Review by Adrian Peel with photography courtesy of Lee Millward

Day three of the inaugural Cool Britannia Festival brings the memories flooding back…

Boasting some of the biggest names in British rock and pop from the last 30 years, the Cool Britannia Festival was a three-day event held at legendary venue Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire from Friday, 31st August (though the opening day showcased slightly lesser-known acts) to Sunday, 2nd September.

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Headlining on the Saturday were The Happy Mondays, while Ocean Colour Scene closed out the day on the Sunday. Ahead of them were the recently reformed Razorlight. Long before that, The South got the proceedings under way at 2pm, kicking off a long afternoon’s worth of nostalgia.

Including former members of The Beautiful South, singer Alison Wheeler and saxophonist-turned-vocalist Gaz Birtles, The South got the crowd dancing and singing along to timeless pop masterpieces such as You Keep It All In, Don’t Marry Her and Rotterdam. It was also nice to hear A Little Time done in its original way (Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott do a blusier take on it in their live show).

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Next up were Space, a Liverpool band who achieved success in the mid-90s with catchy tunes like Female of the Species and Neighbourhood. Referring to Cool Britannia as a “F***in’ boss fezzy [festival],” singer Tommy Scott was every inch the unpredictable and charismatic frontman, going into the crowd during Female of the Species and starting to climb up the rigging at the side of the stage. Only the insistence of the group’s tour manager stopped him from going any further.

Heather Small, the distinctively voiced singer with popular dance act M People, provided a nice alternative to all the guitar-based music of the day. Hits like Sight for Sore Eyes, Search for the Hero and Moving on Up were very warmly received. Small thanked the crowd for watching all the earlier bands, stating proudly: “We’re all Cool Britannia.”

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One of this writer’s favourite bands, the criminally underrated Liverpudlian outfit Cast, followed Ms Small on the main stage – though it was immediately clear that singer and chief songwriter John Power was less than happy with the sound quality.

Nevertheless, the buoyant quartet treated the audience to some of their biggest hits, including Sandstorm, Walkaway, Guiding Star, Finetime and Alright. Ahead of the sublime Live the Dream, Power noted that the song was now 21 years old. Although there was a range of ages represented, it’s probably safe to say that most of the people there would have remembered the song first time around.

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Speaking to Gig Junkies after the set, while Embrace were entertaining the crowd, Power said that despite the problems with the sound, he had very much enjoyed the day. “You could take the Cool Britannia festival around the world – as long as we were involved in it!” he said. “There’s a lot of great music, a lot of great bands and a lot of good vibes.”

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