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alexcooper
10th June 2024

Alive! Festival 3.0: Students’ Union solstice takeover lets the light in

Alive! Festival took over the Students’ Union for the third time, with the student-run event expanding its horizons over five stages featuring bands, DJs, talks, comedy, gameshows, and a Silent Disco
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Alive! Festival 3.0: Students’ Union solstice takeover lets the light in
Credit: Ailish O’Leary Austin @ The Mancunion

Did you know that Parklife Festival began as Mad Ferret Festival, run by a group of students in Platt Fields Park? Or that the Pangaea Festival Society booked Groove Armada to play the massive student bash? You do now.

Alive! Festival is the current keeper of the flame. A collaboration of societies ranging from Fuse FM, Fuse TV, Technical Theatre Society (MUTTS), and FashionSoc put on the post-exams bash, running for its third edition with a solstice theme. You know that you’re cooking if people refer to the event by one name, and inquisitions of “Are you going to Alive?” peppered Wilmslow Road in the lead-up to the event.

The beast itself: an ambitious range of bands, DJs, a silent disco, comedy, game shows, spoken word poetry, talks, and even a fashion show. All gleaned from student effort and headed up by Activities and Culture Officer Robbie Beale, bringing his background of founding Gigs and Bands Society before his SU election to the big time.

Early sets from Gabriel Chanin and Jadeaux impressed early punters who enjoyed the sun and the quiet crowds as we eased into the evening to come. The SU, which has become so routine and common in university life, transformed into a multi-stage festival. The place where I tend to eat my jacket potatoes seemed like a distant memory as student bands took me away.

alive! festival
Credit: Ailish O’Leary Austin @ The Mancunion

Wherever you turned, there was always something going on. The Horizons Stage (where the vintage sales usually are) saw a catwalk from UoM Fashion Soc, with earthy and floral clothing being showcased by talented student models. A 30-second walk in the other direction and eloquent talks ranging from tenants’ rights to misogyny in the music industry were delivered by students. This is student Manchester, we do things differently here.

alive! festival
Credit: Ailish O’Leary Austin @ The Mancunion

A trip to the Aurora Borealis stage kicked off the fan favourite Silent Disco, seeing university societies go head-to-head to win the affection of the crowd. It’s a joyous affair that I was lucky enough to be a part of again, subjecting paying festivalgoers to my SoundCloud deep cuts. Bootleg Carly Rae Jepsen remixes caused the audience to jump up and down.

Clashing with my trip down memory lane was Atticus Quizzicus Live, where the titular host donned a rat costume and ran a Weakest Link-style gameshow. Atticus is a Saturday night, shiny floor gameshow presenter in waiting, making the leap from radio to a live setting with ease. Afterwards, Fuse FM favourite and actor Fen Columb-Hallewell performed his introspective, searching, spoken-word poetry. Memories and metaphors were stitched together by his warm, inviting delivery. And it’s only one string to his bow, following a main cast role in UMMTS’ Urinetown: The Musical.

alive! festival
Credit: Ailish O’Leary Austin @ The Mancunion

The Sun Stage saw delightful performances from the Manchester University Big Band, Lick the Moon, and Half Price Dream, while Huddle Formation took to the Horizons Stage. Soulful, manic energy exuded from all members of the band, with vocalist Thandiwe Smith ad-libbing and feeding off the energy. The band echoed the chaos yet rigidity of Fugazi, and their cover of ‘Bombtrack’ by Rage Against The Machine was the highlight of the night, coming at a crucial time to power us through to the final stages of the festival.

Headliners Hungry took to the Sun Stage with a respectable crowd in front of them. Frontman Jacob Peck commanded, with the band performing their well-drilled live show with ease that only comes with doing something repeatedly and getting better every time.

alive! festival
Credit: Ailish O’Leary Austin @ The Mancunion

Hungry get better every time. Playing a set ranging from their older songs like ‘Love is War’, to newer favourites ‘The Jig’ and ‘On Sight’, the energy didn’t drop as mosh pits formed, and the standing crowd grew. The four-piece are one of the leading lights of the Manchester student scene, and soon they will move beyond Oxford Road – in a big way.

Guitars unplugged, and USBs plugged in, and we were treated to a b2b of Sharkey Sounds and RIxY, followed by a solo set from Kemi as Fuse TV Station Manager Ben James shut down The Equinox. Punters danced on the tables where they would usually eat their lunch after a lecture. Alive! Festival transformed the Students’ Union into a celebration of all the brilliant things that students do.

alive! festival
Credit: Ailish O’Leary Austin @ The Mancunion

We’re meant to keep on doing better, and initiatives like Alive! Festival express this with vivid beauty. The amount of deep thought that went into the festival shone through, from the decoration to the branding, the broadcast and the live stream. I bow out from my university experience having seen Alive! grow from a concept to a framework in which creative students can explore all different kinds of avenues. It will hopefully continue for many years, each time being beautiful for its own reasons.

To break the fourth wall on my final piece for The Mancunion, I got special access to Alive! as I sat in a few of the meetings where the event was planned and nurtured. The beauty came from the night, but also all the small narratives resolving themselves. The beauty was the ticketing team receiving their specially made different coloured wristbands. The beauty was students were happy to be on-site for hours to get the festival going and to be on-site for hours after to pack it down. The beauty was seeing ideas thought up becoming realities.

It’s magical to have a blank canvas for students’ creativity, and Alive! Festival demonstrates this with clarity. With three editions under its belt, and judging from its potency and popularity, it’s now a Manchester student institution.

Alex Cooper

Alex Cooper

Head Music Editor and Writer for the Mancunion. Once walked past Nick Cave in Zagreb. Enquiries: [email protected]

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