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A Magazine for Sheffield
Live / stage review

A better future: No Bounds Festival 2022

With an eclectic set of venues ranging from the Cathedral to a grimy rave cave, the sixth edition of No Bounds offered a programme that was both inspiring and life-affirming.

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Working Men's Club at No Bounds 2022.

Wayne Hoyle.

Being roused by a gentle shake of the shoulder, I quickly realise that, as my leg involuntarily kicks what feels like another person in close proximity, I’m laid on the floor of a very crowded room. Then comes the greater realisation that, as opposed to having crashed at some random afters, I’m actually prone within the majestic confines of Sheffield Cathedral, albeit in a side room. It’s the final day of the sixth No Bounds Festival, a distinctly idiosyncratic happening that has seen its reach and influence grow with each annual iteration. Debbie Chia, a notable international practitioner of immersive light and sound experiences, is keen to check that I’ve returned to the land of the living. To experience moments such as this, as well as many others, from an imaginatively and intelligently curated programme of mind-expanding electronica is indeed both life-affirming and inspiring.

On the face of it, the Cathedral may not feel like the most fitting setting for an event that attracts techno fans and DJs from around the world; there is palpable curiosity and anticipation evident in the queue beforehand. Once inside, the illuminated ‘Peace Doves’ art installation is an unexpectedly apt and breathtaking centrepiece at the heart of the evening’s proceedings with its messages of love and hope from people and communities of all faiths and backgrounds. Certainly, the consideration of a temporary autonomous collective manifesting a better future is an overarching theme that underpins much of the weekend’s activity.

The complexity of the questions being posed is manifest in the festival’s audacious initiation that combines the stark social realism of Preston drill don Blackhaine with the experimental world premiere of local live coders and performers Patterns in Between Intelligences. The exalted environment and intense production set an extremely high bar for the remainder of the weekend and create a genuinely moving and visually compelling spectacle. There’s also drones buzzing around – actually inside the Cathedral. The attention to detail and what must have been months of intricate planning has to be admired.

There’s a wealth of workshops and installations for attendees who manage to successfully negotiate the late night activities on offer at Hope Works, a well-respected and established stalwart of Sheffield’s warehouse rave spaces. The most popular of these involves rare access to the iconic brutalist Moore Street Substation that, to the disappointment of some, books up extremely quickly. However, there’s plenty more to occupy enquiring, if not weary, minds including emerging local artist Mikk Murray providing insight into his process and practice within Ecclesall Woods – a wonderful setting to dwell upon our connectedness from the perspective of nature. Then our main underground venues – Bal Fashions, Delicious Clam, DINA, Plot 22 and Dorothy Pax – all get involved with diverse line-ups, and their proximity to both the Cathedral and Hope Works acts as an inclusive itinerary and ingenious introduction to those unfamiliar with the local scene.

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No Bounds 2022.

Wayne Hoyle.

Fast-forward to the early hours of Sunday morning and I’m joined by LTJ Bukem’s entourage as Craig Richards brings his set to a close. Being in the presence of two artists whose seminal albums (Logical Progression and the first Fabric mix release respectively) were of huge importance is a dream come true. Possibly sensing my excitement as well as witnessing an uncoordinated flailing of limbs and finger pointing, Bukem’s team generously take it upon themselves to keep me hydrated as his set brings back happy memories from the mid-nineties.

Following the aforementioned hypnagogic disco slumber, it’s back into the Cathedral where pews are now gratefully in place as Rotherham-based producer and experimental artist Mark Fell leads a series of beautifully restrained yet emotionally resonant pieces. The evening’s exploits compel one final push back to Hope Works for the closing party, just in time for a live set from the “heavenly sound of young Yorkshire” Working Men’s Club. Their recent album and accompanying remixes are expertly recreated and distorted, crafting future anthems that, although electronic, convey heart-thumping humanity. Fittingly, it’s over to local DJ Charla Green, whose productions have deservingly garnered widespread critical attention, along with festival head honcho Liam O’Shea, to bring proceedings to a glorious conclusion.

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