Britain's Vintage may change future festivals

Dandies, punks, teds and mods dusted down their finest threads for London's Vintage Festival, a celebration of British design history which hints at a change in direction for UK festivals.

Brainchild of British designers Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway, the three-day event at London's iconic Royal Festival Hall kicks off Friday and will honour almost a century of British music, fashion, film, dance and design.

"Vintage is about great design, great ideas and great moments in time that are worthy of evaluation," Wayne Hemingway, co-creator of the Red or Dead design label, told AFP.

All six-levels of the venue, which was built to host the 1951 Festival of Britain, will be taken over by purveyors of rockabilly, mod, soul, funk, disco, ska, electro and punk showcasing their styles with a series of live events.

The inaugural event was named Britain's Best New Festival in 2010 and was inspired by Hemingway's dispiriting experience at a traditional field festival.

"I grew up when music, fashion, design and film were always together and recently we were going to festivals where it was only about the music," he recalled.

"People were dressing down and the kids said they preferred to be in clubs. It was a bit too naff."

Michael Eavis, creator of the world-renowned Glastonbury Festival, said in July that the traditional festival was "on its way out", and Vintage's focus on glamour and diversity indicates a possible new direction for the British summer ritual.

Hemingway, who spent a year and a half "scientifically" developing the idea, said declarations of the field festival's demise were premature but believed many people were looking for a different experience.

"We wondered if it would be possible to do a festival, which was really well curated, where people could learn a little bit about the history of British creativity.

"In the world we are seen as style leaders. If someone were asked to name the coolest country, I'm pretty sure we'd get voted it," he claimed.

Each day of the festival will be geared towards different decades between the 1920s and 1990s with the main musical acts reflecting the themes.

Expert curators, including "The Crying Game" and "Michael Collins" film producer Stephen Woolley, were drafted in to give the festival the required "authenticity and attention to detail".

US legend Percy Sledge will be helping to celebrate the 1970s Northern Soul movement - centred around the clubs of northern England - while Thomas Dolby and Heaven 17 will honour Britain's love affair with electronic music.

British model and "it-girl" Daisy Lowe and Jo Wood, former wife of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, will be hosting catwalk shows.

Some parts of the event on the south bank of the River Thames are free to wander through, including the marketplace and the Vintage high street, but the 5,000 day-long passes cost £60 ($98, 69 euros).

Hemingway was keen to stress that the festival was far-removed from the raft of "retro-fests" which have become popular in the UK.

"People putting on a Michael Jackson wig, hiring a pair of flares and some platforms and going and having a 1970s revival night...none of those are of interest to us.

"Northern soul, rock'n'roll, rockabilly and the style of mod will never die out because they are so good," he added. "Flares and platforms will never be vintage because they were fancy dress at the time anyway."

Other events include revue shows, tea parties and celebrations of the quintessential British "chap". The presence of eccentrics from all walks of British society is something the creators hope will come to define the event.

"That's the thing that makes it really exciting," Hemingway explained. "You can go around and get an eyeful of human eye-candy, which is the best thing you can get an eyeful of."