I’m not a festival person. I never have been. The mud (or dust), the crowds, the toilets, camping, noise and no ice for my vodka has never appealed to me. Although having been teenaged at the tail-end of the South African psychedelic trance scene, perhaps it was the music that put me off the most. But since its never too late to teach a twenty-something introvert how to let loose, I jumped at the chance to attend Littlegig after receiving a last minute styling job at the bespoke 24 hour festival.
Denied the flamboyance of the UK’s Bestival or the magical intimacy of Malawi’s Lake of Stars, locally there was a major gap for a small-scale festival that catered to an inclusive mix of creatives. Situated a short 40 minute drive from Cape Town and titled a “boutique festival”, Littlegig is the festival for people who don’t like festivals. Curated to appeal to the curious, each corner of the venue has been developed to delight – think masses of metallic floral arrangements, wicker lanterns in the trees, an American-style camp basketball court as a dance floor and a giant inflatable cyborg that went by the name of Mighty Ndebele – an installation by local artist Justine Mahoney. The juxtaposition of outlandish glamour amongst the blue gum trees makes for a different kind of festival experience; one that my post won’t do justice. You need to see it for yourself.
The amenities are on another level too – Littlegig features glamping options, luxury port-a-loos that are regularly cleaned, hot showers, a hair and makeup station, a bubbly bar and this year, a deep sleep tent that aided night owls in staying awake those extra few hours. There was also the famous Free Store – a kiosk offering all those little things one forgets to pack… for free! This can be really helpful if you’re looking for anything from condoms to matches to loose smokes for the night before and headache pills, hand sanitiser and toothpaste for the morning after. The wet wipes were particularly handy for makeup removal, camera polishing and my compulsive desire to constantly be cleaning the dust off my ankles; an action that turned out to be entirely fruitless and which I eventually abandoned with the aid of a couple of double gins.
Embracing everything food and fashion-related, Littlegig had a concept store selling clothing and accessories from local designers Crystal Birch, Espadril, Lara Klawikowski and Lukhanyo Mdingi to name a few. Nibbles came in the form of a cluster of colourful stalls selling street food. Permanently peckish, I kept returning to the barbecued lamb ribs (succulently spicy), the Vietnamese rice paper rolls with a sweet chilli dipping sauce and the hot chips. Arguably the most popular choice, the latter were what deep-fried potato dreams are made of – crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and addictively salty, I think I probably managed about three helpings. Served in a paper cup that sat warm and welcoming in your hands, the chips were delicious on their own but even better when loaded up with a selection of additions found on the chip-topping bar. Oozy cheese sauce, bacon bits, ketchup, creamy mayonnaise and that luridly yellow South African staple Aromat could be liberally spooned, dolloped or shaken over the chips for added effect. And after a few drinks, the genius of this concept became clear – who wouldn’t want a chip bar that stays open all day? The food forest as it was aptly named was the brainchild of kitchen creatives Slippery Spoon, whose excellent epicure I first encountered at Salon 58.
The other allure about Littlegig is that all food and drink is included in your ticket price, meaning that one can truly eat, drink and make merry without having to dip into the wallet. And with a handful of open bars serving everything from local rosé, rum cocktails and artisanal G&T’s to the popular Striped Horse craft beer, the only dipping one would need to do would be into a nearby hammock for a siesta. Another attraction was the Paired Food and Wine Tasting by an all-female cast of superstar chefs that included Ash Heeger of Ash, Jenny Ward of Chefs and the lovely Vanie Padayachee of Marigold and paired with local wines from Waterkloof, Newton-Johnson and Hogan estates.
I had already had the opportunity to sample the dishes and their relevant wines late in 2017 at a preview of the pairing and had absolutely loved them – getting to try them a second time in the name of work was just a bonus! Vanie’s curated flavours and enticing hue of her dishes really stood out for me, with her fiery Papdi Chaat Aloo with chickpeas, coriander and tamarind chutney and Butter Chicken Samosa in a spicy yoghurt sauce paired with the creamily cooling sapidity of Hogan’s Chenin Blanc 2016 being a festival favourite. Jenny Ward’s exquisite poached white peach and raspberry Panna Cotta with fresh basil was a playful and entirely welcome addition to all the savoury fare on offer, especially when paired with Waterkloof’s delicate and floral Circumstance Cape Coral Mourvedré Rose 2017. Ash’s Baked Sweet Potato with nut dukkah, buffalo feta and crispy ginger had a moreish multilayer of flavour, especially when paired with Newton Johnson Southend Chardonnay 2016.
Having been fed and watered, the only thing left was to dance. On a personal note, I’m rather proud of my funny fat ankle (swelling bugger off now!) especially considering how I was trekking up and down a dirt road all day. But that’s the thing about Littlegig – there is so much to experience, to see and to sample that one doesn’t consider insignificant details like sweat, dust and heat. Like I said, Littlegig is the festival for people that don’t like festivals. Through the cunning use of a wealth of distractions – almost like an adventure playground for adults – one doesn’t feel the need to be concerned with getting a little bit dirty. Not even the dust would deter the exuberant exhibition of flamboyant fashion – it would seem that brighter is certainly better. Sequinned hot shorts, feathered headdresses, sheer slips, printed kaftans, steampunk goggles, pompoms and a lot of glitter all made their appearances on equally attractive individuals. Since it’s encouraged to push a boat out at Littlegig, many outfits were altered over the course of the day, with festival mavericks Seth Shezi and Stanley Gabriel kitted out in an array of garments, including Acapulco print jumpsuits by Ghanian menswear label Atto Tetteh. My own choice of outfit was decidedly drab – not knowing quite what to expect, I simply went with my usual black and donned a pair of swing shorts, a rather indecent crop that I covered with a FORTUNE fringed top, a silver moon bag and my beloved Stetson. I promise to do a better job next time. I’ve already started stocking up on rhinestones.
On the music front, an array of artists both local and international performed, but I missed out on most of them since I’m most likely to be found around food. We did boogie along to a brilliant late Seventies disco-inspired set, but around 1am I called it a night and headed off to our tent, thus foregoing the Secret After Party and 3am cheese toasties. I was very upset about the toasties.
What I assuredly won’t miss out on is the chance to do it all over again. Bring on Littlegig 2019.