Symmetry 2016 Review: Peace, Love and Woodland Stomps in a Perfectly Friendly Festival

Symmetry 2016

Symmetry 2016


Guist, the tiny Norfolk village hosting Symmetry Festival, snuck into view on the sign posts only after a good while of chugging around the primitive country lanes and luscious woodland that make this bit of the county so endearing. We meandered our way to Sennowe Park on the Wednesday before the festival, hoping to get a good spot for the van and proceed the newly announced ‘soft opening’ (!) on Thursday evening, when punters were permitted to enter and set up for the weekend’s antics.

A more beautiful festival location does not exist. With its Edwardian mansion, acres of ancient Oak trees and lake trailed with Rhododendrons, an atmosphere of bliss automatically descends even before the bass vibrates your nostrils and the third rum punch is drunk.

So after bumpy tracks, major deer alert (vital in this area) and a precarious stone bridge, we arrived at the grounds of Thomas Cook’s descendants who, during festival hours can be seen strolling about the ravers, smiling, beers in hand.

We manage to set up camp right next to the stage I was to be performing poetry at on Friday afternoon; Safire Live, complete with trapeze swing and a tribe of bendy boho ladies who performed on Sunday night when one girl cascaded and climbed for an impressive ten minutes, long blonde hair a swoop of gold.

After a walk around watching the set-up, which included two Russian army trucks (think BrainsKan ten years ago) bumping around the grounds with hydro – cars and speakers on its back and the construction of a fire breathing, scrap car robot, we retired to the van for a long needed cuppa.


In the morning, some of our friends from Raver.Tv arrived, and we took a walk around to check out some potential film spots. It was a pleasure to stroll around and watch the stages prepare without the obligatory k – heads stumbling around and falling on the speakers at every tenth pace. Not that Symmetry was too bad in that respect – everyone was friendly and pretty damn chilled out.

After a paddle in the clear, pre – festival lake and some snaps of the stunning timber framed ‘lake house’, we wandered over to the tent campsite, where glamorous tipis awaited the more luxurious party goer – if that isn’t an oxymoron. Symmetry also provided pre – prepared cardboard tents. Slightly bemused as to whether these could be real considering the rather tempestuous weather forecast, we were amazed to find that they were indeed, just cardboard. We decided to make a point of seeing what happened to them after the rain.

Our disabled friend, (who had driven his caravan over a few days before and left) was parked in the campervan field, and wanted to be near our spot. Much to our surprise, he had parked right next to Symmetry’s disabled helper crew, a group of friendly hippie men eager to assist in any way they could. If more people with physical difficulties knew about them, they said, they could aid them in having a great festival. They offered to collect water, move things about, and had a lovely big (clean!) toilet specially for the less mobile. We promised to spread the word, impressed and touched by their genuine desire to help. We still moved the caravan though, as Symmetry doesn’t allow tents in the camper field, and camping away from all your friends can be more than a bit lonely. After pushing and shoving for a few minutes, a kind setter – upper gave us a tow, and within the hour our camp was fixed.

Later, I sampled some of the delicious nachos in the La canteena – topped with homemade chilli, guacamole, sour cream, jalapenos and cheese. This lined my stomach for the next few days, and the rather premature opening of the bottle of Captain Morgan we did that evening.


On Friday, the rest of our Raver.Tv friends arrived. The first act on the Safire stage at 2pm, I was shitting myself. Performing poetry at a festival to lovers of acid techno and psy – trance is not my usual gig, and I filled the morning with pacing and the occasional vodka jelly, worried about boring people looking for a fast beat and grinding bass line. It was all good though; the comperes Pirate Joe and The Doll lady were friendly and fun, and my poem about Britain’s fake housing shortage seemed to go down well. Our filming friends, having recently acquired a virtual reality 360 camera filmed my performance, and when the camera buggered up the lovely techies let me use the stage again the next morning.

The 360 camera was a festival wonder – amazing if you want to view the action from all angles. Days later we are still watching them, trying to recapture the witchcraft of the throat shaking bass in the Storm stage.

After my set, Pirate Joe invited audience members up for an impromptu open mic session expecting, I presume, a parade of cringe-worthy wannabe musicians mooning over the sound of their own off-key tones. Instead, we were wonderfully entertained by the lesser-known Beatfox, who beatboxed masterfully to Pirate Joe’s eclectic pop music accompaniment. It worked amazingly well; the audience bounced to the cohesion of string and bass and the performers seemed a perfect fit. I certainly hope to hear more from Beatfox in the near future.

A lot of the stages still seemed to be setting up on the Friday afternoon, but we took a walk down to the opposite end of the festival, where the big circus style marquee hosted the Power Station, and strange sculptures made the Storm Stage like a trippy woodland dream. Psypirate played a set of colourful and bass heavy psy – trance – both funky and hard, and we immediately found our favourite stomp spot.

