Festival Review

Houghton 2022: Worth the three year wait

by | Aug 20, 2022

© Photography by Jake Davis | Khroma Collective (www.instagram.com/khromacollective)

After an involuntary three-year hiatus, a Craig-Richards-curated Houghton was finally ON, and pressed ahead between 11-14th August in the beautiful Norfolk countryside.

With the set times dropping days before, itineraries were created across the thirteen stages and all eyes were on the weather forecast. Mother nature hasn’t always been kind to Richards, with the 2019 event cancelled due to extreme weather, but, this year there was 28+ degrees forecasted and festival goers were set to be treated to weather which was more akin to Mediterranean climates rather than the usual rainy British mediocrity.

When Thursday rolled around, tents were erected, and maps were drawn amongst groups of friends (due to the site being a signal-ness oasis). The evening welcomed the attendees with a glimpse of what the weekend would have in store: a selection of mythical woodland stages (notably, Earthling on Thursday really impressed) which accompanied captivating light effects and projections, alongside a decorated yurt-style stage in Stallions. Admittedly, switching between the two brought a slightly disorientating but enthralling sensation – a reminder that Houghton is finally back and already bringing the energy it has promised.

Friday continued the wave of what Houghton is really about: DJ’s doing what they love to do in the booth and the crowd mirroring their energy on the dance floor. Scottish DJ duo Optimo played an enormous, eclectic set at the “main stage”, the Derren Smart stage, which traversed between ascending and descending techno, to widely loved disco bops, before handing the reins to Seth Troxler. This stage’s setting is right next to the glistening lake, so when Ricardo Villalobos took the decks for the sunset slot, the atmosphere amongst the crowd was euphoric.

Longer timed sets allowed not only experimental exhibitions from DJs but also allowed attendees to catch glimpses of the talented roster that slightly overlapped or clashed; Binh at Earthling, Palms Trax at Warehouse, Francesco Del Garda at the Quarry and Craig Richards at the Pavillion were all worth the “excuse me’s” through the crowd, angling to get close to the front.

When Saturday folded in and the pangs of hunger struck, Houghton had supplied its guests with an eclectic mix of food choices, from mac & cheese, to falafel wraps and gyozas. Due to the smaller person capacity, the queues were not unbearable and reminded everyone why smaller festivals embody that community experience: no one gets too stressed and even in the heat, there aren’t too many people waiting for their coffee fix or first cold beer of the day.

© Photography by Daisy Denham (www.daisydenham.co.uk)

© Photography by Rob Jones | Khroma Collective (www.instagram.com/khromacollective)

Saturday held its own and had a huge lineup, with the likes of Shanti Celeste, Vladimir Ivkovic, and Pearson Sound. But by the end of Midland’s seamless set, Houghton had to face another weather battle; the UK had turned into a dust bowl, and Houghton’s woodland was a victim. Although the Outburst stage’s bark chipping flooring or the Old Gramophone’s covered dance floor was a relief, along with the efficient shower system installed, when the evening drew in, hearing Nicolas Lutz or Pangaea might mean you’ll get slightly covered by dust.

Yet, this never halted or hindered the atmosphere, but became a frustration that was usurped by the unique, 24 hour music licence. After Helena Hauff finished, revellers commuted to the ‘secret stage’ at Terminus, located just outside the campsite.The journey allowed them to capture the saturated sunrise on their morning commute (a bit better than the Northern Line) and to join the hidden immersive collective known as the late night crew.

As the Sunday morning light appeared, the low murmur of a bassline tranced the goers, almost like a snake charmer, directing them where to go next. Whether that was seeking solace in the wellness area where the bean bags and shaded patches had become places to rest heads in the cool, or on to continue the party at the next stage.

The final day closed off with a myriad of sound genres. Peach seized the energy of the crowd with her track selection, followed by Ben UFO’s unforgettable set which reaffirmed his big hitter status. When Joy Orbison took the last slot at the main stage, everyone knew they were in for a treat – offering a combination of dubstep, drill, grime and house, he delivered an enormous mix. Whereas, at Stallions was Bill Brewster, whose legacy and renowned talent in the booth sparked a vivacious crowd.

Drawing the festival to a close, there is a great appreciation for the weekend Craig Richards and his team curated. Whether you’re taking a breather and spending the afternoon dining with grilled artichokes and wild mushroom risotto at The Turntable and Napkin, Houghton’s floating restaurant, or committing to your all-nighter starting at the container stage of Tantrum and ending the night chilling on the Old Gramophone floor; you can do Houghton as you would like. This is a festival I would recommend to anyone who asks; from the elite sound system to the idyllic location, I am glad that despite the past streak of bad luck, things have turned around.

I can’t wait for next year.

© Photography by Rob Jones for Khroma Collective (www.instagram.com/khromacollective)