5 things you didn’t know about South Facing festival

The festival comes to London's iconic Crystal Palace Bowl from August 5-31

In partnership with South Facing Festival

As festival season returns to England this summer, there’s a new name on the calendar: South Facing. From August 5-31, the iconic natural amphitheatre at Crystal Palace will be opened to stars of the music world again after over a decade of silence. Across 10 full shows and a host of free events across film, arts and music, the idyllic South London surroundings will be taken over for a month, with the likes of Sleaford Mods, The Streets, Supergrass, Max Richter and more all bringing live music back to this brilliantly unique setting.

“It’s an incredibly iconic site and it seems quite strange that it’s not been used for so long,” festival booker Keith Miller tells NME ahead of the festival, calling the Crystal Palace Bowl a “sleeping giant” of live music in London.

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“There’s 10 shows you can go to that touch on just about every genre of music,” he adds. “There’s something there for everyone.”

Ahead of the festival kicking off, here are 5 things you didn’t know about South Facing…

OVER A MILLION PEOPLE ATTENDED THE PAGEANT OF LONDON AT CRYSTAL PALACE IN 1911

The history of the amphitheatre at Crystal Palace dates back over a century. In 1911, over a million spectators flocked to the park to see the Pageant Of London, which saw over 15,000 performers telling the story of the capital and Britain as a whole between July and September. It’s thought to be the largest event to take place in the UK in the 21st century.

PINK FLOYD RE-OPENED THE VENUE IN 1971, BRINGING A GIANT OCTOPUS WITH THEM

Following its beginnings as a host for shows and plays, the amphitheatre stage was then built in 1961, playing host to the London Symphony Orchestra and London Philharmonic Orchestra.

A decade later, the venue then began playing host to an array of world-beating rock bands including Bob Marley, Elton John, The Cure, Pixies and more. On Saturday, May 15, 1971, Pink Floyd re-opened the venue with a set that’s gone down in history, bringing a giant inflatable octopus with them, which fans wrestled with in the pond next to the stage.

THE STAGE WILL BE FLOATING IN A LAKE

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For the first year of South Facing, bands will perform on temporary stage while giving the appearance of it floating on the lake, adding to the unique feeling of the festival and its surroundings. “We don’t want a disconnect between the audience and the acts,” Miller says, “so we’re building the stage into the water. The acts will be floating about, which I think is going to be really cool.”

THERE WILL BE A HOST OF FREE COMMUNITY EVENTS TOO

Alongside the main programme of live music, South Facing will also welcome a host of free music, art and film events to Crystal Palace Bowl across August as part of their Sundown Sessions.

The events include a partnership with the Crystal Palace Festival charity on August 12 for a ‘Crystal Palace Voices’ event of live music, presenting a lineup of the best of Crystal Palace and South London talent.

Elsewhere, movies like Jojo Rabbit and Disney’s Mulan will screen as part of Crystal Palace International Film Festival (CPIFF), while Soho Radio will also be on side, hosting special radio and podcasting workshops.

Details on all the events happening at South Facing across August can be found here.

South Facing
Fans in the lake in front of the stage during a concert at the Crystal Palace Bowl, London, 31st July, 1976. Credit: Vincent McEvoy/Redferns.

SOUTH FACING 2021 IS JUST THE START OF A NEW LONG-TERM PROJECT

“It’s not going to be normal,” Miller tells NME of the forthcoming month-long series. “It’s this really unique and amazing space that loads of people don’t even know about and have never actually been. We’re bringing something back that’s historic and has a legendary past.

Of the future of the event, he teases: “We’ve talked to some of the acts who have played there in the past to see if they’re interested in coming down and maybe playing again.”

South Facing will take place between 5 – 31 August 2021 at the Crystal Palace Bowl, London. Tickets start at £35 + booking fee and can be purchased at southfacingfestival.com.

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