Leefest Presented The Neverland, and it was awesome. Review 2016

The Neverland, Leefest


The last weekend of July, deep in the woodlands of Kent, after taking the second star to the right and straight on till morning, Neverland itself appeared for a brief window, boasting a three-day escapade of music, madness, and absolute magic. Surrounded by Pirates, Mermaids and mischievous lost boys, you would be forgiven for truly believing you were in the middle of a fantasy world, but in fact, this was Leefest, 2016.


Small, sweet and charmingly rebellious, the story of Leefest almost writes itself – spawned from a classic act of teenage rebellion, the festival started in Lee’s back garden. Under strict instructions not to have a house party, Lee and a few of his friends built a stage, gathered some bands, got in some food, some booze, and started the adventure of a lifetime.


Map of the Neverland


It may be 10 years old, and have substantially grown in size from its original gathering, but it still boasts that friendly, backyard vibe that many flock from all around to be a part of. It’s still small, it only has a 5000 person capacity – but it has enough life to surpass anyone’s expectations. Lee, masquerading as Peter Pan himself, can often be found floating around the ‘Neverland’ – smiling, cheerful and just generally warm, his refusal to grow up has resulted in an incredibly organic experience that can only be described as Secret Garden Party meets your local village fete.


The site itself is quite small, there’s one large campsite for punters, and the arena is stretched out over three different ‘realms’ yet would probably take about 5 minutes to cross completely, yet it’s littleness gives off a more collective, cosy feel than a cramped one. The three realms are focused around the peoples of Neverland. The Lost Boys rule the roost, the main stage is placed bang in the middle, with tree houses, ropes and various bushcraft surrounding the stage, often with the lost boys and woodland creatures perched in their nooks and crannies. The Pirates rule Skull Ridge, substituting Hook for Captain Morgan, most of the heavier bands played the little garage-like venue Hooks Rock and dirty DJ’s heading the Gold Mine, an alleged old bomb crater that was kitted out to look like a true pirate quarry, complete with a wooden structure complete with a platform and dancing pirates. Heading over the other side, you’ll find Mermaid’s Lagoon, where colourful sea creatures will greet you to the colourful, eclectic 50’s retro style area, with an airstream cocktail bar, the Wondersands beach where Neptune will keep you moving, hot tubs and the Rainbow Rooms. Alongside the realms are those who control it; the mermaids are glamorous and fabulous, and mainly mind their own business, which is a good idea when the Lost Boys pull their own pranks and the Pirates are the chaotic havoc wreckers who are meant to terrorise everyone, but in reality are happy to give you a sip of their rum, or a gold coin if you pledge allegiance.



The Pirates of Skull Ridge


Though there are performers and punters alike going a little crazy, the festival is incredibly family friendly. Throughout the day, the place is awash with kids, there are tonnes of activities from face-painting, to swing dance lessons, and water fights between pirates and lost boys to keep the little ones occupied. As the night gets on, you see fewer kids, but the good-natured attitude doesn’t change.


The Mermaids at Mermaid Lodge


Leefest is pretty famous for discovering bands before they blow up, and a lot of the past performers are now incredibly popular. The bands themselves can quite often be seen wandering around the festival and stopping in on all the various artists, the crowds are just incredibly accepting. The beautiful thing about Leefest that I found was the complete lack of celebrity culture. Everyone just seems to accept each other for who they are, people for people, and just genuinely excited to be there. Maybe that’s even due to Lee himself, who never without a smile, is often wondering around the grounds, happy to stay and chat to people, or jump on wherever necessary, in fact on the Saturday he jumped behind a busy bar to serve me a couple of beers.  


Though the crowds aren’t big, they’re lively and loving, and this passes into the acts themselves, many putting so much energy into performances. A lot of bands that play Leefest blow up in the months and years to follow and this is certainly to be the case for a large amount of the artists there. Saturday Headliner Lianne La Havas serenaded an entire festival with her melodic, soulful voice and faultless charming personality. Genuinely humble about the headline slot, and overwhelmed by the love and support of the crowd, her multi-instrumental set was a glorious end to the three-day gathering.


