Review: Vintage at the Southbank Centre

Last summer I spent a wonderful weekend at Goodwood for the first ever Vintage Festival and wrote afterwards about how much I enjoyed my time as a Vintage Volunteer, and the full Vintage at Goodwood experience. After the quirky charm of the ‘high street’ they built in a field, the wonderful themed music stages and the overall look and feel of the event’s site, I was excited to see what they would come up with for this year’s festival. So you can understand that I was a bit shocked to discover that Vintage 2011 would take place in… London. Not a pretty field with fairy lights and camping, but London’s Southbank. Oh dear. After the initial disappointment I decided to remain positive. After all, this didn’t necessarily mean that Vintage 2011 would be worse than Vintage at Goodwood, just different. And so the wait began to find out what they had in store for us.

I was pleased to read that there would still be themed music stages, a marketplace of independent sellers, hair and make-up sessions, craft workshops and all the other gems that made last year’s Vintage Festival so enjoyable. However, what they didn’t mention was quite how this was going to be arranged in such a public area of the capital. Still, I’d heard little in advance of last year’s event and it turned out to be great, plus I love the Southbank Centre and so figured that their combined efforts would probably be worth a look.

Sadly, the day tickets were still £60 and so I decided at first that it wasn’t worth the effort, until one day I managed to nab a few at a special offer price and was rather pleased with myself. Unfortunately, I should have waited before buying as in the week before the event it was announced that… lots of it would be accessible for free! Yes, the Vintage Village and events like the Chap Olympiad could be enjoyed without a ticket, which is exactly the sort of information I loved receiving after I’d paid for tickets. Still, what us paying customers could access was bound to be worth the ticket price, eh?

Perhaps not. On the day we circled the Royal Festival Hall in search of the entrance where we could exchange our tickets for wristbands (or at the very least a person who knew what on earth was going on) and, once inside, wandered around in search of something of interest. Anything of interest. There was some 40s music with no one dancing, a handful of sellers of vintage/retro items, places to have your photo taken, craft workshops in a room that was way too hot, and the usual RFH bars. That was it. Seriously, we wandered around looking for the freebies that made it all worthwhile and found very little else.

If I’d known that was all that was inside, and that the outside events were free, I definitely wouldn’t have paid for tickets. I felt disappointed in the event and ashamed that I’d raved about it to two other people who came with me and must have spent Saturday thinking I was a crazy person. Did anyone find anything at all that made the day pass worth the money at this year’s Vintage Festival? If so, please do let me know. In the meantime, I shall be writing a sternly worded letter of complaint to the organisers on the off chance that they care.

UPDATE: Via the wonders of Twitter, I have discovered that Style High Club, Dearest Jackdaw, Penny Dreadful Vintage, and Hello Vintage also had a less-than-wonderful time at the Vintage Festival.

Images via Southbank Centre and Vintage by Hemmingway (because I found absolutely nothing I wanted to take photos of at the festival itself.)