It’s the first weekend in June, obviously the unofficial start to the summer and with the sun high in the sky, where else would you be but Brockwell Park in South London for the Mighty Hoopla festival along with 15,999 others. You could be forgiven for thinking Mighty Hoopla was just about pop.
It is only the second year for this newbie festival, in a new location for 2018. A cursory glance at the line up featuring some of the country’s biggest pop acts and bands (or parts of them) from the 80’s and 90’s with some newer talents you have all ingredients for a pop-tastic great day out.
Think Melanie C, 5ive (well, 3), Belinda Carlisle and B*Witched plus more recent names in the form of Louisa Johnson (X Factor winner 2015) and MNEK. If you throw in the promise of a headline set from Atlanta’s TLC with their first UK festival appearance ever, you have a winning formula for a great day.
And while it WAS a celebration of all things pop, you realise it wasn’t JUST pop. It was a celebration of the alternative, inclusion and love. Love, in all its guises, forms and flavours.
The outfits were flamboyant, the smiles were wide and the glitter was everywhere! And if you weren’t prepared, there were stalls around to get you glittered up and others to sell you a CHOOSE LOVE t-shirt.
The main stage, Sink The Pink (STP) was hosted by a bevy of drag queens who kept the mood light and the crowd chuckling. It was opened by Andro with a classic French artist style, think baggy linens and a wide brimmed fedora crossed with some Prince-esque inspiration in both look and sound, his smooth voice had a touch of the Sam Smith nudging the crowd into their day.
Betty Who? with her twin-ish dancers (if they weren’t related they could have been) decked in white, befitting the weather, treated us to a high energy lightly choreographed set which was great pop.
One track included a snippet of a Carbi B track which excited the crowd and the drop moved into Betty’s most popular song to date, Somebody Loves You that segued into an emotional cover of Donna Lewis’ I Love You Always Forever.
The site was colourful, spacious and organised. There were markers and statues all over the place, not only great for meeting up (YES not too far from the entry gates) with mates if you’d lost each other, (a Peace sign by The Grand stage) but also the essential (Hoopla in the bottom field) for the Instagram pics that are no doubt littering that platform now.
Walking past Guilty Pleasures, the largest tent I could hear the roar for the Vengaboys and their popularity was displayed as streams of people arrived from every angle. They opened with a version of The Black Eyed Peas, I Got A Feeling which went down well, but it was the offering of Ibiza that sent everyone wild.
Nimmo is duo Sarah Nimmo and Reva Gauntlett, who provided a set that was dance with a sexy dirty undertone. Their sound was Robyn-esque and Nimmo’s haunting singing voice added a slightly soulful edge to the electronic beats underneath. This duo is one to add to your music homework if you are not familiar with their sound.
MNEK burst onto the stage with a look that said I’m here! And he gave it everything.
The sound on this stage got patchy after the first couple of songs so, following Adele’s lead, a restart was requested “my bad guys, technical difficulties” came the apology and he launched into crowd pleaser Ready For Your Love showcasing his silky tones, then with a cover of Ultra Nate’s Free, all was forgiven.
Never Forget You (without Zara Larson) took us up and Blinded By Your Grace (without Stormzy) took the pace down. The latest single, Colour (without Hailee Steinfeld) promises to be a summer anthem and closing with I Think I Love You was genius.
Louisa Johnson was a popular drawing for the main stage. She peppered her set with a naughty sample of My Neck My Back, providing the opportunity to showcase some sexy dance moves.
It was her delivery of the Clean Bandit track, Tears On The Ground (for which she provides vocals) being the highlight of the set.
Nadine Coyle (introduced as THE voice of Girls Aloud) was hotly anticipated arriving in an impressive feather coat.
The coat remained as she belted out Get You Up In The Morning, but was stripped to reveal denim shorts and a glittery halter surprise for Something Kinda Oooh, the lyrics ” I got to heat it up” never sounded so apt. We got Gossip before a version of Call The Shots and the set closed with Why Don’t You Go To Work.
Melanie C (Sporty Spice) appeared on stage from behind a whirl of rainbow flags with a smile that was as sparkly as the silver stripes on her backless catsuit describing the look as “Sporty for 2018”, she finished with fishnet tasselled armbands and heels. I Turn To You was for starters. Mel gave a touching tribute to departed Left Eye (from TLC) and sang Never Be the Same Again, their duet.
Heels were traded for trainers and a high pony tailed established as the crowd were asked “are there any Spice Girls fans out there?” (cue roar of epic proportions). Say You’ll Be There was delivered with the other Spice “ladies” being the drag queen versions. I like to think that Drag Sporty was out the back limbering up in case she was required to step in.
Louise Redknapp, a ex-member of 90’s girl band Eternal, brought military khaki and energy over slot. Her set included Two Faced, recount of Eternal’s track Just A Step From Heaven and cover of Lucy Pearl’s, Don’t Mess With My Man brought some amazing harmonies with her backing singers. Then it was time to get Naked before she finished up with Let’s Go Round Again.
B*Witched entered a darkened stage before the lights showed the women in their trademark denim as they got going with Jesse Hold On. We were showed the steps to Rollercoaster, and C’est La Vie had limbs of the crowd flaying everywhere al la Michael Flatley.
Belinda Carlisle cut a dominant figure for one so diminutive but her voice still packs a punch. She rattled through Weak, Circle in The Sand amongst others including Summer and Leave A Light On. This set was definitely 80’s rock and we loved it. So many songs then a crescendo of Heaven Is a Place On Earth. Goosebump moment.
Lily Allen was effortless, oozing confidence as her lilting vocals eased their way through the crowd as the sun went down. Lily received the glitter memo, matching her glittery pink eyeshadow to her hair and her gorgeous pyjama-esque suit.
The opening number Smile (which she did a lot) was well received. With a new album, Knows No Shame, coming out on Friday we were treated to Higher from it.
The single is stripped back and the album promises to be slightly mellow in sound if this is anything to go by. The obligatory heel to trainer change was fitting for the single, LDN. When F*k You Very Much was sung you could feel every single person in that crowd meant those words along with her.
A sip of tea mid set and closing with The Fear as the sun started to dip couldn’t have been more perfect.
TLC started and ended their headline set with a homage of images featuring the band from when they were three. The set felt to pay tribute to Left Eye who passed away in April 2002. There were high expectations of T-Boz and Chilli for their first UK festival, with a full band and they gave a strong start with What About Your Friends from their first album, Ooooooh… on the TLC Tip.
Track 2 of the evening was Aint 2 Proud 2 Beg also from that album. With Military themed outfits highlighted with gold, they played out the hits from their back catalogue, along with a couple of tracks from the self-titled new album including Way Back (ft. Snoop Dogg). When Chilli yelled “we don’t want no whaaat?”, the response of Scrubs was shouted with gusto. Waterfalls closed the evening, despite being cut short, the mass of partiers helping vocally with the last few bars and it was emotional. A final round of fireworks was set off, Chilli was throwing love heart signs to the crowd long after the sound and lights were done.
The ethos of Mighty Hoopla provided a truly friendly and warm festival. The vibe of the day fun, vibrant and passionate for all artists, performers, DJ’s and party goers.
While there was so much going on, it was impossible to see everything and everyone. But the festival did not disappoint, being passionate sparkly and hot (in more ways than one) as well as being one of few UK festivals to boast female headliners. Long may it continue.
Review of Mighty Hoopla 2018 at Brockwell Park on 3rd June 2018 by Sharmayne Robinson. Photography by Kalpesh Patel.