Lianne La Havas at Leefest


In terms of the rest of the music, there is not one artist I could even begin to fault. Leefest is a little different in the way it's a Thursday, Friday, Saturday lineup, which mixes up the whole ‘sunday feeling’ kind of vibe, but it works the way it does. Thursday was a fairly quiet day, everyone was just getting into the swing of it, and performances by Everything Everything and Ghostpoet paved the way for what was to come. Everything Everything were on the bill as special guests, but their impeccable energy and infamous stage presence gave the crowd a perfect start. A contrast, but equally spellbinding performance by Ghostpoet left the festival goers content and blissful as they headed back to the campsite ready for an earlier start on the Friday.


Everything Everything at Leefest


Friday saw an incredible mixture of artists, me myself discovering new bands and artists to fall in love with. Peluche kicked off the main stage, followed by the melodic compilations of Corey Fox-Fardell. Roots Manuva played a brilliant but short sub-headline set, followed by the Liverpudlian indie rockers Circa Waves. In terms of the main stage however, I was most impressed with Lil Simz, the North London, grime-esque artist that completely took over the energy of the crowd, and I fully expect to see her take over the scene in the coming year.


Lil Simz on the main stage


Over the other stages, the growth garage/grunge rock movement and Lo-Fi sound was increasingly obvious, much to my delight, with bands Beaty Heart, Get Inuit and Spring Kings gaining hype and support and playing amazing sets. Otherkin are another of those bands I expect to see blow up in the next year; in the middle of a European tour and set to play the Festival Republic stage at Reading and Leeds this year, the band are a mix of punky pop meets grunge rock and have a live show that’s one of the most ferocious I've ever seen, the band themselves heading into the crowd, complete with mics and instruments, and oozing a carefree attitude, which was easily caught up by the crowd. Inviting the crowd on-stage for the last song, the boys really brought it all, and I'm converted a few more fans than just me.


The crowds at Leefest


As Leefest closes on Saturday, that sloppy Sunday feeling got a bit mixed up, as the latest, busiest night was also the last. Acoustic, Ellie Goulding inspired pop artist Hannah Trigwell took the main stage following her Sofar Sounds set earlier in the day, wooing the crowds with her catchy melodies, a perfect precursor for Lianne La Havas, the soulstress herself and beautiful human to play as the main headliner. Pop punk indie band We Are Scientists also took the main stage, themselves fascinated with the various tribes of Leefest, as did Shura, whose mass popularity after the release of her first album really showed as fans were wowed by her performance. Saturday was also definitely one for strong female artists, with The Big Moon, Skinny Girl Diet, King Kwong, She Drew The Gun and GIRLI playing amazing sets. Vant also hit up the circus tent, with their politically fueled music proving a hit on the Leefest crowds.


Frank Carter and the Rattlesnacks


Though all good things must come to an end, the festival does not stop when the music does, with the pub-like structure on site hosting Electric Swing and DJs Madame Barducci and the fierce Rumpsteppers, plus still serving drinks until the beginning of the sunrise at 5am.


Skull Ridge, Leefest


Honestly, there aren’t even enough words to truly describe how beautiful this little festival is. I don’t know what I was expecting but whatever it was, was truly blown out of the water.

Fire Dancing Pirates, Leefest

Wondersands at the Mermaid's Lodge

All photos supplied by official Leefest Photographers

LeeFest secret location announced

The secret is out as one of the most exciting festival experiences of the summer, LeeFest Presents The Neverland reveals the co-ordinates for this year’s event, taking place at John Darlings Farm near Edenbridge in Kent (TN8 5NP).

Nestled within the picturesque landscapes of the Kent countryside, The Neverland will be teaming up with one of the most acclaimed small venues in the country, with the Tunbridge Wells Forum to bring an array of local artist to the festival. Local acts appearing at LeeFest include Beaty Heart, Get Inuit and Corey Fox Fardell with many more exciting names in Kent music transporting to The Neverland over the next few weeks.

To celebrate, The Neverland will be taking over the Tunbridge Wells Forum on Friday 3rd June for The Neverland Launch Party, whisking you into the world of Mermaids Lagoon, with sunshine, cocktails and tropical vibes. With exceptional live music from local favourites throughout the day, sun-drenched neon beats from a range of DJs into the late evening and enough BBQ food to fill you many times over, celebrate the start of the summer with The Neverland’s unmissable warm-up party.

