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Live Review: Mighty Hoopla 2023 – 3rd & 4th June 2023 – Brockwell Park, London, UK

11 min read
We took to Brockwell Park this past weekend for the latest Mighty Hoopla - our favourite event of the year. Our full weekend review....

After a few years of attending, it’s very easy to say that Mighty Hoopla is our very favourite event of the year, so let’s just get that out there right from the very start!

Hailed as the most popular queer music festival in the UK (and possibly the world), Mighty Hoopla has welcomed some of the biggest and best in the global pop world to it’s near dozen stages over the last fews years. It’s stellar, camp line-up will tick many boxes on any pop aficionados pop bucket list over the course of it’s annual two days in London’s Brockwell Park. The likes of Steps, Sugababes, Cheryl, All Saints and hundreds of others have dominated the event, leaving a lasting impression on the LGBT scene.

Photo by Luke Dyson

This year’s line-up was equally as spectacular as previous years with a fresh batch of pop royalty helping the LGBT community ring in Pride Month for 2023 in true flamboyant style and the weather was definitely on our side on both days, allowing for plenty of glitter, sparkle and for many, as little clothing as was lawfully possible.

SATURDAY

Arriving to Brockwell Park at a little after 12.30pm, we collected our passes and swiftly made our way to catch one of our favourite rising pop artists, Rose Gray perform a colourful set on the main stage. Donning a ginger with bleached fringe hairstyle very similar to an early Spice Girls era Geri Halliwell and dressed in a stylishly tattered outfit complete with corset, the singer delivered a number of catchy gems including new single Happiness, with it’s Groove Is In The Heart sampling, Prettier Than You and Ecstasy and looking every bit the confident, stage dominating pop star that can easily command a festival main stage so early on in an already bright career.

Sticking around the main stage field with a cold cider in hand, we gathered in anticipation for one of the final additions to this years festival line-up and a powerhouse of pop that came in the Irish form of Girls Aloud lead singer, Nadine Coyle. After managing to get a series of snaps from the stages photo pit, we joined our dancing friends in the audience to bust some moves to a string of Girls Aloud hits that included Sexy! No, No, No, Call The Shots and Sound of the Underground as well as a solid medley of nostalgic GA numbers and the occasional solo hit such as Go To Work. Before closing her daytime slot with a performance of Biology where she welcomed on stage the famous Sink The Pink dancers, the singer, who looked absolutely stunning in a green dress and black coat, laughed with the crowd as she made jokes about getting a new passport; “I got a new passport recently. People now know my real age”, she confessed to fans; a nod to her famous exit from Popstars in 2001.

Photo by Brendon Veevers

The main stage certainly seemed to be the place to be for the start of the years festivities as Danish pop outfit AQUA were given a very warm welcome from the Mighty Hoopla punters as they took to the event with full force and a giant pink and blue boombox that served as visual candy to the band who dominated the field with their bubble-gum brand of power pop. Classics from Lollipop, ballad Turn Back Time and Roses are Red joined sophomore album hits Cartoon Heroes and Around The World and fans lapped every song up with eagerness. It was signature hit Barbie Girl however that was the show stealer; the video of the 90’s earworm displaying behind the band and the trio encouraging the packed field of onlookers to sing at the top of their lungs to the chorus of one of the most catchy and successful hits in pop music.

Photo by Brendon Veevers

Samantha Mumba fans were ecstatic to see the welcome return of one of the early noughties most promising – yet immediately reclusive pop stars as she took to the Candy Crush stage. Complete with a large dance troupe and eye-catching black and white leather outfits, the singer took us right back to the year 2000 and her only studio album as she powered through singles Gotta Tell Ya, Body II Body, Baby Come On Over, Always Come Back To Your Love and Lately, with a costume change to a figure hugging one piece with hanging gold jewellery thrown into the mix. Mumba also announced to the crowd that she had “something special for today” before offering fans new single, The Lie.

The festival site at this point was pretty packed. Moving between stages anywhere on the site was becoming pretty impossible and quite slow to make it to acts that we wanted to see but we did manage to get back to the main stage in time to catch a couple of songs from early nougties star, Natasha Bedingfield who donned a silver jumpsuit and offered up These Words, a spectacular cover of Prince’s Purple Rain, and closing Unwritten which had the entire site belting away.

