Festival Review: Splendour 2023

Words: Gemma Cockrell
Photos: Rae Dowling, Frazer Varney, Nigel King
Thursday 03 August 2023
reading time: min, words

The weekend may have been full of rain, but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits…

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I don’t think I’ve ever been so drenched by rain in my life – a few days later, I think I am still recovering slightly. But having said that, I also don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun at a music festival before. This was my first Splendour festival, often having missed it in previous years due to being on holiday. It was a big one, too – the fifteen-year anniversary, and the event was once again spread across two days, with three stages and two headliners.

As soon as I arrived at the festival on Saturday, I was met with a clash of two of Nottingham’s greatest up-and-coming artists: Girlband on the Main Stage and Jayahadadream on the Courtyard Stage. Unable to make a decision (who can blame me?) I managed to catch part of each, and both proved just how promising the music scene in this city is right now. Divorce continued this trend when they graced the Courtyard Stage not long after, before I headed to the main stage to see Venbee and Everything Everything, a band whose frontman’s voice was so impressive I almost forgot about the bad weather.

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Then, I went to the Confetti Stage for the first time, where I was showered with more rain and even more impressive vocals – this time from Cian Ducrot. The emotional ballads he provided, along with some more uplifting and catchy moments, were an obvious highlight of the day, as were The Vaccines, the other artist that I managed to catch on the Confetti Stage that day. Their summery, anthemic indie anthems were just what we needed to brighten the day as the evening faded into the night.

My childhood self was ecstatic to see the original Sugababes lineup performing tracks like Push The Button and About You Now, before Rudimental performed an array of songs that I did not even realise were by Rudimental but knew every word to. Then, headliners Madness took to the stage, and provided humour and positive jazz vibes to Wollaton Park to bring the first day to a close. I was soaking wet and was glad to be returning home rather than heading to a campsite. But I was more than ready to come back the next day for round two.

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Day two would begin with The Royston Club, and even though I was disappointed that I only caught part of their set, it only made me more excited to see them perform in full at Rock City in October. We were then greeted with a heartfelt moment from Vicky McClure and Our Dementia Choir, which got the entire crowd dancing and singing along enthusiastically, smiling while holding back a few tears at how inspirational the choir continues to be. With 2023 being their second year at Splendour, I can only hope that they will be asked to return for years to come and will continue to share their important message and spread their infectious joy.

Next up was Dylan, an artist who surely gained a fair few fans that afternoon – I know I have been listening to her on repeat since. Her pop-rock sound was incredibly catchy, and she came across effortlessly cool on stage as she played her electric guitar. The rain was pouring down at this point, but I hardly noticed; I was captivated by the performer that was stood on stage in front of me. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for her future appearances in Nottingham – if you’re lucky enough to be going to The Hundred at Trent Bridge, you might see her there, and I highly recommend giving her the chance.

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Unfortunately, The Kooks’ set felt a little bit safe and uninspired in comparison. With them being such an established name, I was expecting big things, and their set was solid enough, don’t get me wrong. But I couldn’t help but feel more captivated by some of the newer, up-and-coming artists who had graced the stage earlier in the day. Perhaps it was because I had seen The Kooks on the main stage of a festival previously, so I knew what to expect too much. Either way, the crowd still loved it, and I did enjoy singing along to their biggest hits, including Naïve and She Moves In Her Own Way.

Someone who did bring uncontainable and infectious energy despite the weather was Sam Ryder, an artist who I was very excited to see live. From a singalong moment during I Am A Mountain that I joined in with even though I was pretty far away from the stage to a medley of covers including Taylor Swift and Paramore, this was an interactive and engaging set that proved that Sam is a brilliant performer. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hear him perform his iconic Eurovision hit Spaceman because I was rushing to the Main Stage to get a good spot for Sunday’s headliner Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds, but what I did see convinced me that Sam is much more than a one-hit wonder.

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Speaking of Noel Gallagher, his performance was an obvious highlight of the weekend for me – even an hour-and-a-half slot didn’t feel long enough. Opening with some songs from his new album Council Skies, before some songs from his early solo career such as If I Had A Gun… (a personal favourite of mine), he knew that the crowd were eager for the Oasis songs, and he was a great sport when it came to giving us what we were waiting for. He performed Going Nowhere, The Masterplan, The Importance of Being Idle, Little by Little, Half The World Away, Live Forever, and Don’t Look Back In Anger, and it was safe to say the crowd were satisfied with those choices – even though I don’t think they would have complained regardless of which Oasis tunes were performed.

Splendour was once again another huge success in 2023 and it continues to be a testament to all of the talented people who help to put it together year after year. All that is left to say is happy fifteenth birthday to one of Nottingham’s most iconic festivals. May it live for many more years to come. Or, just because I can’t resist one more Oasis reference, may it Live Forever.


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