Entry to The Neverland Launch Party is free before 8pm and £5 thereafter and tickets for the The Neverland Lagoon Launch Party are available from leefest.org/tickets.

LeeFest Presents: The Neverland takes place across three distinct realms (The Neverwoods, Mermaids Lagoon and Skull Ridge) , The Neverland is set to host a phenomenal new music line-up including Lianne La Havas, Circa Waves, Ghostpoet, Everything Everything, Shura, Roots Manuva, Little Simz, The 2 Bears, Spring King, Loyle Carner, Formation and many more. With a spell-binding array of activities and immersive experiences, The Neverland is the place to be to live your dreams and never grow old.

Circa Waves to headline LeeFest

LeeFest Presents: The Neverland continues to take flight, with the magical land welcoming Circa Waves as Friday Night Headliners to its kingdom of kaleidoscopic dreams.
Emerging as indie-guitar music’s brightest lights, Circa Waves have rapidly become one of the most acclaimed young bands in the country with their infectious sunshine-drenched indie-pop. Liverpool’s favourite sons have enjoyed a huge 12 months which included the release of debut LP “Young Chasers” and a celebratory UK tour.  Circa Waves will be making their UK Festival Headlining Debut at LeeFest Presents: The Neverland, as another exciting chapter in the band and festivals ascendancy unfolds.
Speaking about their landmark performance, Circa Waves frontman Kieran Shudall says:
"So excited to headline our first festival! It's going to be big. It's going to be awesome. The Neverland won't know what's hit it."
They’ll be joined on the bill by art-rock pioneers Everything Everything whose critically acclaimed recent LP “Get To Heaven” drew plaudits from across the musical spectrum for its daring electronic edges and the distinctive vocal range of frontman Jonathan Higgins. With three revered albums in their back pocket, their set at LeeFest Presents: The Neverland will showcase one of the most creative names in modern British rock. 
Hotly tipped, garage rockers VANT and cult drum and bass hero DJ Marky + MC GQ bring their unique styles to The Neverland, with the latter taking to theElectric Circus & Innersoul curated evening at Skull Ridge with A.Skills and more. Skull Ridge will also welcome acclaimed club night Percolatepresenting an incredible evening in the Ridge with chameleonic DJ Midland and Horse Meat Disco amongst others. These all join an extensive lineup of new musical talent, continuing the revered LeeFest tradition of bringing through and championing the brightest names in music. Alongside Saturday night headliner Lianne La Havas, the weekend sees performances from Ghostpoet, Shura, Roots Manuva, The 2 Bears, Submotion Orchestra, Little Simz, Loyle Carner, Formation, Clean Cut Kid, Spring King and many more. 
On joining the lineup, VANT said:
“Looking forward to LeeFest Presents: The Neverland, a festival like no other… Created and maintained by one dude and his ever expanding garden. Hopefully we will get to meet the mystery man himself. See you all in the sun (fingers crossed)!
The Neverland is an immersive, kaleidoscopic world of creativity, reckless abandon and the undiminished desire to never grow old. Across 3 Main Stages, 12 Music Venues and 6 Immersive VenuesThe Neverland has it all, whether that be the pesky pirates patrolling Skull Ridge with its decadent Bomb Crater Rave, the lunatic lost boys in The Neverwoods Treehouse Stage or mesmerising mermaids glistening through Mermaids Lagoon with its decked real life beach party, there’s a story and an experience around every corner of The Neverland
From the no-nonsense Drag Queens to the notorious Glitter Wrestling The Neverland is filled to the brim with unimaginable exuberance. Regular Paint Fights, Secret Parties and Cabaret ensure the inhabitants of The Neverland are set for an immersive and unparalleled weekend of culture and partying, whilst in the Gaming Arcades islanders jump back to childhood through the glitchy viral screens..
A mecca of debauchery and darkness, Skull Ridge lies in the shadows of The Neverland with vivid Burlesque displays, Adult Cinema and seedy Casinoswhere dwellers take one last roll of the dice. Corruption and lawlessness are rife and mob rule is ever present in this unforgiving part of The Neverland.
Sanctuary awaits at the picturesque vistas of Mermaid’s Lagoon where a sunshine-soaked lake is the centre piece and the beautiful people reside. Tropical beats come courtesy of The 2 Bears and DJ Luck & MC Neat and cocktails, swimming and massages await at the Holistic Hot Tubs and Tranquillity Spa.
Experience the unimaginable, dive into The Neverland and pursue the dream to never grow old.