Photo by Luke Dyson

Because of the struggle to move from stage to stage, we decided to nestle into the increasingly engorged main stage audience for the rest of the night. And we were pretty happy we did so because of the meaty RnB fueled set delivered by American superstar, Kelis. Nostalgia was out in full force on numbers like Caught Out There, Get Along With You and Good Stuff, while Milkshake and her collaboration with Calvin Harris on Bounce more than satisfied the Kelis-hungry audience. Donning a figure-hugging full length lime green dress, the RnB icon closed with her more recent club-floor filler, Acapella and had the field of fans bouncing to the infectious electro-beat that reverberated throughout the park.

As the time drew closer to the first headlining act of the weekend, the main stage field started to becoming tight with fans flooding in to see one of the music’s most celebrated stars. As her former band mate, Beyonce took to the stage of Tottenham Stadium across town, the Mighty Hoopla crowd were gearing up for Kelly Rowland to take us through some of music’s most successful singles – and that she did as she took to the stage at around 9.45pm to a roaring reception as mammoth hits, Commander and Nelly collab, Dilemna found their place very early on in the set; the Destinys Child icon dressed in a black catsuit and shiny black jacket.

Photo by Luke Dyson

With air jets shooting up from the front of the stage and choreography as tight as they come, Rowland gave the crowd a stellar performance of solo hits and a career spanning collection of Destiny’s Child juggernauts including Say My Name, Bills Bills Bills, Bootylicious, and the anthemic Survivor all served up and fitting to the massive arena that she was dominating, despite being fairly brief offerings.

A full throttle performance of solo hit Work got the crowd sweaty as they danced along to the superstars incredible on stage moves and some homegrown seasoning with Calvin Harris capped the night in true club-floor fashion as she tore through When Love Takes Over – one of her most successful solo singles –  with ease and vocal perfection.

SUNDAY

With the sun beaming down even harder in the park on Sunday, suntan lotion was a must and I was slightly regretful about the complete lack of sleep I inflicted on myself due to the various Saturday after parties I attended, but it was back to Brockwell Park for Day 2 of Mighty Hoopla and just in time for one of our favourite rising pop icons, Dagny.

Dressed in an eye-catching black and white number and knee-high white boots, the electro-pop princess got the growing main stage crowd into happy festival spirits with some of the most radio friendly numbers of the last several years; Wearing Nothing seemed almost too perfectly appropriate for the event and got a giggle from the crowd as the singer introduced the number while hits rolled off her confident prowling of the stage with Somebody, Heartbreak In The Making and Bye Bye Baby all getting the crowd singing along.

Photo by Brendon Veevers

Heading over toward the Candy Crush stage, we managed to catch the closing of 90’s Eurodance act, SNAP! offer a tribute to Tina Turner in the form of a cover of Simply The Best along with the acts signature hit, Rhythm Is A Dancer before getting a quick snack in one of the many food stalls dotted around the park before venturing back to the main stage to watch a small section of recent Eurovision winner, Loreen deliver her two Eurovision winning numbers, Euphoria and Tattoo.

Now, I am, admittedly, a bit of a stickler for new music. The majority of what I listen to is made up of playlists containing the likes of nostalgic acts like Aqua, Steps, Sugababes, Samantha Mumba and many of the nostalgic acts the Mighty Hoopla have generously offered us over the years. Every now and then something new will prick up my ears and really get my attention. Lately, a few new acts like Dagny and Rose Gray have won me over with their brand of electro-pop but it is without doubt the effortless coolness of Confidence Man that has knocked me over with their catchy quirkiness and their performance on the main stage on Sunday has made it to the Top 5 of all time favourite live performances. A big feat given the 500+ shows I’ve attended in my life so far.

With two albums under their belt, the brother sister duo delivered the best performance of the weekend as they captivated the tightly packed main stage field with a set that included Break It Bought It, Feels Like A Different Thing, C.O.O.L Party with its Village People style arm movements, Don’t You Know I’m In A Band and infectious Holiday; all complete with dance moves that would be considered cheesy by anyone else. Instead the duo were the epitome of C.O.O.L as they gyrated in rhythm with their clocked keyboardist and drummer and we’re in complete sync with each other as they drew in the crowd and even encourage the entire field to crowd down and spring up to the beat of Boyfriend (Repeat). At the end of the groups performance following a collaboration with Sink The Pink dancers for a cover of Bryan Adams’ Heaven, the crowd stood around gazing at each other with looks on their faces that simply said “I just witnessed something truly special”. Absolutely mind-blowing.

Photo by Brendon Veevers

Any festival goer will share a similar frustration when talking about festivals. The horrendous toilets will always be at the top of the list, followed by the price of food, but a frustration shared by most is the fact that there will always be acts that you desperately want to see but who are playing at the same time on different stages. Thankfully when it comes to Mighty Hoopla, the Main Stage and the Candy Crush Stage, which are resident to the bulk of the mainstream acts on the line-up, are positioned relatively close to each other but it does still mean you will often miss portions, if not all, of some sets. That was the case with Lisa Scott-Lee. As a huge Steps fan I was gutted to miss the pint-sized brunette of the group who is set to release a 20th anniversary reissue of her fabulous solo debut album, Never or Now, late in 2023. Next time Lisa, I promise.

Back on the main stage, Scissor Sisters icon, Jake Shears, who was celebrating the release of his latest solo studio album, Last Man Dancing which came out two days prior. In the spirit of new albums, the impressive vocalist offered a buzzing crowd new numbers from the record, but it was his Scissor Sisters accomplishments like Take Your Mama and I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ that really got the overflowing main stage grounds moving and belting back, word for word the early noughties pop gems.

Photo by Luke Dyson

Back at Candy Crush we caught the opening segment of party act Vengaboys set. Within the start of the set we managed to hear colourful renditions of Boom Boom, Boom, We’re Going To Ibiza, Shalala Lala and Kiss When The Sun Don’t Shine, all complete with cartoonish visuals on the giant screen that served as a backdrop to the stage, but felt a little let down by too many non-Venga hits like Macarena and I Gotta Feeling so we decided to take off and venture around the massive south London space that Mighty Hoopla had taken over to check out the food stalls, shops and various other stages and performances spaces that hosted hilarious drag shows, karaoke and the usual muscle boys that made the giant blue dance tent their domain over the weekend.

Photo by Luke Dyson

After a bit of a breather we headed back to the Candy Crush stage to catch the incredible Sophie Ellis-Bextor perform some of her most well-loved pop treasures including Take Me Home, Murder on the Dancefloor, Get Over You and one of her later singles, Hypnotized. Always a favourite on the live circuit, the singer, who, just like Shears, released her new album Hana on Friday, delivered a truly stellar set to a very welcoming Candy Crush crowd.

The day was long and the night was upon us and so we decided to skip seeing Moloko singer Roisin Murphy with huge regret. With so many acts to cram into a day and the blisters on our feet starting to take us down a peg or two – as well as the fact we had gotten zero sleep between festival days, we laid back on the grass as the sun began its gradual descent and waited for the headlining act to take to the main stage.

Photo by Luke Dyson

Years and Years were given the closing honours of this years instalment of Mighty Hoopla and what a closing it was – even complete with the partial reuniting of one of the pop worlds most adored girl groups.

Opening with recent singles, Night Call and Sweet Talker, Olly Alexander drove through a memorable set of back catalogue hits that included Play, Desire and a stunning rendition of Pet Shop Boys hit, It’s A Sin (and homage to his acting triumph in the LGBT aimed series of the same name) before welcoming back Jake Shears to the stage for a brilliant duet of Scissor Sisters hit, Filthy/Gorgeous.

Photo by Luke Dyson

Nearing the end of a 21 song closing set, the mini-reunion of Girls Aloud saw members Kimberly Walsh and Nicola Roberts join Alexander for a memorable two-song collaboration of GA hits, Call The Shots and The Promise with many in the crowd voicing a desire to see the girl group do a potential reunion on perhaps next years Mighty Hoopla main stage. With Cheryl already previously headlining the event in the past and now with Nadine, Kimberly and Nicola now finding their foot on the same stage over the course of this latest Hoopla, the time might just be perfect!

Yet again, Mighty Hoopla proved to be the best weekend we have had since last years event, hands down. A mixture of nostalgia, new music, fashion, glitter, amazing food and love that is soaked through to its very core, the festival is the highlight of the LGBT calendar and with tickets now on sale for the 2024 weekend, we are now back to counting down the days to the next phenomenal Mighty Hoopla!