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Above Below is the UK’s new utopia for free-spirited electronic music lovers

Taking place for the second time in June, Above Below proved a breezy grassroots affair — check out the best snaps from the weekend below

  • Words: Gemma Ross | Photos: Jack Maltby, Jake Heath, and Ivet Sedlakova
  • 11 July 2022

When you think of festivals in the UK, mammoth-sized commercial events might come to mind first, but over in the sleepy county of Buckinghamshire, a more boutique affair is brewing.

Above Below is the hatchling festival from a team of friends just shy of London — and between the 40-odd crew, they’ve each contributed to the folksy new soiree now taking place as an annual event. After its inception in 2021, the team have successfully run two very intimate festivals cosied into the valley of Chiltern Hills just a 40-minute trip from London, and it’s only proved a breezy, unpretentious weekender in its second year.

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Headed up by Brandon alongside plenty more creatives, Above Below started off as a vision and concept between a group of mates. “As a crew, many of us grew up together - our experiences and mutual love of music, creativity, being outside, and partying at the end of the day is what brought us together,” says co-founder Brandon. “The crew are incredible, endless ability; with 40 in the crew and another 20 closely supporting the festival, we volunteer our time alongside normal jobs or education based all around the UK to plan and put on the festival.”

From June 2 - 5, Above Below threw its second edition welcoming in friends, family, and newcomers to the valley. By day, the festival shows off its picturesque views backed by woodland, streams, and hills as far as the eye can see. By night, fairy lights illuminate the cosy valley as disc jockeys and selectors take to each of the festival’s stages, all of which are carefully selected through the tight-knit team. With electronic music at its heart, the grassroots festival swings through ambient live sets and rowdy, vinyl-only performances alike, championing plenty of new talent along the way.

“We wanted to share our desire to connect, create, and learn while also celebrating our innate love for music and embracing nature,” co-founder Liam tells Mixmag. “The first year really felt like a setting to hone in on genres not commonly focused on in this country. One of the highlights of 2021 for me was seeing Passat and Kleine AKA Timesplitters closing set at The Beacon stage. They’re both good friends of mine and key members of Above Below Festival. I think it was that realisation of seeing your friends absolutely killing it on the decks and thinking how incredible it is to create a platform for our in-house DJs as well as like-minded underground artists and to showcase their abilities and music knowledge to a fitting audience.”

As festival-goers chat on upturned logs, take to yoga sessions and get lost in the nearby woodland, the mere 400-capacity event feels more homely and nature-oriented than most, and even does its part to ensure the safety of punters with a partnership from Girls Against. For one weekend, Above Below offers its close-knit family a chance to detach from the outside world, and despite its slight growth from the first edition, founders are eager for the boutique event to remain intimate.

Read this next: "The planet is our only dancefloor": How dance music events are adapting to sustainability

“I think one of the key aspects of our festival is the intimacy and personable approach we try to create, that will never die amongst our crew,” Liam says. “With the wonderful site that we have, we wouldn’t want to jeopardise the feel and energy of the festival”. Harking back to those days of humble free parties, Above Below seems to replicate that energy as a less demanding, free-wheeling, laid-back haven for electronic music lovers.

Check out the best snaps from Above Below’s second year below, and pre-register for the festival’s third edition here.

Photos by Jack Maltby, Jake Heath, and Ivet Sedlakova

Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Editorial Assistant, follow her on Twitter

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