Month-long music festival aims to ‘reboot the Rusty Laptop’

The Crystal Palace Bowl could soon be staging major concerts once again. Pic: Gareth Gray

A month-long festival of music, featuring acts from Dizzee Rascal to Supergrass to the English National Opera performing Tosca, and all taking place on a floating stage, has been announced today as the Crystal Palace Bowl seeks to re-establish itself as one of the capital’s, if not the country’s, best-loved outdoor performance venues.

Called South Facing, the festival planned for August has an ambitious line-up of acts and intention: while the covid-19 roadmap allows for mass gatherings again from the end of June, and the vaccination programme is progressing at pace, any new lockdown in the summer could scupper the plans.

A crowdfunder started last month has already raised more than £35,000 to help repair and restore the stage area at the Crystal Palace Bowl, which was famous in the 1960s,’70s and into the ’80s for hosting big music events featuring some of the biggest rock and pop acts of all time, including Bob Marley, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix Lou Reed and Pink Floyd.

The stage won’t be ready in time for South Facing 2021, so this year’s gigs will see musicians take to a stage floating on the lake in front of the stage area, with thousands of concert-goers gathered on the grass of the bowl – an “amphitheatre that nature intended”, according to one of the organisers.

Revenue from the concerts will be paid to the new charity, the Crystal Palace Park Trust, which has recently taken charge of the management and maintenance of the park from Bromley Council, and forms an important part of the Grade II-listed park’s future business plan.

Thousands of music-lovers descended on the Crystal Palace Bowl in the 1970s and ’80s for the likes of Bon Marley, Eric Clapton and Elton John

Marcus Weedon, co-founder of Field Day festival and now director of this new venture, said today, “When it was clear there was a chance to reopen it as a music venue, I jumped at the chance to take it on”.

The Crystal Palace Bowl “is steeped in history with so many Titans of rock having played there,” Weedon said. “It’s in a similar situation to the music industry in that it’s been dormant for some time. It does feel like the perfect time for it to return.”

Weedon said, “A lot of people in London haven’t actually been there or are aware of it. We hope there’s a wow factor for fans on the stage and off it too.”

Early-bird tickets for the main acts will soon be on sale at £35 each, but there will also be a host of free midweek events for the community, involving the team behind the long-established Crystal Palace Festival.

The series will run from August 5 to 31, and in a press release to announce the festival the organisers said that the new annual event “aims to breathe new life into the Crystal Palace Bowl… South Facing aims to tie into this history by curating a standout series of bespoke and diverse concerts this summer”.

The ENO’s Tosca is among the concerts included in the festival

From the grime of Dizzee Rascal – backed for the first time by the 20-piece, drum ’n’ bass-inclined Outlook Orchestra – and the garage of The Streets, to the platinum-selling Britrock of Supergrass, the award-winning compositions of Max Richter and the critically acclaimed ENO, “South Facing promises to reboot the Rusty Laptop”.

The Crystal Palace Park Trust said today, “The income generated 
by these events will be an important new revenue source enabling the Trust to start a programme of much-needed improvements in the Park, such as the restoration of the concert platform.”

Weedon said, “After what’s been an extremely difficult 12 months for the live music industry, we can’t wait to put on a fantastic series of events that people can really get excited about. Not only do we have some amazing artists who are itching to put on a great show, we also have the privilege of being able to stage the festival at an iconic and important outdoor London venue which has sadly been dormant in recent years.

“We’re all working incredibly hard to make sure South Facing is a fitting return to glory for the Crystal Palace Bowl!”

The first wave of concerts announced today are:

Sat Aug 14: Dizzee Rascal & The Outlook Orchestra
Fri Aug 20: Supergrass
Sat Aug 21: The Streets
Sat Aug 28: Max Richter
Fri Aug 27 and Sun Aug 29: ENO performing Tosca

A second batch of concerts will be announced in due course.

Read more: Park life: Shawcross has plenty of appeal in her new role

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This entry was posted in Art, Charity, Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, Crystal Palace Bowl, Crystal Palace Park, Crystal Palace Park Trust, Music, South Facing Festival and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Month-long music festival aims to ‘reboot the Rusty Laptop’

  1. Lewis White says:

    It all sounds great! Maybe, please, we could also have Handel’s water music with real boats!

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