Live Report: We Out Here Festival 2023

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It’s 5PM at the campsite on the Sunday afternoon at We Out Here.

The sun is shining against a blue sky. A cool breeze flutters in the air. Tall green whisps of trees can be seen all around, with the faint sound of the Sun Ra Arksestra playing the main stage in the distance. Despite the day four fatigue, the mood is right. 

Out of seemingly nowhere, appears a barefooted Australian who approaches our strewn-out camping chairs with a skip in his step.

After some quick pleasantries, it transpires he’s a saxophonist, who, having played a show last night took a plane direct from Sydney to London, before jumping on a train and bus straight to the site, to catch what remained of the festivities.

To our surprise, within minutes he’d broken out his sax and was playing ethereal freestyles over Slum Village’s ‘Fall in Love’, Common’s ‘The Light’ and Bobby Caldwell’s ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’, that rang out back to back over our Bluetooth speaker. 

If the energy was good before, our new friend took it to another level.

This moment of magic summarises two things:

  1. We Out Here has the incredibly rare and sought after feature of an amazing crowd, who possess the shared blend of musical curiosity, welcoming nature, and the pursuit of a good time. 
  2. Everywhere you turn, no matter the stage or setting, the music is incredible. Even if inexplicably on this occasion, that happened to be at the campsite. 

Giles Peterson’s We Out Here celebrated its fifth edition this year but in reality, the cohesion of the experience feels like a festival far more experienced than this. 

2023 marked the move to a newer, bigger location, in the idyllic, lush forestland of Wimborne St. Giles, Dorset. With a seven-acre lake, stretches of woodland walks and tucked-away pockets of forest to explore, the site provided a beautiful backdrop for a weekend of exploration of expertly curated music across 15 bespoke stages. 

This included a blend of legendary figures and next generation pioneers on the main stage, including hip-hop royalty Black Star who sprayed their New York rap to the adoring crowd on Sunday night. Bonobo also took over headliner duties in the absence of Roisin Murphy, delivering a seamless blend of his hits on the Saturday night. 

Yet it was the smaller stages that had the most impact across the weekend. Very quickly, the word spread around the festival site of the famed Lemon Longue – a 100 (or so) person, circus like tent with papier mâchélemons hanging above a punchy sound system, churning out bangers all weekend. 

Mark Felt’s set in the Longue on the Sunday afternoon typified the quality of seamless sets, blending genres, from dub to bass, grime and everything in between, gliding from the likes of Aments del Futor’s uplifting ‘Cumbia de la Montana’ to Klashnekoff’s hard-hitting UK hip-hop classic, ‘Murda’.

Round the corner, the Rhythm Corner played home to the very best, eclectic dance music. The country-feeling haybales that flanked the stage contrasted well with the forward-thinking tracks played out across the weekend, from the likes of CC Disco, HUNEEJamz Supernova and IZCO b2b Bakey. The latter in particular impressed with their new wave of UK garage and jungle cuts.  

On the outskirts of the site was the formidable ‘The Bowl’. The sloped stage created a mini colosseum of energy consistently across the weekend, most notably from Josey Rebelle who tore down the walls late on Saturday night. 

Be it beautiful UK jazz from Ezra Collective, soul from Yazmin Lacey or powerful selections from DJ Koze or Interplanetary CriminalWe Out Here truly has something for everyone. At 18,000 attendees, it toes the delicate line of big-crowd-hands-in-the-air moments while still being easy to navigate, with intimate, unique moments at smaller stages.

Most importantly, We Out Here possesses a crowd who are on a mission to have the very best time, sharing in their love for contemporary and classic music from all corners of the globe. Be it the legendary headliners, antics in the Lemon Longue or the Aussie-sax-wizard you met at the campsite, We Out Here delivers from every angle. 

Words: Angus McKeon
Photography: Lauren Luxembourg, Sienna Gray, Rob Jones