No Speakers in the Outfield: A Saturday Stroll Around London’s Victoria Park

[Ed. note: Tens of thousands of music fans were supposed to be at London’s Victoria Park this past Saturday, where they would’ve seen Gang of Youths perform during the second weekend of All Points East. It’s one of the UK’s newest music festivals — and already honored as one of the best. The coronavirus pandemic forced organizers to cancel the festival, but Gang of Youths fan Samuel Draper spent the day at Victoria Park, anyway. He shares the experience below for DeepestSighs.com.]

The weather is gorgeous, there’s people together and having fun, and there are still snatches of music — one man with a guitar on the grass, someone else blasting something I don’t recognise as they ride past on a bike. But it’s not a festival.

This is Victoria Park in London, it’s Saturday 30th May, and it would have been the All Points East (APE) festival if it wasn’t for COVID-19. Seeing Gang of Youths (and The Kooks, The Wombats and more) in the sun was not meant to be.

Instead, it remains a normal park, with sunbathers, picnic eaters, and people playing football while obeying social distancing rules. None of this would be happening if the festival had set up.

But it’s not safe to run shows yet, especially large festival gatherings. Maybe one day we will have to jump to “Magnolia” in hazmat-style suits, or stand two metres away as Dave runs through the audience, but we’re not there yet.

Instead, it’s this, a contrast from the same Saturday one year previously, when APE saw sets from GOY friends like Mumford & Sons and Gretta Ray dominating one of the capital’s biggest stages.

As I walked around, I remembered the little things about festivals which won’t happen this summer, good and bad.

No security is going to stop me from having bottlecaps, or unsealed bottles of soft drinks.

I’m not going to wonder what a band will play in a shortened set — will there be new songs?

I’m not going to play the game of watching a changeover between acts and guessing which band has which roadie. That might not be as fun, anyway. I’d recognise guitar tech Stuart Dew, who the band have said they are proud to have stolen from Nothing But Thieves.

Festivals are a great way to pack lots of music in, and find new acts. I make it seven festival cancellations for GOY this spring and summer, and lots of acts have been hit way worse. That’s thousands of people who would have seen Dave, Max, Donnie, Jung, and Tom, but now won’t.

At first, this made me sad. Then I realised there’s no time limit to becoming a Gang of Youths fan. Next time, next summer, whenever live experiences come back, they’ll be there. Dave sings about making the most of the moment, “our time is short” and other clichés, but I think living without it for now will make the return a little bit special.

On the edge of Victoria Park was the People’s Park Tavern, serving takeaway alcohol and food. Did I join a long queue for a cold cider and an overpriced portion of fries? Of course I did. What about it? It’s festival season.

About the Author

Samuel Draper is a journalist from east London. He has been a Gang of Youths fan since “What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?” in early 2017. His passions include music, writing, and walking around aimlessly, which made this easy to put together. You can find him on Twitter and/or Instagram.