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Peace in the Park: 4TH JUNE PONDEROSA PARK

If Sheffield's cultural landscape was a monarchy, then Peace in the Park would be one of its crown jewels, a true idyll of peace and a bastion of freedom of expression. Some might say this article is a polemic, that it is biased; and they'd be right. I think this festival is better than sandals and all organised religion put together. There is enough commercialism already in the world, and there are quite enough individuals prepared to sell their values for the price of a cheap thrill, but the organisers of this event are not among that growing throng who seek to perpetuate the fallacy of a 'broken society'. As a wise man once said: "What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?" I arrived late because my friend thought it was a good idea to put washing up liquid in her dish washer, so if you ever doubt the efficiency of Fairy Liquid, don't. The first band I saw were Double No No, who electrified my being. If you ever get the chance to see them, you won't be disappointed. Next up were Mother Folkers, who I must say were a bit of a disappointment. The first song was discordant and when they pronounced that the guitarist had never practised with them before, that explained a lot. Strong singing from the front women compelled a throbbing and amenable crowd, but the instruments were a bit rough and ready. The thing that struck me about the next band Twins was a man with Down's Syndrome who danced at the front on his own, gliding elegantly, moving his arms and legs in the air serenely, capturing the essence of this festival magnificently - peace, freedom and love. The band themselves were a compact unit with a powerful singer, a tight rhythm section, keys and a sax, playing songs that get you in the groove. The Banana Flavoured Dub Cats were a funky fusion that delighted the musical palate, juxtaposed by an assortment of children in front of the stage spinning hoopla whoops, with a mischievous human cow walking around causing havoc. The BCR 103.1FM stage showcased MCs and DJs from the Burngreave area. This is a community radio station that should be commended for engaging with young people at a time when far too many in society seem hell bent on talking them down. It was a stage for teenagers and they appreciated it gladly. Too young for the main stage, too old for the children's area - this was their time and they loved it. Treebeard played a solo set, with his own brand of English folk in an earnest manner. The acoustic tent was far too out of the way though, and the acts I saw here deserved much bigger audiences. On the Opus Stage, Mantra Rhythms proffered an enchanting fusion of reggae and dub which really got the people bopping. The musicianship was strong as the set built to a crescendo. Renegade Brass Band blew my mind as ever with an explosion of ska and horns. As clouds appeared the mood did not abate and the view from the hill was sublime. Sitting by the 'Peace' sign up on high, the atmosphere was joyous and content. 7 Black Tentacles opened to a warm reception. As my friend Ben stood next to me and unleashed a wild torrent of bubbles from his little pot, they flew over the crowd and continued in swirled motifs of appreciation as the vibes got better and better. King Capisce are a bombastic band who managed to avoid all the cliches of the saxophone, provoking the audience into a harmonious semblance of recognition. Slamboree headlined the main stage. A self proclaimed neo-Balkan rave circus, King Mojo introduced them with a true Tom Waits drawl. As they played their first song, the electric beat blossomed into life with all the verve and intensity that Peace in the Park could muster. The human cow from earlier appeared again, which freaked me out but I composed myself and danced on. Others flooded the stage too as the tent worked its way into a frenzy. A drum and bass version of a Yann Tiersen classic boomed out while a gothic woman stood on stage and played with fire, licked it - hell, did all sorts of things with it. As the whole of Sheffield came together for this final act, a resplendent spirit was manifest across the assembled masses which rose as the noise perforated every molecule of air in the tent. At this moment I was struck by an overwhelming sense of unity, as a communal understanding seemed to sweep through the tent. Everyone had come together to celebrate the same thing - peace. )

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