The Garage Girls, a troupe of dungaree clad, gold hooped dancers, frolicked around a hydraulic BMW waiting to scrub down any grubby festival goers that jump in and squirting anyone that walks past. The idea is a good one, but not ironically, they didn’t seem to play anything other than Garage music – not to everyone’s taste.


On Saturday, everything had properly kicked off. We obviously all peaked too soon and were pretty dazed in the morning, but after the gloriously warm Friday, things were still pretty exciting.

An unexpected set from Mandidextrous on a small rig in the afternoon was absolutely stomping – it was great fun prancing around in front of some dirty great speakers just below the manor house, plastic wine glass in hand.

During a dance at Project Storm afterwards, I did however discover a new pet hate: catch on the dancefloor. People seemed to really love either Frisbee or ball throwing in the midst of a sea of stomp, and I was constantly flinching under the possibility of a whack to the head.

Symmetry has a small but perfectly formed food selection. Hearing that last year the burgers ran out pretty fast, I had a go at a traditional beef burger with stilton and all the trimmings from the Gourmet Burger Stall.  It wasn’t particularly ‘gourmet’ – quite thin and tough – but it was better than a lot of festival food and I was satisfied at £6. Other burgers included wild boar, ‘piggy smalls’ and lamb. A friend, meanwhile, sampled a pakora wrap, all deep fried from freshly made Indian tit – bits in front of our very eyes. Their peanut butter smoothies and raw power balls were delicious and rejuvenating.

Relaxing after our much needed feast, we spotted a tribe of topless painted pixie – witches, charmingly ‘in character’ as kind of otherworldly rubbish scavengers, creating a sculpture to demonstrate how much we throw away. It was very ‘interactive theatre’, and the girls did a good job of cooing over empty bottles, ramming discarded Jaffa Cakes into their mouths and sweeping passing revellers. A couple of rather disdainful young women seemed to hate them, exclaiming ‘but what if you want to sit down?!’ (on the bench they were on) and recoiling in horror as they approached.

The security also objected quite strongly to partial nudity. I’m pretty sure if it’s part of a dramatic performance it’s ok, and for goodness sake people, it’s only a pair (or multiple pairs) of breasts. At a festival. Minus points for being so uptight your noses are as high as our cavorting rubbish fairies.

At 7pm, we arrived at the Lake Shack to see General Levy, about whom we had heard god things. His performance, however, left much to be desired. It was more shouty than singy, and his cover of a Justin Bieber ‘tune’ left everyone flabbergasted – and not in a good way. There was a clear exodus from the stage, after holding out through the Rhianna rendition. He really should have read his audience better.

By now, the place was crawling with police, filming and taking pictures of the unsuspecting crowd. Thankfully, we never saw any trouble; this festival seems to have an atmosphere of true peace, love and unity. There was a lot more fences up though, after the freedom of Thursday, making it difficult for our disabled friend to get back to his caravan.


Strangely, the headlining acts at Symmetry Festival seemed to be on the Sunday. I was really looking forward to some of the reggae/ jungle at the Lake Shack in the afternoon, so we wandered down in the hope of a good Sunday Skank. We arrived in time for the Rebel Lion takeover. Queen Addi took off with a shaky start, (again, more shouty than singy) and proved that however much you say ‘Jah Rastafari’ and ‘Studio One’, it doesn’t mean you are doing any good reggae.

But Singer Tempa was loads better, performing with energy and passion. He dealt well with the tosser who kept running up to the stage to talk to him mid – tune, and was courteous even when said idiot snatched the mic from his hand end – set and ranted about the reggae scene, throwing the mic with a bang when no-one cheered him. Accompanying violinist Rebeccadecca – do played beautifully, and added a lovely band like quality to the whole thing.

Next, we ventured to the Safire stage for the Piratones, a Norwich based ska/ reggae/jungle band with vocal trio and ‘dubbed horns’. Their music was funky and soulful, and the audience loved them. It was brilliant to see a band with so many musicians that blatantly enjoyed what they were doing.

After food and rum refills, it was time to see the most famous act on the Symmetry line – up: Goldie Lookin’ Chain. The crowd was massive, expectant. I don’t think anyone was disappointed – although the band aren’t really my cup of tea (I don’t like silly songs) they performed well, and their lyrics ‘ice ice dildo’ seemed to make people laugh. Everyone sang along to their number one hit ‘guns don’t kill people’. It was a lovely, light – hearted end of festival show.

To end the night, we visited the Power Station for Vandal’s set, which was packed and thumping.

Symmetry is one of the best parties of the summer. Gone are the days of big festivals – it is all about the friendliness and chilled vibe of less than five thousand people. You will find the wackiest characters at Symmetry; it is almost reminiscent of the fayres of previous decades, and all are smiling and cheerful.

It is obviously run by people that care about hosting a safe, enjoyable weekend with something for everyone, even kids – their area was stunning! Walking around, the festival area was spotless.

We left on the Monday, tired but overjoyed and aching from so much dancing. Definitely one I would go back to.

Read all the latest on Symmetry Festival HERE

Photo: Jerry Tye