Review: Virgin Media V Festival – Hylands Park, Chelmsford

Amy Nickell schmoozes with the Doctor and still finds time for some music

If you’re looking for your typical mud, sweat and beers Glasto experience then it’s probably best to look somewhere other than Virgin Media’s V Festival: the list of acts appearing over the weekend reads like a rundown of the Top Ten.


The Script, Scouting for Girls, Ellie Goulding, Bruno Mars, Olly Murs, Tinie Tempah, The Saturdays, Jessie J… the majority of artists on show pretty much define the term “mainstream”.

V Festival is unashamedly, refreshingly pop. Need more proof? While You Me At Six showcased their “rock” (think teenage boys crying in their bedrooms) sound in the second tent, security at the Arena Stage were having to turn away fans after things got too packed for boy band The Wanted (think teenage girls throwing their knickers).

Later on, the chance to see an X Factor judge in the flesh left former headliners Manic Street Preachers with the awkward lunchtime crowd (cross-legged types munching on £12 noodles) as everyone else was over at N-Dubz, where Tulisa was doing what she does best: outshining her two band-mates in a very nice leopard-print catsuit.

When Glasvegas attempted to inject some indie-rock into proceedings, the crowd showed their gratitude by pelting them with plastic bottles until the band cut their set short.

On Sunday, there was only one place to be… watching Rihanna. Even the hacks left the free bar in the Virgin Media Louder Lounge and that’s saying something, as pretty much everyone in attendance rushed down to catch her set. What a genuinely impressive bunch of hits she’s notched up.

That is, if you could tear your eyes away from the star-studded crowd spotted here: half of JLS, Daisy Lowe and T4 presenter Jameela Jamil after the bouncer pushed me into her, which made for an awkward moment involving my hand and her bum.

But later that day we awaited the arrival of one of the few acts genuinely deserving a slot further up the bill: the perpetually irked US rap star Eminem. To see Slim Shady himself perform in the UK is a rare treat, and the crowd were getting pretty restless waiting for him to hit the Virgin Media Stage. Finally he arrived, angry as ever, marking his first appearance in this country since 2004. So angry, in fact, he encouraged the audience to join in with some nice cathartic swear word chanting.

Delivering a (literally) furious, fast-paced set (a whopping 28 songs in 90 minutes), he was joined on stage, albeit somewhat haphazardly, by D-12. However, the real surprise came when Rihanna popped up again to sing her part on his song Love the Way You Lie, which was definitely one of the weekend’s highlights.

Over in the Virgin Media Louder Lounge, the sun seemed to always be shining. However, when the rain did finally arrive it gave me the chance to tuck into the ultimate thespian pick ‘n’ mix.

Huddled for shelter in the fabulous Rooftop Gardens bar were Billie Piper, the chaps from The Inbetweeners, Matt Smith and his girlfriend Daisy Lowe, The Royle Family star Ralf Little and, rumour had it, a member of One Direction… yes, this was truly a Who’s Who of the 21st century glitterati. They even had their own little velvet roped-off area, just in case one of us normal types couldn’t resist the urge and thrust a Sharpie in their face – or, even worse, said hello.

Later on, I spied X Factor’s surprisingly short Alexandra Burke. I couldn’t really miss her after she elbowed me out of the way, pinching my hard-earned frontline position at the bar while shouting very loudly in my ear hole.

Mr Ron Weasley himself, Rupert Grint, also popped in for a Rude Boi Tanqueray cocktail (which were delicious, by the way), but was basically ignored thanks to his trusty black looter-style hoodie and avoidance of any velvet ropes, preferring to sit cross-legged on the grass with his chums.

In the end the stars of The Only Way Is Essex hogged the limelight and were the darlings of their tabloid hack bezzie mates, managing to affirm their celeb skills by missing bands while looking bored and unimpressed all at the same time.

So, after a weekend of schmoozing the Doctor, getting hoofed out of the way by an X Factor winner and witnessing in the flesh some of the best pop in town, really, there is just one thing left to say: how soon can I book my ticket for next year?


You can catch V Festival highlights on Wednesday 31 August at 11:50pm on Channel 4.