Why The Ends Festival matters

With summer on the horizon, The Ends festival made its debut on the annual roster all the way from Croydon’s, Lloyd Park. Promising a weekend of block party vibes with global headliners, The Ends aim was to put London’s black culture on the pedestal it deserves. Over 3 days, the line-ups took goers from rap, afrobeats (and it’s afroswing counterpart) to a soulful end – merging genres many of us have seen grow and chart before our very eyes. From my glimpse of Saturday and Sunday’s festivities – The Ends was able to entrench a sense of community within London’s black demographic, along with an authenticity enabled by the presence of brands many of us recognise as our own. Replacing the importation of gentrified brands touting repackaged products, their selection of vendors reflected the vibrancy of South London’s Afro-Caribbean community and created a true representation of exactly what many of us refer to when we talk about “The Ends”. Such a niche experience is at times difficult to account for in words alone, but an attempt still captures some of its vibrancy.

As part of the re-emergence of black music live events around the capital, The Ends was a much needed culmination of a variety of day parties that have cropped up in the past year. Among these emerging names; Recess, Days Like This, Your Mum’s House and RollerVibe, are the best parties and club nights for the 21+ bracket who are looking to enjoy nightlife that isn’t heavily policed, affordable and promises enjoyment with similar young professionals. Historically, black music has a legacy of heavy police presence and hostile venue management that makes establishing any kind of long-lasting nightlife brand difficult. However, the ability of new innovators to navigate these obstacles has birthed new forms of enjoyment and The Ends is yet another ambitious take on this trend.

Treading the slightly less popular path of splitting each successive day across genre themed acts, line-up segmentation is probably the easiest way for marketers and those within the live events industry to pitch the festival. For attendees, it equally provides an easy visualiser for the dates one wants to attend the ones they can afford to miss. Saturday and Sunday were global in their appeal – headlining the likes of Wizkid, NSG, Maleek Berry and Wande Coal followed by Burna Boy, Masego, Nao and IAMDDB the next day. Saturday night was the real climax, with One Acen taking his crowd control to the literal maximum of falling off stage. Wizkid’s stage presence was larger than life itself, amplified by his accompaniment by NSG following the charting success of singles Options and OT Bop. A true superstar, his performance was an unforgettable highlight. Sunday was a calmer wind down, briefly injected with Burna Boy’s infectious energy before mellowing out for Masego’s heartfelt jazzy fusion. The centre stages heavy drawing of crowds detracted from the smaller tents of ‘Ends and Friends’, more so from the smallest ‘Future Stage’ - unfortunately unavoidable with the presence of such big acts and their bangers.

However, placing a festival of such monumental size in the lacklustre commuter belt town of Croydon has its blowback. As a reflection of the town’s limited transport connections, the commute is trying for those of us who might otherwise prefer the ease provided by the Underground to more central locations such as Finsbury Park for Lovebox and Victoria Park for Lovebox respectively. Distance can whittle down attendee numbers, especially when temperamental British weather comes into play. Ironically, Britain is a nation used to rain yet there is a stark refusal for some of us to embrace it when attending festivals. Luckily, by Saturday a steady enough stream of sunlight was enough to create a true summer feeling. More so, being the ‘first’ out of the blocks of the major festivals calendar renders The Ends a rookie runner. With bigger capital (and nationwide) festivals following its date, the rookie runner can at times suffer the stuttered beginning and awkwardness of attendees who are just getting acquainted with summer, meaning the vibe may appear slightly damper when compared to larger contenders in retrospect.

The Ends’ debut has shown that it is able to secure both the right acts and match them with the right crowd. It is not wishful thinking to hope that it can continue well into the future as an authentic, organic operation. The team behind its establishment seem to have their hearts in the right place and with the financial support such a feat often demands, it can surely carve itself out a place as one of London’s best summer festivals. Time, however, will be the true test of this. A strong start indicates future promise for The Ends and those of us invested in its progress.