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One Love Festival 2011

One Love Festival 2011

One Love Festival 2011

By on - Photos by Veronique Skelsey - Comment

A pleasant atmosphere of "stumble around and see what you find".

One Love Festival 2011

Last year Dan Wiltshire's One Love Festival became London's first reggae weekender in a decade by moving to Hainault's striking serene Forest Country Park. For 2011 it returned with a bigger stage, a better sound set up, an abundance of flags - and a roster of headline acts chosen for being solid entertainers on these shores.

The festival's sound system flavour stems from its Sussex beginnings - and was evident on Friday night's main stage. An exception was singing drummer Blood Shanti and The Shanti - Ites whose beautifully intricate roots rhythms greatly benefitted from the crisp PA. The drums-decks-and-brass dubstep of Jazzsteppa then drew a huge audience that was retained by Mad Professor and his son Joe Ariwa reminding the people of the riots of two weekends past with cries of London's Burning - a new track on the Curly Locks rhythm. Headliner David Rodigan also invoked the recent street violence by closing his crowd pleasing set with Johnny Cash's Ring Of Fire. Later Rodigan was to be found in the always reliable Saxon tent chatting to Papa Levi - who promised he would take the mic on Saturday night. So instead Friday was topped off by the most interesting of the four big sound areas - the Unity Collective marquee - in the form of a lively dose of jungle from Congo Natty featuring Top Cat and Tenor Fly.

Saturday experienced some early afternoon rainfall yet the meandering mellow mood of the festival endured. The sweet voiced David Boomah offered a high octane jungle drubbing to the rum shack. United Reggae managed to miss Hollie Cook but spotted her braving the queue for much improved civilian toilets! Meanwhile on the main stage Macka B gave such a fervent performance that some of the revellers climbed over the barrier into the photography pit to dance. The man of a thousand opinions is one of the more ubiquitous acts in Europe as he and the horn backed Roots Ragga band know how to get the kids onside every time.

One Love Festival 2011Johnny Clarke - with Henry Matic Tenyue and the Dub Asante band - slowed the pace with a hypnotic selection from his vast back catalogue - including Play Fool Fi Get Wise, Crazy Baldheads and Every Knee Shall Bow and Left With A Broken Heart. France's Dub Incorporation were a gamble that paid off, holding the crowd and showing they are incredible entertainers. Less successful was concluding act Finlay Quaye who reputedly had to leave the stage after one song - but on the Saturday the real headliners were in the sound tents. Linval Thompson was a mesmerizing presence in the bar atop sounds spun by Manasseh while Papa Levi, having loitered for two days, finally smashed Saxon over Gappy Ranks specials. Levi told United Reggae "I love the laid back Jamaican vibe of this festival" saying it reminded him of Reggae Geel with less rain!

Fortunately Sunday was all sunshine, broadening the dubby image of the weekend with lovers rocksteady and ska. Christopher Ellis brought on the first surprise guest of the day in Gappy Ranks himself - who at last got to appear at One Love having been stuck in traffic the year before. Don Campbell gathered a devoted group of ladies to the front with his buttery voice. Even backstage went wild when a purple clad Dennis Alcapone arrived to perform with Trojan Sound System's Earl Gateshead and introduced another special guest in Tappa Zukie who chanted acapella for everyone.

"Do you want to get involved?" asked a bespectacled, ever dependable Ken Boothe of a large yet overawed throng, finishing with Freedom Street and a big Stax style ending from the Ruff Cutt Band. The day eased down gently sound system fashion via the still stunning voice of Susan Cadogan, minus advertised partner Mad Professor but ably assisted by Dalston Italian crew Open The Gate. A true professional, Susan told United Reggae that despite not achieving financial security in her career she was grateful to her fans for their adulation and thanked the organisers for giving her the chance to sing. After a few words from final surprise guest Bunny Lee, a smiling Dawn Penn, (originally billed to be in the bar tent) sang No No No on stage as the crowd swarmed for that last festival defining experience.

The lineups in the various areas had a habit of changing (YT, the Wailing Souls and Andrew Tosh did not appear) so anyone who came specifically to see one act risked disappointment. But in general, this contributed to a pleasant atmosphere of "stumble around and see what you find". One Love owes more to the diverse peaceful vibe of the now huge Rototom Sunplash - which took place the same weekend - than the British reggae fests of times gone by. It seems to be a project that grows slowly rather than the many big extravaganzas that arrive and vanish. Hopefully it will be with us for years to come.

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