Review: London Electronic Arts Festival

Brought together by Rob Da Bank and co-founder Ben Turner, the London Electronic Arts Festival (LEAF) took place across the Capital from 7-10th November. Combining talks, installations and parties the festival focused on “exploring and reclaiming” London’s electronic music scene – move over Berlin.

Spindle had a pass to all events at the HUB, located at Shoreditch Electric Light Station whilst external events included performances from Giorgio Moroder, The Bloody Beetroots and Syrian musician Omar Soyleyman. I hadn’t heard of Omar and enjoyed this:

We headed to LEAF on Saturday and found ourselves in the top studio. Despite the small room and pretty strange crowd (wearing sunglasses and a patent bomber is unacceptable), the music was what we came for and it didn’t disappoint. Rob Da Bank kicked off, followed by Happa, MK and finally Eats Everything. The whole three hour experience was live streamed on Boiler Room and will be up soon. Here is the link for when it does: Boiler Room LEAF set.

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Rob Da Bank Set

We then went to see the Dinos Chapman installation, Luftbobler. Featuring a series of short films, the installation emphasises the relationship between electronic music and art. The films were abstract and blurry and reflected the disjointed, electronic music. Whilst some felt they were transported into a dream-like state I wanted to run out. A scene involving a human dressed as a rabbit played out and it was absolutely terrifying.

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Here is a short clip from Luftbobler (no creepy rabbits I promise):

Our highlight of LEAF: A talk about London Nightlife. Terry Farley (Boy’s Own), Keith Riley (Fabric), James Priestley (Secretsundaze) and Norman Jay (DJ) were all on the panel whilst David Swindells (Time Out’s former Nightlife editor) moderated. It became clear that the movers and shakers of London Nightlife rebelled against the status quo. My favourite anecdote was from Norman Jay, who told us how he was turned away from a club that was playing his music, so he began creating unlicensed warehouse parties in the early 1980s; and look where that got him.

The talk also highlighted some really important points about the capital’s music scene and  nightlife:

  • Firstly, people don’t dance as much as they used to. Whilst I wasn’t alive in 1970/80 I can see where the panel were coming from. Everyone is obsessed with their phones- texting, filming and photographing a DJ or venue. Then Instagramming, Facebooking and Tweeting so the rest of the world are aware of it. Not only does this mean that the crowd aren’t truly enjoying the music and DANCING but clubs are constantly getting shit from the police about mobile phone thefts. As Terry Farley rightly put it, “If people are filming or photographing a DJ then a pickpocket only has to watch where you put the thing to steal it.”
  • Secondly, clubs get a lot of bad press due to narcotics and aren’t appreciated by the Government.  Keith Riley made a valid point that drug taking occurs across a number of venues but it is only clubs that get the brunt of it. This link between clubs and narcotics overshadows the importance of clubs to society and the benefits they bring; employment, culture, tourism as well as the gentrification of areas. People travel from across the world to go to MOS and Fabric (to name just two venues) and whilst the Royal Opera House will receive over £25,787,567 by the Arts Council (2013-14), other cultural outlets don’t receive a dime. Mind boggling.
  • Thirdly,  “Whether it’s dance music or curry, London’s very good at nicking stuff and redefining it” (Terry Farley). 
  • Fourthly, the panel believe that the new epicentre of Electronic music in London is Peckham. Isolation shields Peckham from becoming another Kingsland Road and large warehouse spaces are cheaper to rent and easier to locate. I think I’ll head to Peckham sometime soon. 
  • And lastly, something that I think sums up London;  “London has music, the arts, fashion, gay culture and a platform of music fans and pirate radios… and whatever type of music you like you can find it in London if you search for it.” Norman Jay.

LEAF not only underlined the importance and heritage of electronic music through talks, installations and workshops, but showcased electronic talent from across the world. It’s happening again next year and will no doubt be bigger and better. I’m looking forward to it.

www.leaflondon.net