WPGM Reviews: FORWARDS Festival 2023 (In Pictures)

© Khali Ackford

The FORWARDS Festival returned to Bristol on 1st and 2nd September, after its debut last year, for two days of music and discussion, driven by its social initiatives to create positive change. The highlights included Liv Little in conversation with Munroe Bergdorf, as well as performances from Biig Piig, Ezra Collective, Raye, Gabriels, Bonobo, and Erykah Badu.

The festival for forward thinkers welcomeed a multitude of international music names to its stage for 2023, including headliners neo-soul pioneer, Erykah Badu on Friday and the electronic legend, Aphex Twin on Saturday.

Heralded as “a progressive-minded festival”, FORWARDS compliments its incredible musical line-up by offering fans a space for discussion and debate at ‘THE INFORMATION’, featuring a host of experts, disruptors, creatives, writers and thinkers – side by side epic music moments.

More than just a music concert, FORWARDS looks to challenge what metropolitan festivals can be today and how they can do good, from the inside out.

On Friday, ERYKAH BADU performed for the first time ever in Bristol UK, bringing her trailblazing neo-soul genre to Bristol this September, moving the audience in a new soulful trance with an eclectic mix. Erykah is amongst the greatest neo soul performers and has an abundance of awards including four GRAMMYs.

Other 2023 music acts on Friday included Bonobo, Gabriels, Raye, Goldie with the Live Ensemble, Confidence Man, Olivia Dean, Biig Piig, Wesley Joseph.

A festival defining concept stage – The Information at FORWARDS – faces pressing cultural issues head on, with no conversation off-limits. The 2023 programme tackled inequality in the media, the housing emergency, racism, sexism in story writing, black novelists and writers, queer stories, politics on TikTok and more.

Headline speaker names for 2023 includd BBC broadcaster, historian and BAFTA award winner David Olusoga with journalist and housing rights activist, Vicky Spratt, British Vogue’s contributing editor, author and LGBTIQA+ activist, Munroe Bergdorf with author and founder of gal-dem, Liv Little, iconic British artist Jeremy Deller with the artist, raver, provocator and founder of UK-based clothing brand Sports Banger, Jonny Banger, plus digital creator Danny Price with TikTok creators and comedians Grace Campbell and Josh Berry.

Social initiatives are at the heart of FORWARDS festival which commits to creating positive change. A new series of initiatives for 2023 will be announced later this year. The series of initiatives will include the return of the ‘Capture FORWARDS’ initiative presented by FORWARDS and associated partner BIG TEAM CIC.

‘Capture FORWARDS’ offers young photographers first-hand experience of photographing live events, giving them invaluable access at the early stages of their careers. After receiving 56 entrants in 2022, four lucky photographers were selected to photograph the inaugural festival last September.

Celebrating their success, photographers Naomi Williams, Megan Tsz Ip, Jade Ayino and Ismael Abdi saw their work from last years’ festival exhibited at the Trinity Centre in Bristol in February and have since all become full-time professional photographers.

Speaking about the return of FORWARDS this year, Tom Paine, Co-founder of Team Love says, “We’re proud to be bringing FORWARDS back this year to the best city in the world, and our hometown Bristol. Building on our work from our inaugural year, we are incredibly excited to be able to pull together a musical offering with such an amazing array of talent.

It continues to be our aim to make FORWARDS a space which invites debate and challenges the status quo. Offering our audience a place to come together, dance and make memories, while trying to inspire discussions, actions, and to enact positive change through the urgent conversations at ‘The Information’.”

Photography by Khali Ackford and Giulia Spadafora // Thanks to Margaret London

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