Noisily 2023 - The UK’s best woodland belter has a new home.

Noisily 2023 - The UK’s best woodland belter has a new home.

by mintyhit / Jul 21, 2023 / 0 comments
Thursday, 6 July 2023 to Sunday, 9 July 2023

It was change or die time for Noisily and I admit I felt a little apprehensive about the prospect of an entirely new site. The old location in Coney Wood had felt, well, quite homely and I wondered if the soul of the place would endure the displacement.

Any worries I had melted away the moment I arrived and heard the pumping sound of melodic techno echoing through the forest. As usual, a smorgasbord of friendly, colourful people greeted me, looking joyfully eccentric and ready to party. What a great little festival this is. The Thursday opening party was rumoured to be a low-key gathering at a makeshift double decker DJ bus at the entrance to the main area. It wasn’t very low-key. I overheard someone saying “if this is the downtempo party then what's the rest going to be like?” . It was 3am when I left and it was still going strong.

After a stiff bloody mary the next day it was time to see what the rest of the festival had to offer. The new site is beautiful, hidden away on the fringes of the mythical Sherwood Forest. Natural clearings with lower tree density made space for the three main stages, Noisily, Liquid and the Treehouse. The Parliament of Funk and the Nook also made a welcome return and all were linked by colourfully lit woodland trails studded with art, sculptures and occasionally mobile rigs. I came across the sublime Felt Soundsystem - an ingeniously assembled hand-built wooden speaker contraption - which suddenly manifested in the middle of a connecting path at 2am, amidst scores of through-traffic ravers and belting out some Afrotech.

It’s a rare thing to feel so immediately ‘into’ a festival but it’s all so effortless at Noisily. In no time at all I felt loosened-up mentally and limbered-up physically. The sound systems across the site are nothing short of tremendous. The Noisily stage in particular was rocking a large area quad stereo (octophonic) setup that by some audio alchemy seemed quiet from the path, but upon moving in between the speaker stacks it packed enough punch to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It wasn't just the festival's main stage tearing the roof off - the Treehouse, Liquid and Nook stages all had significant upgrades from the previous year with bass and fidelity to spare.

Audiophile geek-out over - technical achievements in sound are nothing without the incredible and diverse set of artists who turn up on stage and deliver the goods. Artists like Lize, Henri Bergmann, Phibes, Egbert, Perfect Stranger, The Mouse Outfit Soundsystem, Joris Voorn and the legend that is Goldie were all mind-blowing and the appreciation of the Noisily crowd, whether enduring rain, belting heat or slippery mud, was electric. I had a lot of great moments. I was witness to a live (man dressed as) Goat hunt at the Threehouse that concluded with the improbable man-goat being hoisted away on a spit. The dust bowl Liquid stage that turned to actual liquid overnight with no impact on the relentless stomping and the Noisily stage exploding with ribbons and the sound of “Nothings going to stop us now” at the finale.

The evolution of the festival wasn’t only displayed sonically and musically. Other elements such as the Mind, Body and Soul, performers area and the Art Gallery had all expanded their offering of workshops, crafts, lectures, installations and all manner of other creations exploring deep psychedelia and spirituality amongst other themes. There was something for everyone in this space and my pick of the weekend was undoubtedly the Lumenate ‘consciousness-shifting light experience’. Something akin to the opposite to sensory deprivation - fractal patterns created by strobing lights penetrating my eyelids, accompanied by ambient music and spoken word - suddenly shifted my brain into a deeply relaxing and meditative state. I went in thinking I would be staring twitchily at an internal kaleidoscope. I left thinking “Ah… I get it now!”

UK festivals ebb and flow. Over the years some plateau and you find yourself questioning all the effort that goes into creating effectively the same experience year after year. Noisily is not one of these. Every year has been better than the last and it’s still on an upwards trajectory. With the lease for the new site secured indefinitely and the dedication and creativity of the Noisily team, we can all rest assured that the UK’s best small festival will continue to be unrivalled for years to come.

Rating out of 11: