Dahling by Abigail Nottingham.
“We’re building great cafes and restaurants on the Vintage High St, where you will even find a Waitrose.” So said the flyer that I picked up in a local pub the day after our sojourn to Vintage at Goodwood. To be honest, if I’d seen this same flyer before I’d been inundated with hype from the great VAG press machine then I might not have been so keen to attend the festival.
Photography by Amelia Gregory.
It’s ironic then, that, like the camping spots in “hidden glades, hollows, copses and hillocks” Waitrose didn’t make it into the final Vintage at Goodwood vision. But what did was every bit as soulless as I feared it might be in my preview blog.
Past a regimental camping site that better represented a hillside carpark, we did indeed approach the main VAG entrance via a wooded glade… and as we did so passed what was to prove the most interesting aspect of the whole festival – a small eco-campment complete with beautiful decorated gypsy caravan, outsized lace-making and knitting, and a tiny outdoor stage for up and coming bands. Curated by textile artist Annie Sherburne, it was like a touch of Secret Garden Party had crept into the mix, but knowing not where to put it the madness was relegated to the woods.
Love Shack Caravan by Jessica Sharville.
So far, so not very vintage, but as we ducked under the entrance arch a slew of gorgeous old cars funnelled us down towards the much trumpeted High Street, rearing up against the dramatic sky like a cross between a back lot of a Hollywood western and a trade show.
“Fifty years on from the design-led 1951 Festival of Britain, Goodwood is to host in 2010 the first of what will be an annual event” opens the glossy VAG flyer, and true to this spirit the very first shop on the High Street housed Wayne Hemingway Inc, choc full of products plastered with designs inspired by the very same Festival of Britain. As one worker commented to me “How arrogant can you be?” Vintage at Goodwood was a monument to our current obsession with consumerism as leisure, and bore no resemblance to the Festival of Britain’s celebration of modern societies’ achievements in post-war Britain. To compare something to such an iconographic event is to set oneself up for a fall.
Pinup Girl with Car by Tigz Rice.
Boggling, I gazed up at the garishly coloured towering fascias, wondering at the huge amount of money that must have gone into the construction. And none of it looking remotely recyclable. For that matter, where were the recycling bins? The post war years were frugal, and there was no sign of that here.
Instead there was the opportunity to shop inside stands for those well known vintage brands: The Body Shop, Fortnum & Mason, John Lewis and some really expensive watch brand I’ve never heard of; in whose stall people quaffed champagne as a man picked apart on old watch face and another displayed a case of super expensive items to a wealthy shopper. The same brand had sponsored the festival wristbands, made out of lethal lentographic plastic that cut my friend’s arm to shreds.
There was also: a cinema, and a catwalk hosting “sold out” shows. We never did find out if this was just a turn of phrase or whether they were actually sold out. Yup, you had to pay on top of the ticket price for many of the attractions. And did I mention the style stand, where you could get your hair done by Primark in collaboration with the Sunday Times Style Magazine. Yes really. This is what we’ve come to.
Vintage at Goodwood by Erica Sharp.
I heard rumours of people flying in to attend this festival on private jets, but it was telling of the strange mix of people that there was also a Daily Mirror volkswagen bus on site. As someone wrote on twitter, it seemed like a sanitised Daily Mail version of fifty years of culture, devoid of all nuance or passion. Inside the Sotheby’s auction tent the intermittent rain drip dripped onto a vintage speaker valued at £6000 as a couple passed looking uncomfortable in a fancy dress version of the 1970s.
Vintage at Goodwood Auction by Maria del Carmen Smith.
The most popular dress amongst women seemed to be the ubiquitous flouncey polka dot fifties number, or some other poorly rendered version of what was worn in the 60s or 70s. Fine if that’s your bag, but I’ve seen fancy dress done with a whole lot more verve at places like Bestival. I guess pure vintage enthusiasts wear vintage clothes with a dedication to style that wasn’t obvious on many festival goers, because vintage enthusiasts choose to wear these clothes day in day out, not as mere fancy dress. It wasn’t altogether surprising to find the real vintage enthusiasts looking slightly bemused and out of place in the staff dinner queue.
Future Vintage: Crocs apparently…
and the Big Brother chair. God help us.
Tyrells crisps promotion: a vegetable chamber group.
Rocking the vintage look.
We spoke to friends in the much smaller vintage stall area that was hidden in cramped tents behind the central shopping parade. They were ambivalent about the festival: cross with the way it had been organised and how they were being treated, but happy with the money being spent on their stalls. Aside from spend spend spend, there wasn’t really much to do. We saw little evidence of art from across the decades, other than a strong presence from Peter Blake. We were amazed at the lack of protection for all the beautiful vintage cars stationed next to themed areas for each decade, scattered across the largely unpopulated site. Although there were rumours of workshops, without a £12 programme (touted as a must have “annual”) to tell us when and where, there didn’t seem to be much opportunity.
Like others we gawped at the crafters rather than join in and participate. “Ladies, wear your heels,” urged the flyer. But there wasn’t that much evidence of glamour as the small and bedraggled crowd waved their brollies in the air during the mid afternoon set at the 80s rave warehouse.
The programme: £12 a pop.
The rave. Wet. Photograph by Tim Adey.
I had hoped to visit The Chap Olympiad but every time we got close the heavens opened and we retreated. We tried to see comedian John Shuttleworth but the inflatable Leisure Dome was full to capacity and I was buggered if we were going to stand in a queue in the rain. How much electricity does it take to keep a blow up tent full of air? *ponders* Over on the main stage a respectable crowd gathered for The Noisettes, but seemed bemused by singer Shingai Shoniwa’s stage banter. And I wonder, how do The Noisettes fit into any kind of “vintage” mould?
Shingai Shoniwa by Ana Gomez Hernandez.
Instead we headed back to the Leisure Dome after another tip off – this time to see the absolutely amazing Swingle Singers singing choreographed acapella and beat box versions of popular songs. An utterly astonishing discovery they alone made the trip down south worthwhile.
Swingle Singers by Anna Hancock Young.
Afterwards we stayed onto watch 70 year old Tony Hatch, he of soap opera theme tune fame (don’t worry, I had no idea who he was either). A highlight of our short visit to VAG was surely the sight of Captain Sensible (of punk legends The Damned), listening to Tony Hatch and singers reprise the Neighbours theme tune. Does it get anymore surreal?
Tony Hatch and friends.
Thanks to the power of twitter I was able to find out what VAG was like for myself, and in retrospect I am very glad that I didn’t get given free tickets by the organisers because I would have felt duty bound to be much nicer about the VAG experience if I had. I am sure that many people thoroughly enjoyed their trip to Vintage at Goodwood, but for me the idea of staying on for another day was utterly unappealing. Instead we left whilst the going was good, stayed over at a friend’s house and spent Sunday getting drunk with locals at a historic pub in nearby Petersfield.
Vintage Goodwood by Louise Sterling.
On my previous blog there have been a couple of comments stressing the need for big sponsors in order to make a return on investment on a festival such as VAG. This is absolutely not true unless you aspire to make a festival bigger than it wants to be. Most festivals start small and grow organically through the love and dedication of the people who take part. It’s not necessary to bring big brands in unless you’re aiming for a showy experience at the expense of any kind of soul.
For real vintage lovers I suggest that next year, instead of going to Vintage at Goodwood you check out the numerous other boutique festivals dedicated to specific eras. Especially since I have a sneaking suspicion that many of the true vintage enthusiasts that made it to VAG will not be returning next year. And if you want pure unadulterated playful creative dressing up then I suggest you check out Secret Garden Party – and for real forward thinking cultural inspiration then try Latitude. A hyped-up vanity project does not a successful festival make.
Abigail Nottingham, Ana Gomez, Ana Gomez Hernandez, Anna Hancock-Young, Annie Sherburne, bestival, Captain Sensible, Erica Sharp, John Shuttleworth, latitude, Louise Sterling, Maria del Carmen Smith, Peter Blake, Primark, Secret Garden Party, Shingai Shoniwa, Swingle Singers, The Chap Olympiad, The Damned, the Noisettes, Tigz Rice, Tigzy, Tim Adey, Tony Hatch, Vintage at Goodwood, Vintage Goodwood. Jessica Sharville, Wayne Hemmingway
- Vintage at Goodwood: Festival Preview
- Vintage at Goodwood Review, by vintage enthusiast and fashion blogger Maria Domican
- Dolling up in Dalston
- Vintage Tea Party, by Angel Adoree: Book Review
- Attention Vintage Lovers!