Three-day music festival, Tandem Festival, returned for a buzzing fifth year at Lower Farm in June.

Hundreds of music fans gathered for the three-day Tandem Festival, as it returned for a buzzing fifth year at Lower Farm, Ramsden over 21 – 23 June. Audiences enjoyed a programme of over 40 diverse musical acts across three stages and more than 80 workshops, talks & activities on environmental and social issues.

Headliners included the UK’s leading Afro-jazz collective, ​Nubiyan Twist​ who have previously performed on stages at Glastonbury and Boomtown; experimental psych four-piece ​The Evil Usses​; the ‘sun-drenched euphoric music’ of​ ​Me and My Friends​; critically acclaimed ​Tom Green Septet;​ the innovative Urdu Ghazal inspired music of Samia Malik and the queen of folk and political song herself​, Peggy Seeger​ ‘In Conversation’ about her life and work.

Jason Warner, photographer at GlassHertzPhoto, said​, “I have played and photographed numerous festivals and this year’s Tandem Festival was just the best line up I’ve ever experienced. Saturday in particular was just insane – performance after performance after performance.”

These bands were part of a huge programme of musical acts including jazz, experimental music, an orchestra, indie, electronic, DJs, afrobeat, and folk musicians from around the world sharing their cultures. A particular highlight was the genre-fusing techno ceilidh, with a late-night combo of clubbing and folk dancing to rave beats, electronics, jigs and reels from Edinburgh band, Yoko Pwno.

While big on entertainment value, the festival has eco and social issues at the heart, with this year’s programme including workshops and talks on DIY solar panels, effective activism, Hackstitch clothing repair and energy equality. They also went glitter-free in a move to support the Glitter is Litter campaign, including a talk on the topic.

Anna Dominey, attending on behalf of Daily Info Oxford, said​: ​”The measures taken to reduce waste are far from tokenistic: as well as reducing the festival’s carbon footprint to almost nothing, it was pleasing to wander among the natural delights of the festival site without seeing litter everywhere.”.

She added: “This is the kind of place where you will learn from and be inspired by others, rather than constantly dodging lairy revellers. Despite over 100 events filling the weekend’s programme, the set-up is carefully planned so that you never feel overwhelmed by the variety – there’s a sincerely chilled out vibe that encourages one to try lots of different things.”.

True to their values, the festival organised group cycles and Oxford Bus Company rides to and from site, minimised non-compostable waste and served food from specialty veggie/vegan food traders as well as supplying the Tandem Kitchen through Oxford Food Bank surplus and Cultivate Oxford. The festival volunteer team and Nightscapes Productions from the Netherlands, work hard to build magical installations, decorations and stunning stage spaces from reclaimed and upcycled materials, including water-saving compost toilets.

Festival goers commented that they’d been inspired to “generally be more environmentally conscious and to be more open to people, due to other people’s friendliness here.” Others said “I am inspired because all the solutions for toilet/showers/food genuinely work“ and “I’m already pretty green but this festival makes me want to do more”.

Hannah Openshaw, Co-founder of Watts Next, ​a charity that raises awareness of the links between energy, climate and migration, said, ‘This is the first festival we’ve run a workshop at and people have been so wonderful and given their all making loads of DIY solar-powered chargers to donate to refugees. The atmosphere is so creative. Tandem is a really good place to be.’

Ethno Englandv with post box

The festival also paid homage to Refugee Week (17 to 23 June) with a special performance from the Displaced Voices project​. Young refugee poets from Oxford Spires Academy gave a moving performance of their work alongside the Sinfonia Gaia community orchestra, to a specially composed backing track by Toby Young, conducted by Cayenna Ponchione.

Cayenna Ponchione said​, ​“The quality of the work they’ve produced has been hailed by all and has been a rich way for these students to process their extraordinary history. I feel very fortunate to have worked work with the four students as part of this programme.”

The festival’s strong participatory nature and community roots have enabled them to grow organically, year on year.

Glasshertz photography – Tandem Festival

Niko O’Brien, Tandem Festival crew and volunteer added​, “Tandem Festival is trying to show an alternative to corporate, wasteful festival culture. We are so lucky to have an amazing team of volunteers and community partners that shape the festival into a personal and eco-friendly yet absolutely banging event.

“We’ve partnered with so many organisations we would struggle to list them all here but special thanks go to Tap Social Movement, Oxford Food Bank, Oxford Contemporary Music, Share Oxford and their Library of Things, Cultivate Oxford, Oxford City Council, Soundwave Audio and Orinoco Scrapstore, without whom we would not have been able to run this event”.

The festival also partnered with Abingdon and Witney College this year to run skills camps on site, offering free training on things such as carpentry, lantern making and bulk cooking skills.

Hannah Jacobs, Tandem Festival crew and volunteer, said: “Tandem is all about creative people working together to bring about a diverse, inspiring programme with eco and social change at its heart. It’s been our busiest year yet and it’s been amazing to hear how much fun people have had dancing, listening, learning and creating.”

Bernard Morris, festival performer, added: “I’m feeling all warm and glowing at the end of the weekend. It seems like a big family in a way and everybody was really friendly from the outset.

“I was privileged enough to see the Ethno England show on Friday night and it was just astonishing. I’ve never seen 15 fiddles and 5 accordions on one stage. I was actually moved to tears it was that good!”

Sign us up for next year!