Lianne La Havas to headline this years Leefest

Rising from the same South London streets which saw the very first LeeFest take place in the back-garden of founder Lee Denny, Lianne La Havas stands as an untouchable enigma, leading the new wave of British soul with her delicate tales of heartbreak and triumph. Recent album “Blood” has seen Lianne take her sound around the world, touching the lives of many and culminating in huge landmark shows including sold-out nights at Brixton Academy and the illustrious Royal Albert Hall. Acclaimed, revered and loved in equal measure, the Mercury Prize and Grammy Award-nominated wordsmith will be headlining an extremely special Saturday night at LeeFest Presents: The Neverland in a celebration not to be missed.
Talking exclusively about her headlining appearance, Lianne La Havas says:
“I am over the moon to not only be playing but headlining at LeeFest this year. It is a beautiful part of the country and I nearly share a name with the festival! Looking forward to having a sing song with everyone!”
Creatively in-sync and intuitively unique, fluent wordsmith Ghostpoet will be bringing an ethereal sermon on modern life to The Neverland from across his critically acclaimed catalogue. Scooping multiple Mercury Prize nominations and an unmistakable ability to pinpoint the highs and falls of society around us, his captivating performance is one destined to leave its mark on The Neverland this year.
Electronic soul crooner Shura has been a new music favourite for over 2 years, releasing track after track of sublime, glistening pop and building anticipation for her debut studio effort “Nothing’s Real”. Due for release this year, expect a mesmerising showcase from the Liverpudlian pop saviour. Equally as acclaimed is British hip-hop legend Roots Manuva whose gritty tales of modern Britain have remained an essential part of UK Hip-Hop for over 20 years. Back with the BBC 6 Music-approved “Bleeds”, his performance is set to be a revolutionary experience.
Kaleidoscopic dance gurus The 2 Bears will be bringing the sunshine to Mermaids Lagoon with an extremely special set of “rave-garage” for a party event not to be missed as the tropical soundsystem comes to The Neverland. Pulsating genre-morphing thrives with underground favourites Submotion Orchestra as their cocktail of jazz, electronica, dubstep and soul transport The Neverland into another realm.
Speaking about their anticipated appearance within Mermaids Lagoon, The 2 Bears said:
“And so we pack our boat with heavy bangers and sail in to the mystic to visit mermaids lagoon. Not a bears natural habitat but I'm sure we'll make the best of it. Hopefully Cher, Christina Ricci and Bob Hoskyns will be inside the rave x”
One of the most admired and vital artists of recent times, North London’s poetic mastermind Little Simz has drawn vast plaudits on both sides of the Atlantic with her brutally honest tales of city life. Independent spirited and recently named in Forbes influential “30 Under 30” list, witness a cultural definer when Little Simz stops into The Neverland for an unmissable live performance. Making waves around the globe, Spring King’s infectious ramshackle rock made headlines when summer anthem ‘City” became the first track played on Apple’s Beats 1 radio station. Full throttle and unrelenting, catch the next big UK rock sesantions at LeeFest Presents: The Neverland.
On joining the lineup, Spring King frontman Tarek Musa said:
“A lot of our good friends and bands we love have played LeeFest, such as Stealing Sheep, Mystery Jets, All We Are and The Magic Gang! Pumped to be playing this year! Always dig a festival with a comedy stage, I’m a huge stand-up comedy fan.
See ya soon LeeFest <3”
Continuing the LeeFest reputation for discovering and embracing the best in cutting-edge new music, a range of rising and hotly tipped names join this year’s incredible lineup. The raw rhymes of Loyle Carner is sure to be an extremely spiritual moment at The Neverland, showcasing why BBC, NME, Channel 4 and MTV all pinpointed him as a future icon. Rough and ready pop-soul quartet Clean Cut Kid will continue their unrelenting ascent to arenas with a captivating set at The Neverland, whilst indietronic duo Formation, dream-gazers The Big Moon and the retro-futurist masters MIAMIGO will all bring unrivalled showcases.
MIAMIGO commented:
“We’ve heard great things about LeeFest, so stoked to be included in the line-up for this year’s event. Honoured to be sharing the stage with such amazing artists. Bring on the sun!”
Godfathers of Garage DJ Luck And MC Neat will be spinning their unmatched catalogue of classics to the Neverland masses, whilst riffs and rock will reign supreme with pulsating sets from Fort Hope, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Queen Kwong and Nai Harvest to truly shake up the unprecedented weekend. With riotous punk GIRLI, Big Deal, bedroom-pop slider Oscar and many more on the lineup, The Neverland is set to be the only destination needed for your next favourite act.
Arguably sitting with one of the best musical lineups of the summer, LeeFest Presents: The Neverland also is pleased to announce a vast array of activities for festival-goers to indulge and experience throughout the weekend. From Glitter Wrestling and Drag Queens, to Comedy, Paint Fights, Spoken Word and Theatre, the inhabitants of The Neverland are set for an immersive and unparalleled weekend of culture and partying.
Unleashing the careers of international icons such as Bastille, London Grammar and Years & Years before anyone else, 2016 marks 10 years since the original LeeFest kicked off in the back garden of founder Lee Denny.The Neverland represents the next chapter in their unparalleled story, standing as  the culmination of the dreams of thousands in the snowballing LeeFest community. Separated into three distinct realms, it promises a fantastical immersive adventure across the weekend, with Mermaids Lagoon and its neon-soaked opulence and glamour, the dark and dystopic fury of Skulls Ridge and the no nonsense blissfields of The Neverwoods. Combined, it provides a magical panoptic Kingdom full of unabashed creativity, diverse personalities and serious partying with an unparalleled lineup of music, performance and creativity.
With a Friday Night Headliner still to be announced, alongside a diverse range of dance titans and extremely special unannounced secret shows, The Neverland is set to be the defining independent festival of the summer.
Escaping the confines of the real world, the Neverland’s kingdom of infinite wonder awaits, allowing all of us an opportunity to escape and pursue our dream to never grow old.

