When you stumble upon somewhere beautiful and unspoiled the temptation is to keep it secret, as a special place just for you, as somewhere to return to and shed the troubles of the world. It is then not without reservation that I review LOVEJAM 2023. But hey, I imagine pretty much like everyone else at this small festival I want to help create a more lovingly inclusive world, so the risk of killing the golden goose must be taken.
The weather helped. After a summer of rain and chill the gods decided to bless the long early September weekend with the most glorious hot sunshine. The natural setting too is a Sussex Eden, gorgeous oaks and wild grasslands with sweeping views across unspoiled countryside. Hats off – or perhaps I should say clothes off (there was plenty of nakedness about) – to the organisers Nathan and Zena, as the rather lovely festival design felt almost part of this magnificent landscape rather than a blot on it. Oh my, I fear I’m smitten with this nouveau-hippy nirvana. It seems I’ve taken the purple pill.
As I’m irritating myself with this fawning I’ll move onto the more meat and drink aspects of proceedings. Actually I should say the less meat and drink aspects as, well, LOVEJAM is alcohol and, effectively, meat free. It’s all about opening to higher vibrations man…and somehow, unlike some other ‘conscious’ festivals I’ve been to, this ever-so-worthy aim feels largely unpretentious. Whether this will remain so only time will tell, let’s hope so, but as we know there’s always the potential danger of people who consider themselves spiritual falling into the hubristic trap of believing their own hype.
There was loads to do. The standard of the music acts was surprisingly high and varied for a festival of some 1500 attendees, not least the irrepressible Mobius Loop and Ancient Baby People, with three or four music venues and plenty more impromptu jams around the late night fires. For those who wanted to deepen into more studiedly meaningful activities, there was an excellent selection of workshops and talks and a decent healing area. I particularly enjoyed the rebirthing workshop, if shaking and gently weeping counts as enjoyment, and the Intimacy of Breath workshop, which involved a lot of mindfully wandering around and gazing into people’s eyes. Great stuff. There was also a whole heap of very sweaty ecstatic dance going down in the stunningly situated New Ancients venue. Other notable activities included sock wrestling, rope work (not that sort of rope work), a womb cave, yoga and meditation, intimacy workshops, contact improvisation and, well, you pretty much name it.
There were a number of attractive cafes dotted around the place and the ones I went to, and I’m pretty sure it’s true for the ones I didn’t go to too, offered a good selection of healthy and wholesome drinks and, often, excellent food choices. Prices were pretty normal for a festival, so not cheap, but nothing too outrageous. The food stalls were also of a notably high standard – I assume they were specifically chosen for the festival – with special mention going to the fantastically-healthy-food Caribbean stall.
The age range at the festival was predominantly 20-40 year olds, but there were quite a few children milling around having a great time (the festival puts on various activities for them) and a fair few older people in attendance too. While it’s without doubt a very friendly, open and egalitarian festival, as one of the 50 years plus attendees I struggled a little to make meaningful connections with people and would have appreciated some more dedicated activities to help those attending alone – and those of us a little on the introvert side of things – to meet people. This could possibly include perhaps a dedicated ‘talk to people you don’t know’ café. There also might be some scope for more formal elders and young people interactions; to wander around and listen and observe you’d think this very impressive younger generation is entirely sorted, they certainly do the vibe very well, but a few of the more emotionally based workshops evidenced this is not entirely true. I suppose what I’m saying is that while it’s not the reality, things can feel a little cliquey when you are on the outside and a bit older than the average, and it’d be good to turn that around and have an organised opportunity to contribute, learn, and support.
All said and done though my experience was very positive. It’s a lovely festival, exceptionally well run with sensitivity and taste…and with very little sense of ego. The 21st century counter culture is gaining momentum and LOVEJAM is doing important work in helping to foster this community, not only at this main festival but also in local group meet ups in various towns across the country. Get involved – but only if you buy into the LOVEJAM ethos and vision and have, or at least aspire to, an open heart. After all, we don’t want to spoil things! For myself, well, I’m very much hoping to come along next year.
Neil del Strother www.neildelstrother.co.uk
Published on 15 September 2023 by Neil del Strother