“Always left-of-centre”: We Out Here continues to dote on its jazz-loving community - Features - Mixmag

“Always left-of-centre”: We Out Here continues to dote on its jazz-loving community

Four editions in, We Out Here continues to grow and shape into one of the UK’s best-loved festivals as it moves to its new home in Dorset

  • Words: Gemma Ross | Photos: Sienna Grey, Amy Fern, Perry Gibson, Rob Jones, Lauren Luxenberg
  • 7 November 2023

When We Out Here first launched in 2019, it embodied all of the musical experiences that head curator Gilles Peterson had picked up in his 40-something years of DJing and broadcasting. It filled a gap in the annual festival run where others were missing a trick: offering a combination of jazz, downtempo, soul and funk throughout the daytime, countered by a rip-roaring selection of dance music’s newest stars and hip hop legends from days gone by in the evening. In Gilles’ own words, “it’s always a little left-of-centre”.

Now in its fifth year, We Out Here’s musical offerings have stretched even further, but always in keeping with Gilles’ eclectic taste. “It’s that balance between accommodating such a multi-generational event, but also being exciting and interesting,” he tells Mixmag. “I think that everything’s become so generic in the world of music, but there’s just so many brilliant artists coming through right now, and what gives me the most pleasure is that We Out Here celebrates all the tribes.”

Read this next: Gilles Peterson: "Great art is full of mistakes, it gives it character"

This year, We Out Here welcomed back an intimate 14,000 people - a quick sell-out despite competing with other festival giants including Boomtown and Houghton over the same weekend, both drawing in similar crowds. But We Out Here’s niche is one that focuses as much on its daytime programme as its night, with jazz at its core. Amongst the 100+ acts lined up to take on this year’s event were Nia Archives, Children of Zeus, Nabihah Iqbal, Goldie, Soichi Terada, Bonobo, and plenty more over four days, each playing across We Out Here’s 15 stages in a brand new location.

Formerly housed on a quaint site in rural Cambridgeshire, We Out Here’s decision to move in 2023 was prompted by the return of Secret Garden Party, which takes place in the same location just six weeks earlier. “We realised it’s quite precarious to put two festivals on the same site because if they have a bad weather festival for example, it affects us too,” Gilles explains, adding that the festival’s recent move to Wimborne St Giles, a leafy area of Dorset, was an attempt to curate the festival from fresh. “I felt like the energy was good, the ley lines, it almost had the Glastonbury effect,” Gilles says on the move. “There’s a thing about that part of England that just brings it out in people.”

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The festival’s new location retains a handful of favourite features from its last, including a large acre lake where punters are encouraged to go for a swim or take up paddleboarding, or forest areas home to much rowdier performances by night. Its backdrop is an expansive, out-of-the-way, woodland spot overlooked by a historic manor house in the distance, and it’s fair to say that We Out Here lucked out with its new home. But while the site is arguably bigger and better than its last, it does feel sparse at points, with stages dotted few and far between. Where there are things happening, though, there’s an abundance: record fairs, talks, vintage clothes shopping, wellness sessions and even a roller skating rink.

Despite their slightly sporadic placement, you’re never at a loss when finding new stages, and there are always a few returning favourites from previous years. Rhythm Corner proved popular across the weekend with performances from the likes of T4T LUV NRG boss Eris Drew, who laid down a solid club and house-leaning vinyl set, or the much adored Space Afrika with a visually stunning live ambient performance.

The Lemon Lounge, an intimate spot for face-melting slammers, also consistently provides. A solo dub set from Joe Armon-Jones deployed bass face and dance moves unseen, one of his many performances over the weekend following his main stage set alongside Mala the evening prior. Garage legend EL-B also packed in a crowd with his wonky 2-step selections as punters eagerly peeled into the tent to get involved. We Out Here also celebrated 50 years of hip hop this year, pulling in heavy-hitting headliners including London rap star Knucks and the legendary US hip hop duo Black Star, who brought the festival to a thunderous close on Sunday night.

Read this next: EFG London Jazz Festival 30: The jazz-dance underground has broke into the mainstream

There were a handful of teething problems with the festival’s soundsystems this year, particularly at its new stages The Bowl and The Grove, but that’s sure to be expected when trialling a new location. It’s We Out Here’s music curation that sets it apart from the rest, and the reason it continues to sell out each year - you’d truly be hard pressed to find another like it, striking a balance between synchronal styles and sounds. Its dedicated and devoted community, often donned in Brawnswood, Lemon Lounge, and We Out Here merchandise, will be regulars here until the very end.

Tickets for We Out Here 2024 are on sale now. Grab yours here.

Photographs by Sienna Grey, Amy Fern, Perry Gibson, Rob Jones, Lauren Luxenberg

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

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