Leefest present The Neverland for 2016

Celebrating 10 years since the original LeeFest kicked off in the back garden of founder Lee Denny; 2016 sees the emergence of the next chapter for the UK’s favourite independent festival with an exciting new creation; The Neverland.
The story of LeeFest is now legendary, growing from a back garden gathering with friends into a celebration of the true spirit of festivals. At the age of 16, Lee’s decision to rebel against his parents’ wishes led to the formation of a true community of kindred spirits and a celebration of new music, arts and creatives. Naturally expanding from the ground upwards year after year, it’s morphed into an unmissable fixture of the summer and along the way has introduced global success stories such as Bastille, London Grammar, Years & Years, Young Fathers and Jack Garratt amongst others. LeeFest is for the people and by the people, and that unfaltering desire for independent creativity and fantastic live moments has pushed it to the forefront of festival culture.
Now looking to evolve and innovate to the next level, this year LeeFest is taking flight into the kaleidoscopic world of The Neverland; a magical panoptic Kingdom full of unabashed creativity, diverse personalities and serious partying! The Neverland is the culmination of the dreams of thousands in the snowballing LeeFest community.
Defined by three distinct realms, The Neverland provides a fantastical immersive adventure for attendees…
Submerged in neon coating and sun-kissed horizons, Mermaids Lagoon will be the go-to destination for all those seeking the Club Tropicana high-life of cocktails, sunshine and pristine clarity. Dive into the bright lights of 80s glam in all its prime, with the beautiful people and luminous vibes of sunshine by the beach and margaritas on tap, as a vivid soundtrack of pop music serenades the pool bathers. For those seeking opulence and extravagance, a dip into Mermaids Lagoon is the height of decadence and thrilling glamour.
A futuristic dystopia, Skull Ridge lies in The Neverland shadows – a living embodiment of shadowy fantasies and mind-blowing attractions. Corruption and lawlessness are rife and the pounding, relentless soundtrack of bass, grunge and punk reigns supreme. Mob rule and darkness are ever present in this sprawling part of The Neverland that is unforgiving and unrepentant.  
The Neverwoods boasts some of the finest scenery in the whole of The Neverland, with panoramic natural vistas and a place of tranquillity, nourishment and well-being. Stroll through the picturesque frames of the ambient forests whilst becoming one with the wonderful nature flowing throughout and embrace new music, arts and crafts in a no nonsense paradise celebrating good times and joy.

