This last year has been wrought with fake news, political upheavals and a general mistrust of media and government. Byline, a brand new festival described as a “protest against fake news and alternative facts”, might just be the antidote needed to restore faith in an otherwise battered and bruised UK media.

Taking place at the beginning of June in Pippingford Park, East Sussex, Byline celebrates free speech and independent journalism against the backdrop of Ashdown Forest. The three-day festival, made up of discussion panels, workshops, children’s activities, comedy and live music, attracted bands including The Blow Monkeys, comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli, and guest speakers including Martin Bell OBE, Andy Hamilton, Joanna Scanlan and the BBC’s John Sweeney, who described the festival as a gathering of the “free, uncontrolled spirits of British journalism.” 

Panel discussions in the festival’s three largest tents – The Media Circus, The Echo Chamber and The Data Dome – included topics from ‘Political Coverage is Broken’ to ‘People Power’ and ‘Print’s Not Dead: The Rise of the Small Magazine’, along with workshops covering everything from ‘Guerrilla Podcast Making’ to ‘What they don’t teach you at journalism school.’

“I haven’t really seen or heard of anything like this before,” said one festival attendee in a video posted to Byline’s website.

“The timing’s perfect,” he continues, “as well with what’s going on outside in the media and outside this festival, it’s really good to get everyone together and talk about it in a more open forum with like-minded people.”

John Cleese, who hosted this year’s Bad Press Awards at Byline, said of the festival’s co-directors, journalist and screenwriter Peter Jukes and Marketing and Events Director Stephen Colegrave: “I think they’re doing an absolutely incredible job. [This] is a way of supporting and encouraging them, because we’ve got to have more people out there telling the truth.”

After the success of this first festival, Byline 2018 has already been announced and is planned to be even bigger and better, with a four-day ‘riot of independent journalism, ideas, comedy and free speech’ planned for August next year.

“We were pleased that so many people enjoyed Byline and thought it was fulfilling a need for a festival that wants to improve journalism and root out its failings,” Stephen Colegrave told us.

“It was good to see so many people discussing and tackling big issues in a fantastic forest festival setting. Whatever the press barons think, we are not going away and will be coming back bigger and better in August 2018.”

A limited number of ‘Abnormally Early Bird’ tickets for Byline Festival 2018 are available now from just £45 for adults and £7.50 for children. Journalism students can also volunteer in return for a further discount. Get ‘em while you can.

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Danielle Mustarde