Review // Opened Minds And Ears At Jodrell Bank For Bluedot Festival 2016

It’s not often you’ll see Brian Eno projecting psychedelic scenes onto a 250-foot diameter telescope, snooker loopy prog/IDM DJ Steve Davis filling and then emptying a large inflatable igloo, and Charlotte Church performing a rendition of D:ream’s ‘Things Can Only Get Better’, all in the same long weekend in a field about 10 miles outside of Macclesfield.

If that programme sounds a tad eclectic, there was a consistent theme knotting it together, whether in song, name or ethos. Performers referenced the intergalactic, the extraterrestrial and the otherworldly throughout, paying homage to the setting at Jodrell Bank while an excitable rabble of badge-wearing geeks swarmed its neighbouring fields and set about seizing the opportunity to learn about ongoing studies, covering everything from graphene to hay fever, and listen to a musical billing any sci-fi soundtrack would kill to feature.

Hosting the murine, moon-dwelling Clangers and hands-on early learning for the families prevalent on the site, the igloos became paradoxically overheated, melting those who stayed in the microcosmic greenhouse conditions for any of the many engaging talks diversifying the days. Braving the conditions meant learning about Professor David Nutt’s sensible approach to substance research, the numerous ways the world might end, Dr Catherine Loveday’s interpretation of connections between brainwaves and soundwaves, and the multitude of scientific branches making up Helen Bagnall and Juliet Russell’s Big Ideas tree.

On an opening Friday, crowds sauntered in to see a man with a foot in both music and science camps, Prof Brian Cox, co-presenting Radio 4’s Infinite Monkey Cage’s panel of the aforementioned Church and others; Public Service Broadcasting, whose ode to Apollo 11, ‘Go’, was a festival anthem; Space Cassette’s curation of the Nebula stage evoking Sun Ra in both costume and quirks.

Saturday saw one of the few disappointments, namely the crowd-splitting schedule clash of Floating Points and Jean-Michel Jarre, but both were audio-visual tours de force. Earlier, Lonelady rigidly structured a brutalist pop wall, Beth Orton filled a ‘Galaxy Of Emptiness’ and Air watched the stars with Kelly.

By Sunday, one of the joyous highlights, Stealing Sheep, were disappearing ‘Into The Diamond Sun’, firing confetti into the flocked crowd as they left. Come mid-afternoon, there was a dearth of Bluedot merch, with every last item sold, while final farewells for 2016, including Caribou’s expanded ‘Sun’ encore and Davis’ flexed Thunder Muscle DJ alter-egoism, ensured the festival was a success that demands repeating. Indeed, the sophomore year is already pencilled in for 21-23 July, 2017.

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Bluedot 2016 opened minds at Jodrell Bank from 22-24 July, 2016.

The festival returns from 21-23 July, 2017.

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