GALA 2021: a weekend to remember

Medya Gungor celebrates the return of unrestricted festivals

festival scene

Falling just over a week after all restrictions in England had officially been lifted, there wasn’t a more fitting way to unify ravers and misbehavers back to the scenes of euphoria-induced dancefloors than returning to Peckham for GALA festival.

Being welcomed through the festival gates by helpful staff and friendly security allowed for a smooth entry process, immediately setting the scene for what we already knew would be a weekend to remember.

festival scene

GALA organisers should be praised for their ground-pumping sound systems, as issues surrounding sound quality have set back a number of festivals recently.

With an additional day on Friday dedicated to live performance, this gave a well needed contrast to the weekend’s festivities and made for moments of true appreciation for the all-encompassing atmosphere, representing a long awaited light at the end of the tunnel.

Simple pleasures of asking someone for a lighter and exchanging smiles with strangers were intensified by the absence of these moments over the past year, and it felt great.

Friday saw a range of incredible female artists, including the likes of Brixton-born Cooly G in the Pleasure Dome, tastefully warming us up with shuffle-worthy bangers made for the two-step, including Jamie Jones’ iconic Hungry For The Power remix which had the hype man and security just as gassed over her set as the crowd.

female singer on open air stage

Golden hour descended on the main stage as the sweet-sounding vocals of Poppy Ajudha mellowed the masses with their arms around each other, all grateful to be revelling in such freedom.

As the evening unfolded, The Patio was brought to life by Chaos in the CBD who stayed true to their name delivering some serious floor stompers amidst a valley of purple lights and smoke machines.

The night was brought to a close with a mesmersing performance from Mr Scruff & MC Kwasi who took us on a soulful journey that brought the vibes right until the very end. 

As festival-goers geared up for Saturday, it was evident that the downpour of rain could dampen no emotions as we joined Secretsundaze for some outrageous bassline followed by Maurice Faluton and Dan Shake; who paved the way for more madness to the sounds of Bassment Jaxx’s Red Alert and a unified chorus of “I can’t waaaait, for the weekend to begin”. 

festival scene from DJ booth
female DJ performs

A slowed-down version of Final Credits played as dancers feeling refreshed by the rain were reinvigorated by the sun throughout Midland’s set, accompanied by a backdrop of throbbing basslines and a deep house beat.

The night unfurled further into motion thanks to Jayda G who brought the house down like no other, her track All I Need emphasising that this magical moment truly was all that was needed.

A parade of green-wigged drag queens in knee high boots joined her on stage before a surreal sea of giant balloons were released into the crowd.

Finally, as Jayda dropped a heartfelt Both Of Us, she instantaneously filled the hearts of those swaying on another person’s shoulders with nothing less than pure, unbridled joy.

festival scene

The Rye stage was undoubtedly the place to be on Sunday under the beaming sunshine and foliage,  where Peckham’s very own Pinty woke us up to his introspective flow over those distinct skippy garage beats.

male singe performs at open air festival

The vibe was expressed perfectly by the MC on stage who shouted: “You’ve turned this corner of GALA into the best stage of the festival!” as Jamz supernova brought the energy up a level.

The mysterious Dan Kye brought us a fusion of jazzy soul via a midi keyboard, loop station and his velvety vocals that made for an outstanding live set.

Meanwhile, CC:Disco took it right back to the sounds of J.Lo’s Una Noche Mas whilst a pumping performance from Horse Meat Disco saw an ensemble screaming “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in boundless, sweaty spirits. 

With an exceptional set from Motor City Drum Ensemble showering us in confetti for a final weekend send off, there was no denying the indescribable amounts of love shared by all, as GALA had ultimately hosted the most visceral return to dancing we could have asked for.

night festival scene