Slaves join Jake Bugg and Annie Mac on LeeFest bill for surprise gig

PUBLISHED: 09:21 07 August 2017




The punk duo return to their home town of Tunbridge Wells this week

Punk duo Slaves are set to play a surprise gig in their home town of Tunbridge Wells at this year’s LeeFest.

Organisers of the increasingly-popular festival say the addition of Laurie Vincent and Isaac Holman to an already star-studded line-up, including singer/songwriter Jake Bugg and Radio One DJ Annie Mac, is set to make this summer’s event the biggest and best yet.

“It’s going to be incredible,” founder Lee Denny told us this week.

“Their local link makes it extra special. They have had an incredible couple of years and have played some huge slots, including the Other Stage at Glastonbury.

“We have been trying to get them for several years and this time we got a last minute call only a few weeks ago saying they might be able to make something work.

“It was just a case of the stars aligning at the right time.

“This is definitely our biggest and best yet in terms of the profile of the line-up and developing what the festival is about.

“There’s a few really strong dance acts and indie bands that could be enough for a specialist festival elsewhere.”

Also featuring on the bill this year is a DJ set from critically acclaimed collective Jungle, as well as performances from the likes of Kate Tempest, Percolate, Regression Sessions and Good Life.

Organisers would also stress that it’s not all about the music, however, with ‘the Neverland’ sprinkling additional magic across the festival’s three days.

Visitors are invited to explore different ‘realms’ on the site, where they can enjoy a casino, workshops, tribe games, a retro-futuristic gaming arcade and a Cabaret club of comedy, spoken word, debates and burlesque.

An independent festival, LeeFest has become something of a phenomenon in recent years, gaining mainstream acclaim when it won ‘Best Grassroots Festival’ at the UK Festival Awards and ‘Best Festival’ at the Association of Independent Music Awards.

Its rise to stardom began as an act of teenage mischief, when Mr Denny’s parents left him in charge of their Beckenham home under the strict instruction there were to be no house parties.

Instead, the then 16-year-old decided to hold a festival in the back garden, as it technically wasn’t breaking his parents’ rules.

Through word of mouth, Mr Denny quickly managed to cram 150 people in and then saw the festival snowball with double that number attending a similar event the following year, before some 600 turned up to a festival held on a school field.

Last year, an advert for LeeFest occupied a prime slot before the screening of blockbuster films at cinemas, and, clearly, with the ability to attract the likes of Slaves, Bugg and Mac, it has now reached a whole new level.

What the festival prides itself on, however, is helping young bands establish themselves, after playing a part in launching the careers of a number of acts who have gone on to enjoy extraordinary success: London Grammar, Bastille, Years & Years, Clean Bandit and Jack Garratt to name but a few.

Mr Denny insists that philosophy remains at the heart of the festival and that it won’t be lost amid the excitement of some of Britain’s biggest music stars descending on John Darlings Farm, just outside the spa town, next week.

Likewise, the founder intends to maintain the same intimacy and togetherness that makes the event so unique and popular among regular visitors in its eleven years of existence.

“We are very cautious about how we want to grow the festival and making sure we keep that community spirit,” he said.

“That’s created by the people that have been coming for a long time and maintaining that is something we put a lot of work into.

“We’re expecting 5,000 to come and we’re on track for that, but it’s still pretty intimate.

“We put a lot of energy and resources into finding young bands and helping to get them some really good exposure.

“Hopefully everyone that comes will support them as they always have, and go on to talk about them afterwards.”

After more than a decade of success, Mr Denny is keen to continue the festival’s growth, but doing so while keeping all the charming elements that made it so appealing in the first place is a challenge.

The organisational team has grown significantly year-on-year, with ten people employed as full-time workers before dozens arrived on the site earlier this week to start building the set, until, ultimately, when the festival officially opens its gates, there is a team of well over 300 in operation.

“There’s always difficulties because we are extremely ambitious and we’ve never really done the same thing twice, we’re always looking for new ideas,” Mr Denny said.

“This year we decided to make the three main stages twice as big and with lots of special effects for the first time.

“We want to push ourselves creatively which means there are lots of stumbling blocks but that’s part of the fun.”

LeeFest will run this year from Thursday, August 10 until Saturday, August 12, with tickets still available to buy at

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