Brainchild 2017: giving you what you’ve been hungry for

by Zahra Dalilah

An interdisciplinary festival which welcomes a community of young artists and thinkers to come together yearly, Brainchild has unearthed something that its participants have Brainchild1long been hungry for. A music festival which “strips it back to basics [with] excellent music, a space where you can meet excellent people and excellent food,” according to one speaker from last year’s festivities. Brainchild’s straightforward, community-centred approach to platforming up-and-coming artists in a mutually supportive space clearly has it on the right track. This year, on its fifth run, Brainchild is adding some incredible artists to the community such as Dego (2000Black), Andrew Ashong and Kojey Radical and looks set to delight crowds once again.

Speaking to old-timers and first-time performers alike, the consensus is clear. In the hads2words of brother portrait, Branichild V looks set to be “a[n] open and collaborative community, coming together, sharing and celebrating the year that was.” Having performed with the Næw Funk Poets back in 2015 and returning to do a solo set this year, the South London wordsmith is excited to back sharing new material in a familiar space. He adds “I love that the festival is a melting pot of disciplines and approaches with unexpected unions and look forward to seeing what they’ve done with the site, the stages, sculptures and installations.”

Far from alone in his appreciation of the creative community that Brainchild has birthed, Thidius’ Izzy Risk also reflected “it’s been really nice to play and grow throughBrainchild and through the community that that has provided for me and Thidius.” Having performed every year since the festival’s inception her sense of self as an artist has undoubtedly been impacted by her annual return to Brainchild, as moving from the Steez Café to the main stage her and Thidius have been able to experiment with dance, develop performance styles and absorb the inspiring creativity of the festival. Speaking on that sense of co-creation inherent to the space, Izzy comments “it’s quite an electric place for that, everyone’s running around trying to listen to each other.”

With installations, poetry, film, theatre and an “extensive and innovative” musical landscape (in Izzy’s words) Brainchild doesn’t use the term interdisciplinary lightly.Actively curating a space which abandons the spectator/performer dichotomy in favour of collaboration and mutual exchange, the organisers successfully produce an atmosphere where any and everyone can bring their thing to the table. In founder Marina Blake’s words “everything on the programme is celebrated as somebody’s brainchild.”


Intertwining art with social change, the festival effortlessly walks the line between partying and politics with endless space for conversations and talks which give people the chance to learn about current campaigns and organisations. Sakina Sheikh from Students Against TTIP remembers from her talk at the festival last year “people were really up for chatting and talking about trade justice and TTIP, I found it empowering to be in a space with mostly young people who were really up for talking about politics.” Reflecting on the art and performance, she also noted: “Brainchild understands that art is a very sacred and important form of knowledge sharing and has set up a lot of space [for that].”

Brainchild’s identity as an empowering and nourishing space for social justice campaigners as well as artists is reinforced by the line-up itself. From Pecs: The Drag King Collective to Caleb Femi so many of the artists, although coming from different walks of life, clearly carry a message of their own which is reflected in their art. To Izzy Risk’s logic “other festivals have a specific genre. But the thing with brainchild is that it’s about a community, so [it becomes] whoever gets involved with that.”

But of course, no matter how organic their birth, line-ups don’t happen by accident and the founders and organisers are committed to supporting new artists and grassroots, DIY Brainchild2thinkers has been a pillar of their growth. Growth, on the one hand, looks like a few hundred people in a field in 2013 to a few thousand this year, as the reputation and reach has catapulted. But as they are now able to afford bigger acts and “well-established inspirations,” the next logical question might be what impact headliners could have in a non-hierarchical space, defined by its absence of all things VIP.

At present, its ethos seems pretty unthreatened as the community continues to attract just the people it wants to grow with. South London DJ collective Touching Bass’s Andwot, for whom, “the idea of performing at festivals is still relatively new-fangled” will be performing for the first time this year and having never attended, commented “The festival’s ethos has been communicated so strongly, hat I have no doubt that it will have

touching bass

Touching Base – Picture NT

a genuinely family-based atmosphere and warm vibe”.


Brainchild 2017 looks set to be an experience and then some. A space to pause and reflect, to garner inspiration, share your art and passions, with no end of six-hour conversations that all started with a throwaway comment and awe-inspiring music to re-energise. In the words of Sakina Sheikh “the world needs brainchild because they remind you the essence of what festivals are, luscious green grass in the sunshine, beautiful people, beautiful music and just feeling nourished.”

Brainchild 2017 takes place in East Sussex from July 7th – 9th. Cop your tix here.

Take Back The City community activist and co-founder of Our Fathers and Us, a research project on Black British fatherhood, Zahra’s truest loves include hip hop, Lewisham and theories of revolution. Also a trilingual travel addict, you can usually catch her skipping borders across continents whilst trying to understand the true meaning of diaspora. Twitter: @ZahraDalilah1

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