Park Hall Hotel, Chorley
26 – 28th September
The Scottish Soulful Weekender (SSW) is a somewhat unusual festival in that it is comprised primarily of DJs, with live music complementing the electronic throughout. Still being in its infancy, SSW—potentially jarringly named, to those unfamiliar—markets itself as being held near Preston. Indeed, in its previous three incarnations, it was held at the Cairndale Hotel, in the picturesque market town of Dumfries, Scotland. This time—the fourth year in which the festival has been running—it has found itself being held at The Park Hall Hotel, roughly eight miles south of Preston, whose location close to the centre of Britain makes the festival relatively accessible to those all over the UK. Such a location change, at the cost of the previous, particularly quaint setting, fits in with the somewhat elitist yet friendly and cosmopolitan attitude of the festival’s organisers.
Being held in a hotel, it should immediately be clear that this is a different kind of festival (notably, the organisers have not described SSW as a ‘festival’ in their marketing) to those that students tend to find themselves flocking to. The general vibe of this weekender is something rather unique: during the best part of the daytime, the festival felt like a distinctly awkward school disco, with not much besides the replacement of 11-year olds with primarily middle-aged partygoers to differentiate the two. I am almost certain that myself and my accompaniment, at the ages of twenty one and twenty respectively, were the youngest people in attendance.
I do not mean to suggest that SSW has nothing to offer young adults: the progressive aesthetic which Yogi Haughton—its chief promoter—has emphasised is one that should be attractive to younger generations, if only it had more exposure herein. The weekender itself embodies a pleasingly progressive approach to house music, with an emphasis on crossover and fusion; particularly with the funk and soul genres. A look at the line-up on the impressively laid out SSW4 website will reveal an array of DJs hailing from a diverse range of backgrounds, and expound upon what they have to offer. SSW yields more for the price of admission than most popular festivals: weekend tickets cost only £99, with double rooms available for an added £91 for two nights—or an added £116 for three.
The itinerary of the festival was scheduled to be as follows: three main rooms (The Blue Room, The Shrine Room and The Pressure Point), in which the majority of the booked DJs play, plus an outdoor area (So Chill), and finally, a room in which emerging talents can book themselves in to show off their DJing skill (The Goldmine).
Unfortunately, certain difficulties led to The Blue Room being cut very soon before the weekender kicked off, leading to its performers being moved to the other rooms, which knocked many performances off of the stated times in the schedule. To my annoyance, I ended up missing out on Anne Sexton’s set—one which I was particularly looking forward to. Despite this, I was far from left deprived of quality live soul music. Big Brooklyn Red delivered a stunning and unique vocal performance alongside Dave Hulmes and Groove Assassin, and legendary house vocalist CeCe Rogers, together with both his keytar and myriad of excellent faces. Saturday night in The Shrine Room was stellar throughout, with a live band backing a series of excellent singers, chief among them being Garfield Fleming, whose set was unforgettable.
SSW seems to be progressing as a festival; and is faring admirably in its aim to bring house music and the music that came to creatively form a significant portion of it to an increasingly diverse audience.