“The weekend is in some senses a Big Chill reunion in the original early spirit before commercial forces took over. But we are also looking to new beginnings,” wrote Campfire Convention founder Pete Lawrence in the programme for last weekend’s Little Chill festival.
It was a tantalising hint of things to come. But as each artist bathed in the love of the crowd and the nostalgia of a return to their spiritual home... As punters revelled in renewed bonds and new connections… As crew realised how well things were going, it soon became the nagging question that refused to go away: “Will he do it again?”
But more of that later.
The best festivals evolve from a symbiotic love growing between artist and audience and organiser and crew and venue. The Little Chill inherited much of this from The Big Chill but a new generation added its own special sauce to create a truly heartwarming occasion.
The promised combination of new beginnings and the beautiful ache of nostalgia proved a potent combination - artists, audience and crew embraced it with passion.
It sparked a series of sets that doubled up as career retrospectives, while also giving a glimpse into the future. So, Matt Black could play Coldcut’s remix of James Brown, next to Queen Latifah and Bob Marley, and then wax evangelical on his Ninja Jamm app and give an exclusive preview of his forthcoming Keleketla Project, which was born out of trip to South Africa and features Tony Allen, Dele Sosimi and more. The song is An International Love Affair and is the funkiest thing you’ve heard from Coldcut in a while.
Similarly, Saturday night headliner Tom Middleton mixed Global Communication classics such as The Way and Aphex Twin’s Analogue Bubblebath, with a preview of his Planet B project, which was also billed as a GC production. He also managed to sneak the funk into his set in the shape of 4hero (as did a few others), Ralph Macdonald and Dmitri from Stoke on Trent’s blinding rework of Prince’s I Wanna Be Your Lover. It was a set of spellbinding, entrancing beauty.
None managed to combine old and new better than Stuart Warren-Hill, the former Hexstatic man now operating as Holotronica, who brought the house down with his 3D extravaganza, which brought us Trump, The Police and intergalactic beings hovering in front of our delighted eyes. It brought a mixture of awe, wonder, shock and joy to several hundred bespectacled faces.
Of course, no Big Chill-affiliated event would be the same without Norman Jay bringing the sunshine and he delivered in his traditional Sunday afternoon slot and Mixmaster Morris played us out with a beatific set, which sent everyone home in a state of bliss.
Of course, everyone played their part. Alice Russell brought intimacy and astonishing soul. Nico de Transilvania was adored for her funky fusion. J-Felix brought sublime hiphop. Steve Cobby braved a 13-hour roundtrip (respect) to deliver a barnstorming set, driven on by an impromptu collaboration with the fantastic MC Kwasi. DJ Yam brought the vibes. Pressure Drop almost brought the soaking tent down with their goodtime funk. Others braved the rain and were rewarded with a spellbinding set from Neil Cowley. Alucidnation and Laura B brought a little bit of their Big Chill heart and soul.
Laura was one of several artists who dedicated a song or set to recently departed Big Chill alumni Alan James and John Rixon. Her beautifully delicate version of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here brought the tears. That potent mix of nostalgia, loss and love only helped to fuel the special energy that made The Little Chill such a heartwarming occasion.
But a festival cannot survive on love alone. The Old Tree Bar kept us watered with botanical brews and brought an enthusiasm that created a magical space inside the DJ tent. Head honcho Tom Daniell inspired a new generation of eco-composters (really!), while bar manager Freya has created a Mojito that explodes in a truly magical rainbow of flavours.
Add in delicious food from Chris and crew’s Space +Thyme, and brainfood compiled lovingly by our very own Mary Valiakas and The Little Chill truly had something for your mind, your body and your soul.
But will it happen again? Or was it just a beautiful one-off? Almost a decade after leaving the Big Chill fray, founder Pete Lawrence was making no promises. He was an emotional wreck by the end - as were many - but with the likes of Norman Jay, Tom Middleton and many others imploring him to do it again, he did not rule it out.
The Little Chill could be a motor to drive Campfire Convention onwards. But as cards, kisses and conversations continued to be exchanged after the music ended, one could feel new beginnings happening all over the place - regardless of The Little Chill’s future.
The Little Chill took place at Laughton Lodge, East Sussex