Thursday, August 4, 2011

Vintage at Southbank Report

I'm sure you've all been waiting with bated breath for my report on the Vintage Festival this past weekend. It's taken me a while to collect my thoughts on the weekend - which I personally very much enjoyed, though credit for that is due at least as much to the company I kept as to the organisers.

It was the event on everyone's lips. Vintage at Southbank Centre, the follow-up event to last year's Vintage at Goodwood, was a weekend marked on the calendars of the entire UK vintage scene. After the mixed reviews of last year's event, we were fascinated to see how the weekend would turn out. And what a weekend it was! I attended all three days, and all in all thoroughly enjoyed myself. Especially as I'd bought my tickets at a discounted rate in the week preceeding the festival (more on that shortly).

On Friday I was selected to take part in the vintage fashion show / style contest sponsored by Green Energy. My hand made record bag went down a storm, which was very gratifying.

Copyright Green Energy / Xtrashot Photography

I enjoyed browsing the outdoor vintage marketplace, which was free admission. It was more a place to browse than buy, I must admit, as most of the prices were beyond my budget. I did come away with a lovely dress though, plus a few pairs of bargain vintage gloves, and a plate. The food festival was also pretty marvellous - Matin and I had some delicious Spanish paella on Saturday.

The super stylish BBC Homes & Antiques stand in the vintage marketplace.

I met gorgeously coiffed Felicity of my sponsor Now, Voyager. I also recognised Claire of Butterflies and Hurricanes and spent a long time hanging out, chatting and drinking rosé wine from a hastily-found vintage shot glass with her and her lovely ma at their stall in the marketplace.

The Now, Voyager stall

My chap

One of the most fun and worthwhile parts (for me) of the inside entertainment were the dance lessons, which were free to attend. Matin and I took a lesson in the quickstep on Saturday, which I really enjoyed, though I'd have loved to have had an introduction to swing dance. I did watch an introduction to jive upstairs in the 1950s "Let it Rock" area.

Dance instruction in the 1940s Torch Club

I was especially pleased to be able to meet in person several vintage bloggers. More than anything else that made the weekend for me. Margaret of Penny Dreadful Vintage was super sweet and looked after me when I was there on my own (along with Lena and Perdita). She was wearing the most fantastic hat on Saturday - I neglected to get a photo but hopefully she'll post one on her blog. It was also fun running into Bethan on Friday wearing a Swirl dress I sold her last spring (again I failed to get a picture - bad blogger!).

On Sunday I hobnobbed with the vintage blogging world at large, including various impeccably-styled members of the vintage 'Maf'. Gemma of Bake Do and Mend, Charley Landgirl 1980, Jeni Yesterday Girl, Shona from Heyday Vintage Style, Fleur de Guerre and more!

with Margaret of Penny Dreadful Vintage

with Jeni Yesterday Girl

Vintage blogger central

And now my thoughts on the weekend in general, and compared with last year...

Last year one thing they did get very right was the set-dressing. Since everything was built from scratch and housed in marquees in a field, this was obviously something they worked hard on: The 1950s Let It Rock arena had a chequerboard floor and Tiki-themed bar; the 1940s Torch Club had a dance hall atmosphere. This year the venue was inescapably essentially a conference centre. All the different arenas were just rooms (not exactly spacious, rather stuffy rooms) in a conference centre, with conference centre flooring and conference centre bars.

One thing they definitely improved on over last year was the crafting activities. You may recall from my review of last year's event that I was disappointed that the much-vaunted craft workshops were scattered in random venues, hard to locate, and there was no timetable available. This year they were all concentrated in two friendly, easy-to-locate areas in the Southbank centre, which I thought was great.

What the organisers notably failed to improve on was, I'm afraid, value for money. Much like last year, the price of £60 per day was pretty steep. This entry ticket didn't even include the evening "revue" each day of the headline acts including Percy Sledge, Adam Ant and Sandie Shaw - acts which last year would have been on the open air main stage. Revue tickets were an extra £15.

In the event, they didn't even come close to selling out so made tickets available at the drastically reduced price of £19, to the understandable chagrin of those who had already paid full price.

And then, there were the free areas. Last year of course everything was within the festival enclosure - fairground, marketplace, venues and all - and I had a complaint that having paid such a hefty entrance, one shouldn't be expected to fork out further for so many other things as the fairground rides, roller disco and so on. This year almost the reverse was true. The fairgound rides were in the free areas, so of course it was fine to charge for their use. The vintage marketplace, however, was also free entry, and since the shopping experience contributed a great deal to the 'pull' of the event, I felt this rather cheated ticket-buying customers (particularly as it wasn't clearly declared that the marketplace would be free until the weeks leading up to the event). As the weather was beautiful all weekend people obviously spent a lot of time outside, wandering around the marketplace, enjoying the Chap Olympiad and so on - but all the while with the nagging feeling that they weren't actually getting their ticket money's worth, since it covered only the inside entertainments. Even I felt compelled to retreat every so often from the sunshine to the dark and stuffy interior to ensure I was getting value for my ticket - and I only paid £19. That said, of course, if it had been raining I would certainly have been very glad of the inside - but this is a summer festival, designed based on assumptions (if, given the notorious British summer, not exactly guarantees) of good weather.

All in all, as I said, I did have a marvellous time. I enjoyed listening to the music, and just wandering around the vintage-y atmosphere and people watching was enormous fun. I certainly would like to see the festival return next year (though preferably not at Southbank), but I most ardently hope that the organisers actually listen to the vintage community, take suggestions on board and use them to improve the event.


  1. Twas lovely to meet you on Sunday, hopefully we'll be able to catch up at Goodwood in September :D x

  2. Looks like it was a fabulous event! Love your catwalk shots! it must have been fun to meet up with everyone!!

  3. I was really torn about this, because it was so expensive. I decided not to go in the end, but now I kinda wish I had! Love the last picture of all you vintage ladies together.

  4. Darn wish I'd known about the reduced tickets. I just couldn't afford it full price. :-(

  5. It was so lovely to meet you - glad you had a good time!x

  6. It was lovely to see you there! I must say I was a bit put out because I paid full price for my ticket- I feel a bit conned. Next year I'll wait (as I guess EVERYONE will, so they'd be best off selling them more reasonably from the start!).

  7. It was great to meet you at last Charlotte :) I agree with your criticisms, for me it was the company that made it the most fun! x

  8. A brilliant summary of it! I was gutted that I was away in Buckinghamshire and couldn't make it to there! Fab that you were featured! I'd have loved to go to the dance workshops! If you want to learn how to swing dance, there's a brilliant London swing dance society event evrey month near St Paul's where there are lindyhop taster classes. I've been several times and it is fab! Let me know if you want more details or google it!!


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