New Bristol festival: Was ‘Forwards’ fabulous or a fail?

I’m really looking forward to next year

Last weekend a hoard of Bristol students returned to the pleasantries of student housing, giving up parental meals and free washes to experience the very first iteration of Forwards Festival.

The festival promised to bring “the biggest names in international music to the Bristol Downs”. Quite the statement considering the many Covid year raves with DJ Hiatt Baked and MC Trust Fund, that also took place on those very fields and right next door in Stoke Bishop.

So did it live up to its grand ambitions and pull off a spectacle that would make it a mainstay of the Bristol festival circuit? Absolutely and here’s why:


When the line-up was announced with the likes of Jamie xx, Charli XCX and The Chemical Brothers starring on the bill and many huge names backing them up, it was hard not to be excited. So the delight when high hopes translated to the two impressive stages so seamlessly, was immense.

The fluid set times seemed to install a creative freedom in the artists, who all were at the top of their game and possessed a genuine drive to put on a performance for the 50,000 crowd. A few highlights included the giant robots on stage (The Chemical Brothers), dance routines (Charlie XCX) and numerous outfit changes (Róisín Murphy) across the weekend.


Normally at festival bogs you are first greeted with a long queue and then a conspicuous sawdust pit, which with no paper cups left can only be accessed with your bare hands. You then enter the portaloo to a gaping hole, from which spews the grotesque sight and stench of everyone’s malnourished and alcoholic diets.

On closer inspection this hole is also surrounded by a myriad of piss ponds and when you desperately reach for the holy elixir of hand sanitiser, to clean yourself of this grime and heresy, no amount of vigorous pushing will provide you with the relief you seek. Finally you leave the toilet dejected and dirtier than when you entered.

At Forwards, however, this was not the case. The majority of the numerous portaloos flushed, the queues were no longer than a few minutes and they even had a mirror to check that your fit was still popping.


Perhaps due to the better than expected weather and the superior sanitary facilities, there was a general feeling of good spirits around the festival. From happy guests to the friendly staff, everyone had a smile on their face and the buzz of conversations and laughter echoed around the arena.

Crowds were also spacious and mature, which made viewing the artists that much more enjoyable, as you were able to boogie without fear of bumping into a college roadman who still has a point to prove.

The accessibility of the festival was also incredibly impressive, seeing an armada of Voi’s close to Stoke Bishop was a site to behold. Stewards were also there to protect sideways festival goers across the busy streets after the music had finished. They did miss the lady who went head first into the Bristol Zoo sign, but I am glad I didn’t.

Festivals have been getting a bad wrap lately, Woodstock 99 and Fyre Festival have shown us how wrong they can go. But what if it goes right?

Well, Forwards reminded us of how when they go right, nothing beats this truly British summer tradition. If I were to give some advice it would be to keep an eye on next years Forwards line-up and if it lives up to this years one, then get your ticket rapido.

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• Bristol University set to offer a module in cider making to students