sharing views and giving time to new perspectives.

A beautiful cinema listed films such as Delicatessen and Frankenstein, with plush velvet pillows, cosy rugs and throws. Acrobatics, drama, comedy and other such hilarious interactive shows were performed at the newly added Social Club, a gorgeous hard wood stage and structure full of mirrors and cocktails. The Kamikaze tent housed a mix of performances, including high flying circus acts and cabaret. Returning to what must be its most responsive audience, the Wandering Word tent presented by Dreadlock Alien was constantly full of both people and applause.

Hot tubs and saunas littered Shambala, with hot showers and minimal queues. Compost toilets were still a great idea this year, and regular festival loos were emptied regularly. There were water taps aplenty and food stalls to suit almost every taste (although one shouldn’t look much further than the wonderful Caribbean cuisine for marvellous food).

The music represented the idea of discovering new music instead of offering over-hyped brand name artists. Names such as Billy Bragg, DJ Yoda (who performed an excellent set with visuals to appease the geek in everyone) and Roots Manuva were superb main stage crowd magnets. The Selector gave a good performance which kept to pace with the Ska vibe of the festival. Smaller bands such as Reading based folk-punkers Shambala competition winners Will Tun and the Wasters were found everywhere from mainstage to busking at the fires, with fervour and furore. WTATW somehow combined charming tin whistle sounds, skilful drumming and a French MC. Band This is the Kit were absolute bliss, performing for Shambala Radio in an intimate sofa environment with haunting vocals.

The Enchanted Woods were harmonious and full of learning (including a wonderful Sound Beam workshop), music and paradisiacal décor. A bridge near the centre of the site led to a Healing Village, for relaxation and all kinds of different herbalists, massage therapies and healing therapies.

Shambala is the festival to bring children too. Unlike select other festivals which suggest a child friendly atmosphere and provide nothing to accommodate this, Shambala rocked a beautifully vibrant and welcoming childrens area (whilst most of the site was generally very child friendly anyway) featuring Frank Sinatra impersonators, experimental sound and vision play equipment, video workshops, clowns, comedy, music, puppet workshops and shows, circus acts and much, much more. Shambala also featured a science and learning tent this year, with a mini zoo to boot. With snakes and scorpions being played with and cooed at, you knew you were at Shambala.

Celebrations continued late into the night with space age night club tents, the Kamikaze bumping bassy tunes and many other venues to be discovered. The Time Machine tent was of particular enjoyment, with interactive panels for dancers to change songs from different eras, resulting in raucous singalongs and peculiar BeeGee impressions.

All in all Shambala must have been the most friendly, community based, eco awareness encouraging festival of the year. An absolute delight and highlight of the entire year.

All words by Halima Amin. More Louder Than War articles by Halima can be found here. Halima has her own website which you can find target=”_blank”>here.

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