My Victorious Festival highlights - see you down the front in 2021? | Entertainments editor Chris Broom

As a music fan, it was no surprise that I found myself in the Historic Dockyard in June 2012.

Saturday, 29th August 2020, 6:00 am
The first day of Victorious Festival 2015, The Flaming Lips during their performance. Picture: Paul Windsor

A weekend of great, free, music in novel surroundings? Sure why not…

Although Vintage Victorious isn’t counted by organisers as part of their official history – they start from the following year – it is a crucial part of establishing the Victorious we know, and many of us love, today.

There was only one more year at the dockyard before they moved to Southsea Common, but the pattern had already been set – loads of nationally renowned acts, lots of local performers, a family-friendly atmosphere, and a very competitive ticket price.

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Jerry Williams at Victorious, August 2017. Picture: Paul Windsor

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Victorious WILL return in 2021

I’ve been lucky enough to be there for at least one day each year, if not more, and the sheer volume of musical highlights is staggering – seeing The Flaming Lips bamboozle thousands with their inflatables and dazzling stage show, or The Prodigy blow everyone away with their astonishing firepower and showing that a rain-battered crowd weren’t going to be beaten that easily, to legends like Brian Wilson and Ray Davies, and old favourites like The Hives, Ash or Feeder pulling out songs you’d forgotten you love.

But it’s also given those local acts a chance to shine – witness the rise of Jerry Williams, the timeless gonzoid charm of Emptifish, and Kassassin Street going out on a high (not that we knew it at the time). They and many, many more have given me a treasure trove of fond memories.

The festival demonstrates the breadth and depth of talent right here on our doorstep. Part of the joy is wandering past a smaller stage and being reeled in by those ‘unknown’ acts, only to emerge with a new favourite.

Kassassin Street at Victorious 2016. Picture: Paul Windsor

And of course there’s the feelgood, if sometimes ramshackle, performances of the festival’s own house band, The Southsea Alternative Choir, who have raised thousands for various charities as they play up to six sets each year.

The family arena is somewhere safe and welcoming to take my boys – they loved seeing CBeebies god Andy with his band The Odd Socks in 2018 (Dinosaur Football Legend Mega Match is a stone-cold classic), while last year, beatbox champ SK Shlomo taught us all some basics before pitting parents against kids with their new-found skills (the youngsters won, naturally).

Not to forget the other areas which have been added over time – The World Music Village, which brings a global feel to proceedings and I remember a triumphant set from The Turbans in 2018. Forced to move from the area’s outdoor stage by the wind and rain to a smaller tent, they proceeded to tear the roof off (literally).

Then there’s the comedy and literary tents, the countless stalls and vendors (remember the Montezuma Chocolate giveaway? My wife does!), The Kings Theatre and New Theatre Royal putting on performances and workshops. The list goes on…

As if that's not enough, there’s always the pleasure of bumping into friends you've not seen in a while as you wander from stage to stage, or even down the front for a mutual favourite.

Watching the festival grow in size and stature has been joyous.

It has been brought low this year by circumstances beyond anyone’s control, but you bet I’ll be there next year.