With a natural stage, a canopy of trees and a banging lineup The Circle managed to square away All Together Now
Creating a new space at a festival can be hard to get right. Especially at an established and much-beloved festival such as All Together Now, which launched fully formed in 2018 with a distinct ethos and feel. Will people seek it out? Will it fit with the vibe of the festival? Is it needed? Can be questions swirling around every festival organiser's mind, when they consider creating a new space. Even when launched, it can often it can take years for a new space to truly embed itself into the complex ecosystem of a festival, to turn from a novelty to a destination that muddy footprints lead to. That's what makes the launch of The Circle so special, in its first year the space somehow managed to feel fresh and exciting with the ease of a space that's been decades on the festival circuit. From where we are standing this it why it worked so well straight out of the blocks:
Conveniently located on the crest of the incline up to the main stage from the much-beloved bandstand area, The Circle was a welcome break from one of the sneakiest hill crests in the festival. Those that found themselves huffing and puffing up the slight hill were pulled into the wooded entrance, that bore the simple and tactile sign "The Circle" surrounded by lit-up lines, like our childhood depictions of the rays from the sun.
Past the wooded walls into what resembled a natural wooded clearing. With enough light to see and enough shade to shield it from the elements, that came thick and fast over the All Together Now weekend. The undulating space could hold less and more depending what was required of it, but held a chilled crowd throughout. A versatile space, capable of holding a drinks demonstration and later in the day a ferocious B2B DJ set. There was a calming and welcoming aspect to the space, the kind that made it difficult to leave, but easy to go in.
Self-contained with a bar serving classic Jameson cocktails was roughly hewn, matching the stage and benches, a natural state that seemed like it had come from the earth and would return directly to it once the festival was over.
A lineup can be a difficult thing to crack and get right at a festival. There are a lot of considerations, the kind of audience, the kind of space, and the delicate state that festival goers can be in at the set times. The team nailed it though, and enlisted one of the best music lineups of any stage at the festival, championing Irish acts in a refreshing new way.
You could tell that creativity was at the core of this space, as any creative knows one of the best ways to produce can be to work alongside other creatives, especially when they are from different mediums and spheres. Learning different approaches of expression, and how to attack aspects of your craft that you have taken for granted in a different manner, are all part of the creative process. The B2B DJ was a refreshing take on this, challenging two DJs at the top of their game to share a stage, causing them to up the ante and create some of the most exhilarating sets heard at the festival.
There were also challenges for musicians, which caused them to move from their comfort zones, most notably Kean Kavanagh playing an acoustic set and letting the audience hear his voice in its stripped-back form. Festival-goers were also challenged, by doing a screen printing workshop, spoken word circle and jam session, they were challenged to try new things to step outside their comfort zone and do something creative and unnatural to them, something unexpected out of the day-to-day doing and running of things, which after all is why most people go to a festival, to get out of themselves, remind themselves of that spark of creativity that they once held dear and to remember the importance of it.
Let's hope The Circle takes a twirl around and comes back next year.