The Cribs set to headline LeeFest 2014

This years South London Festival, LeeFest has now announced its final headliner as The Cribs.

The Yorkshire-based indie icons join Frightened Rabbit and Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip at the top of the festival’s music bill.

New music names announced today include Rae Morris, Years & Years, Fickle friends and IYES. Danish sensation has already been announced as well as Young Fathers, Krafty Kuts, Maribou State, The Bohicas, Sivu, Childhood, Only Real and Blaenavon. Over 60 artists are yet to be named.

LeeFest is South London’s only weekend camping festival and maintains it’s homegrown roots by supporting local talent. Emerging artists from South London and Kent have been given the opportunity to apply to play at the festival. Successful artists will be announced soon as part of the LeeFest ‘Noise Collective’.

The Noisettes confirmed as headliners for LeeFest

Organisers have announced that The Noisettes are set to top the bill at LeeFest in South East London this July.

New York based Friends & Londoners Clean Bandit have also been announced today, joining an eclectic line-up already featuring Delphic & King Charles.

Artists also released today include The Other Tribe, Stanton Warriors, Man Like Me, Public Service Broadcasting, Lulu James, Fiction, Stealing Sheep & To Kill A King.

King Charles

The following acts are also set to appear across the festival’s four stages: Story Books, Wall, Thumpers, Concrete Knives, Keston Cobblers Club, Hackney Colliery Band, The Ramona, Flowers, Crushed Beaks, Eliza and The Bear, Misty Miller, By The Rivers & Troumaca.

The homegrown festival, run by Lee Denny and a team of young volunteers, was rebelliously founded in his back garden in Bromley, Kent in 2006 whilst his parents were away on holiday.

Named 2012’s “Best Independent Festival” by the Association of Independent Music, the festival has recently grabbed headlines for taking the extraordinary step of allowing fans to join its board of creative directors. By raising money through crowd funding website Kickstarter, the LeeFest organisers plan to double the size of the event whilst safeguarding the festival’s non-profit status.

The full list of artists announced so far is here: http://www.leefest.org.uk/lineup

Leefest handing over creative control to the fans

LeeFestNamed 2012’s “Best Independent Festival” by the Association of Independent Music, LeeFest is now taking the extraordinary step of allowing fans to join its board of creative directors.

The homegrown festival, run by Lee Denny and a team of friends, was rebelliously founded in his back garden in Bromley, Kent in 2006 whilst his parents were away on holiday.  It has since exploded onto the festival scene, renowned for its focus on supporting emerging artists.

LeeFest is now embarking on its biggest challenge to date – attempting to raise £50,000 so it can grow whilst remaining independent and sponsor free. Instead of taking a traditional route, LeeFest will attempt to raise the money through crowd funding website Kickstarter, handing over creative control of the festival to fans in exchange for small investments in its development. Fans suggested the idea on the LeeFest Facebook page.

Denny (25) explains his motivation behind the move:

‘A community of creative and energetic people has been snowballing around the festival since it began. In order to grow the festival we were faced with a choice to sell out to big sponsors and investors, or do something different. We owe our current success to the amazing individuals involved, so raising finance from the people and giving them creative control of the festival in return seemed perfect!’

A link to the Kickstarter Project will be available from 9:00 on Wednesday 3rd April.

Artists announced for the 2013 event include Delphic, The Other Tribe, King Charles, Stanton Warriors and Public Service Broadcasting with many more to be added.



LeeFest now has 30 days to raise £50,000 and become the most unique festival in the world!