Harmonious Anarchy: Hamswell Festival 2011

Just as a tuning fork rises to a point before falling away, an om crescendo became increasingly decadent as the Hamswell festival reached the height of its intensity in the very early hours of Sunday morning. Yet the total sound of the fork, the rise and the fall, is a single vibration, the duration of an unfolding process. At times you can find yourself out of sync with the duration of a festival – the high too soon, the chill-down too late, if at all ever – but in the intimacy of Hamswell, the gathering was a unitary movement from beginning to end.

For the PsypressUK festival crew – Suga Plum Daddy, Madame Evelyn, Lieutenant T, The Healing Earth, Smash n’ Grab and Bobolicious – the movement began on Friday afternoon, just as the sun broke through the passing clouds down onto the beautiful Somerset festival.

Quickly the rising began. On the wave of Friday rhythms Smash n’ Grab let it drop for The Other Tribe who played a set that lived up to their pre-party smokes: “It starts with darkness; smoke fills the room, and drums start a hypnotic pulse. By the time you’ve heard those drums, it’s way too late. Six silhouettes emerge from the dim and from then on you’re in for the most exhilarating, chaotic session of your life.” Their funky tones started bringing all the new arrivals down to the epicentre of the movement, and the whisking of energy began.

Not long after, the directions shifted across to the DJ booth, which lay to the side of the main tent and Radioactive Man began taking Suga Plum Daddy and Lieutenant T to dimension dance. A shamanic mix of electronica, acid, breaks and techno, Radioactive Man had the disciples of Shulgin stamping out the territory and syncing the pulse of Hamswell, ready for the weekend ahead. But it was Concrete Disco – the Hamswell spine – that took flight that night with third-eye sight and left the legs wobbly in post-dirty-dance; that time when the newly disembodied entities wished their wellies well up the hill, and passed from the night to the morn.

There was an omniscient voice of Hamswell that pervaded identically with the flow; The Megaphone – a voice of focus in an otherwise sense addled and wonky world. On Saturday morning, yoga with The Healing Earth was announced. The Megaphone sprinted up the sides of the valley, rousing some of the sleeping Hamswellians, and alerting those [still] awake. Coffea Arabica helped rouse Bobalicious from his morning trance hours earlier, but it was with the spirit of Hofmann that he made his way over to the temple of The Healing Earth and, under her guidance, in amongst the brave-25, there occurred a yogic becoming…

…As the sweeping music began to play, there was an undergrowth of disturbance rippling around the space of the freshly formed temple; disempowered entities caught between two passages of partying, laughing maniacally and floating aimlessly round the edges. But between two passages a bridge can be built and The Healing Earth was both the builder and the gardener as she quickly cleared the thicket of the undergrowth and sowed energetic bridges. Very quickly a rhythmic flow began replacing the ripple; as circles the entities became concentric, layering motions of mutuality over one another. It was as creatures that the unified-yogic-flow began becoming, through the howls and the downward dogs, to the chest beating apes and the feet stamping beasts of the wild. The entities dissolved into entity, flows into flow, and soon the beats of Hamswell laced back into the valley…

 “Well, there on the dance floor, straight ahead of me, was a moose. I took a second glance and the moose looked right back at me. I can’t remember what it said, but I seem to remember thinking I should be dancing as well. I mean, you can’t argue with a dancing moose can you?” – Boboliscious

…Madam Evelyn managed mashed up ravers as the sun cast cloudy shadows down onto the intensity; flaming party-goers letting loose their moves in eclectic, 90s fashion. And after The Healing Earth, Bobolicious and Smash n’ Grab had twirled and hula-hooped by the psychedelic strands of an artistic formation, the circus crew mounted the hoops in the sky. They delivered the contortion through their entwining bodies, above the chilled crowds and lavished through motions that eyes at night usually deem trips-to-far. Some cold-air ballooning – the hiss, the pop and the turning breath – underpinned the delusion of illusion and the circus cats were real taps, whose motions Suga Plum captured through a lens, as the crowds were shown that bodies do bend and, in the spirit of Davy, that the cosmos can descend.

…Dr. Syntax. Dr. Syntax. Dr. Syntax: “A pleasure popping balloons with you” Boboliscious said, to the UK hip-hop crew, “but even better bopping, like the funky shrew, listening to the words and the beats you drew.” It didn’t take long for the movement to change, from the yellowing days to the darkening nights; Syntax’s grooves went through reds, greens and blues and turned perspectives onto the egos of the subcultures too. Mash-up, mash-up, give a Hamswellian room, when the D&B beats of Nicky Blackmarket blew, straight through the veins of the past, exploding on the present, the intensity peaking, the geocentric circles freaking. Lieutenant T, Sugarplum D, with Smash n’ Grab and Madame Evelyn too, universal understanding of a set of sounds, which sent the senses round, and up, and hyperdimensionally, till Hamswell swallowed up the world…










…on Sunday the sun surrounded the senses and the PsypressUK festival crew woke up spread out in the Hamswell valley, being baked from the tips of their toes to their heads: “Hamswell was cuddling up to two lovely boys in the best bed, in the best field, with the best view. Ah, bloody lovely” – Madame Evelyn. Though the intensity of the night before had begun the come-down from reality into hazy congeniality, the music made the memory linger, and the smiling faces of the Hamswellians bobbled briskly round the site. Suga Plum fired up the bong-a-long and the spirit of de Quincey gave rest to the beautiful day. Lieutenant T turned into an astronaut and the movement of the festival cradled them till evening, when the tuning fork finally ceased to sound:

“If anyone has lost a mobile phone, we have had two handed in. Alternatively, if anyone would like to buy a mobile phone, we currently have two in stock…” – The Megaphone (Sunday evening)

For more information about Hamswell and for news on next year’s festival please ‘like’ their Facebook page.

Robert Dickins

Robert Dickins is a historian, writer and editor. He is the founder of the Psychedelic Press, co-director of the Psychedelic Museum, and is currently undertaking his PhD at Queen Mary, University of London. His research interests focus on the history and literature of psychedelic substances, and the role of writing in spiritual and magical traditions during the 19th century. He is also the author of the novel 'Erin', and has occasionally be known to perform a poem or two.

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4 Responses

  1. Emma Kemp says:

    Great review, sums it all up.
    Did you take the pictures Rob? I made the large ribbon dome/installation and I like the picture on article. Please can I use it and are there anymore?
    Thanks Emma

  2. Emma Kemp says:

    Great review, sums it all up.
    Did you take the pictures Rob? I made the large ribbon dome/installation and I like the picture on article. Please can I use it and are there anymore?
    Thanks Emma

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