“Are you guys having a good time?” was a question asked by pretty much every performer at Field Day (and probably every festival across the world, ever) last weekend in London.
I was there with the illustrator Joey Yu, running around and documenting all the details that make up a festival: sing-along fans, security guards and pale teenage boys drinking cans of lager and lying on the grass. When not at shows or meetings, I’m wandering around on my own really. It’s an experience I don’t think I’ve ever had, being solo in an area filled with congregated friendship groups to a capacity of 35,000. But it’s not necessarily lonely, it’s quite nice, and made me see with fresh eyes all the details of how joyful a weekend in the park with your mates can be.
Watching DJs and bands is obviously the main objective at a festival and one Joey had prime access too, perched in “the pit” alongside photographers’ quick flashing cameras, but instead her equipment was paper and pencils, precariously balanced on a plastic folder.
“I tend to stay very focused when I’m drawing, so I sort of forget where I am,” Joey tells me about what she’s thinking in these scenarios. In one instance on the Saturday, she’s invited on stage to draw grime artist AJ Tracey, an insane experience and definite highlight. “Drawing on stage was unbelievable,” she says. “He got the audience to start moshing and I can’t say I’ve ever seen a mosh pit from on stage before. I was thinking, should I be drawing this? Or shall I just pause for a second and watch because it’s such a rare opportunity?”
In between shows – especially at a day-only festival like Field Day – we witnessed a brilliant flurry of people joining toilet queues and buying burgers, and other punters absolutely pegging it to the next stage to see who’s on next. In these moments Joey was people watching, illustrating frivolously in a style that shows the energetic movement of different people at a festival; whether they’re jumping in a crowd, jumping at the site of a friend they haven’t seen in years, or jumping the lengthy queue at the bar.
Over the two days, I’m constantly stunned by how quick at drawing Joey is, holding two to three pencils in hand at once and switching tools consistently. The results of our weekend are illustrations that mirror the festival experience: busy for sure, a little bit messy in parts but with layer upon layer of fun.
“I love people watching,” Joey explains when discussing different festivals, “seeing the different tribes of festival goers and the mix of people who go to see different music. So much interaction happens when everyone is on the same level. One year at Bestival I found myself in a fish and chip van late into the evening with my friend after losing the rest of our gang. We left with free chips and the shop’s signs they’d made…”
Over the two days several performers were also kind enough to pose for a portrait from Joey too. Sweet conversations ensued about what they’re up to at the moment, how they feel about the upcoming performance, or the one they just did. “From chatting to Mr Jukes sitting serenely outside his cabin before he performed, to the constant stream of people going to and from different tents, the energy varied hugely, which was fun to capture,” Joey says.
From a line-up that boasted bands such as Lee Field and the Expressions, Mount Kimbie, Princess Nokia, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Daniel Avery, one performer everyone was shouting about was Erykah Badu’s performance on the Friday night. It was the next evening though that she made a surprise performance, as Joey explains: “I also loved watching Erykah Badu of course on the Friday, but didn’t expect her to appear randomly halfway though Thundercat’s set dancing on stage! The hype man of our dreams!” While a festival always has a tendency to be unexpected, it’s moments like this when you see a hero dancing along to a band just like you are, when it all comes together.
“Are you guys having a good time?” Yes, we are actually. Thanks for asking.