Review: Victorious Festival, Southsea Common

Review: Victorious Festival, Southsea Common

by Catherine Collins. Additional reporting by Sally Churchward.

One of the biggest festivals in the south returned this weekend for a three day music extravaganza, with some of the industry’s most exciting names taking to the stages (26-28 August).

This year, the organisers  put some of the biggest acts on early to encourage people through the gates, and in response more than 40,000 revellers descended on Southsea Common on Friday as the opening act, Primal Scream, took to the Common Stage, performing a set that included Come Together, Skull X and Rocks.

James by Tom Langford.

In a completely different day one experience to those who were washed out at Reading Festival in the heavy rains the day before – the sun was shining and the ground was dry in Portsmouth, and festival-goers were treated to songs on the main stage from Soak, Self Esteem and Anna Calvi.

The full festival site wasn’t open on Friday, but The People’s Lounge and World Music Stage ensured there was plenty of opportunity to showcase local, and up-and-coming acts, including Hometown Show and K-T Wild, who is one to watch if you get the chance. 

Back on the Common Stage, James, whose live performances are always a pleasure to see, was crowd surfing as he, and the crowd, sang along to Come Home, before finishing up with late 80s hit Sit Down. 

As the sun went down, Bombay Bicycle Club were the penultimate act before the Stereophonics played hit-after-hit for 90 minutes including Maybe Tomorrow, You Can Have it All, Have a Nice Day, and finally closing the opening day with Dakota. 

Stereophonics, by Tony Palmer.

Arriving early on the Saturday gave us the chance to check out the whole site, which was now fully open. There were braid bars, massage cabins, yoga classes, the usual clothing, hats and inflatables, and a selection of charity and social enterprise stalls, including Gig Buddies and Tonic Rider – who provide a programme to promote good mental health and suicide prevention in the music industry.

Ryan Brelsin (left) and Jamie Boyle of The K’s by Catherine Collins.

We spent some time with Seekers Create and Wilder Portsmouth, where I attempted to draw a hedgehog – that sadly did not look anything like a hedgehog – art was never a strong point. 

But, we did learn about Wilder Southampton, a new partnership project between Southampton City Council and Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, who aim to create more wildlife friendly areas and small outdoor spaces across Southampton, which are created and supported by the community. 

The K’s opened the Common Stage, and the currently unsigned, self-funded four-piece band from the market town of Earlestown – who have only released eight singles – pulled a big opening crowd for their third festival performance out of four in just four days.

Their set included debut single, Sarajevo, and latest release, Hometown. We caught up with Ryan Breslin after they came off stage to see how it felt to open the main stage.

“It was brilliant,” said Ryan. “I think these past four days playing the main stages at Reading, Leeds, Victorious and Camper Calling are going to be a pinnacle for us. The crowds are getting bigger, the flares are getting better, and it’s been ace, really good.

“Leeds was a bucket list festival for us, we used to go as fans when we were 15 and 16, and I remember saying to my mates, ‘I am going to play that one day’. It was a dream and today at Victorious has been the same.”

Coach Party by Tony Palmer.

The Sugababes were on after The K’s, and they treated the crowd to some of their biggest hits, including Push the Button, Round Round and About You Now. And, towards the end of their set, out on the Solent, aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, sailed past in full view as it departed the naval base at Portsmouth.

Coach Party rocked the Castle Stage in the afternoon, drawing in a large crowd, whilst local samba/reggae band Batala Portsmouth got the party going at the back of the Common Stage ground, with the most incredible choreographed drumming which really had to be seen, and heard, to be believed. They were at the festival all weekend, so the crowd had plenty of time to catch them and their infectious rhythms which were impossible not to move to.

With plenty of bands to choose from throughout the day, it was sometimes difficult to pick who you wanted to see and moving between stages through the 65,000 strong crowd proved difficult at times – although they did appear to have sorted out the toilets, which were the point of many complaints last year.

We were unable to get close enough to the Comedy Stage to hear Milton Jones, and the only place to find somewhere to sit down in the afternoon sun was out on the seafront, so we did have to change who we wanted to watch at times – which could be frustrating.

Scouting for Girls on the Acoustic Stage, and We are Scientists on the Common Stage continued the afternoon performances, with the evening bringing us sets from Declan McKenna, The Wombats, White Lies, and Kula Shaker.

Dan Smith of Bastille mixes with the Castle Stage crowd, by Elliot McRae.

As the night crept in, Bastille drew the biggest crowd for the close of Saturday, with fans preferring their hit-laden set – including Things We Lost in the Fire, Good Grief and Pompeii, which they played alongside new material from the just released second part to Give Me the Future + Dreams of the Past – to the set dominated by less well known material by Paolo Nutini, drawing on his new album, Last Night in the Bittersweet, alongside some older hits.

Bastille boasted an impressive lighting set, with visuals and incidental recordings echoing the futuristic sci-fi vibe of their new album. The crowd clearly enjoyed the chat from lead singer Dan Smith, willingly complying with his requests, from dancing badly to joining in with songs as the Victorious Choir. 

Bastille were also responsible for one of the most moving moments of the festival, with the crowd following drummer Woody’s lead and getting their phone torches out to wave in the air during a beautiful, slowed down version of Flaws.

We caught up with Bastille backstage before their set. Read the full interview here.

Sunday tickets were sold out, with more than 70,000 people coming through the gates, and people complaining it took more than 2 hours for them to get through the city and into the car parks or onto the site, including most of the Sweetchunks Band who missed their 2.40pm set on the Casemates Stage. 

Octonauts by Sally Churchward.

Honeyglaze opened the main Common Stage, closely followed by The Libertines, and afternoon sets on the Castle Stage included Example and Alfie Templeman.

There was a different vibe on offer in the Kids’ Arena, which boasted two stages, featuring kiddie crowd pullers such as Disney Princesses, Fireman Sam and the Octonauts, as well as a second stage, where we found ourselves watching kideoke – that’s kids singing, to the uninitiated. 

The area had loads of fun things for kids, many of which didn’t take a toll on adults’ purse strings, including colouring in, bouncing round on boots with springs on (it’s a thing), various stickers, temporary tattoos, etc and a chance to try out circus skills.

As the evening drew in, Sophie Ellis Bextor was on the Castle Stage, and the field, with the backdrop of Southsea Castle, was filled with people as far as the eye could see and the crowd were in fine form as they sang along to Groovejet (If This Aint Love), Madonna’s Like a Prayer and Murder on the Dance Floor.

There were some issues with the crowd trying to leave the Castle Stage as the hoards wanting to see the next act, Becky Hill, were coming in. This meant that it became gridlocked at the hill entrance/exit and some people – including parents with children and babies in buggies – had to be helped to safety by security and crowd management. The volume  of people on site, along with food prices, will probably be the source of any complaints for this year.

Anne-Marie by Elliot McRae.

Sunday also saw sets from Nothing But Thieves and Suede, with Brett Anderson in fine, energetic, form, before headliners Anne-Marie ended the performances on the Castle Stage and Newcastle song-writing phenomenon, Sam Fender (pictured top) bought Victorious to a close on the Common Stage with his hit Hyper Sonic Missiles.

A spectacular firework finale lit up the skies as people left the site for the final time!




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Batala Portsmouth by Sally Churchward.
Festival goers, by Allan Jones.


Stallholders by Sally Churchward.
Festival goers by Allan Jones.