31st August | Clifton Downs

The Victorians were ingenious bastards and well ahead of their time. Bless his massive stove-pipe hat, Isambard Kingdom Brunel knew that Clifton Downs was the place to be. He stood next to Leigh Woods in the late 1820s, stared across the chasm of the Avon Gorge and, visionary that he was, saw what the future looked like.

He looked longingly at the expanse of grass beyond the gorge and proclaimed, “I can see the future: Lauryn Hill, IDLES, Loyle Carner, Fontaines D.C., Grace Jones, Neneh Cherry, Crazy P, Nightmares on Wax. Build it, and they will come.” I was on Clifton Downs on a boozy Saturday afternoon once, talking to some bloke I’d just met (three foot six, ginger beard, green hat, fishing rod) and he told me that Brunel was actually an early pioneer of drum & bass music. You won’t find that kind of insight on Wikipedia.

So when Britain was standing proud at the beginnings of Empire and Industrial Revolution, Brunel was bold – he called it. Now, in 2019, when Britain is the flaccid knob of Europe, Crosstown Concerts have made it happen. The Downs Festival is the ultimate late-summer love-in (clothed). You may be knocking on the door of shorter, darker nights or a seasonally-affected Autumn Term, but this one-dayer is a fine way to ensure that you do not go gently into that good night.

You can rage against the dying of the light with the main stage, headlined by Lauryn Hill (Fugees welcome here), enjoy Feelin’ Good with Nightmares on Wax on the second stage, and sample some of the best local bands on the small stage in the middle of the arena, where a range of speakers will cater for your more cerebral needs during the daytime.

There’s a big wheel, there’s a helter skelter, there’s beer. So much to look forward to: will Loyle Carner wear a City or Rovers shirt? Which pants will Bobo from IDLES wear? And just what kind of stance will Neneh Cherry hang in?

One more chance to get your glitter going or don your superhero costume before you check the whereabouts of your woolies and wellies. Seize it. Love yourself.

See the video for Loyle Carner’s ‘Ottolenghi’ (feat. Jordan Rakei) here: