GALA 24’ Cracks London Festival Season Wide Open

May bank holiday weekend began with a stacked lineup and jittering music fans itching to get past security into Peckham Rye Park. Home to London’s foremost independent electronic music festival, GALA. The festival has been running for nine years with heavy emphasis on music’s community-building influence. Though GALA has been around for almost a decade, this year’s lineup was representative of a new era. One that highlighted collaboration above all else. Incorporating stage hosts and partners which focused on new realms of electronic music as it directly correlates with fashion and culture. 

GALA feels distinctive in comparison to its other South London counterparts. The grounds were home to five stages with distinctively different energies and lineups, making the festival experience creatively inviting. The lineup included stage hosts and partners like, NTS Radio, Adonis, JUMBI, Deviation and Nicholas Daley. Not only this – GALA featured artists from all dance music genres, including names like DJ EZ, Girls Don’t Sync, Octo Octa, Crazy P Soundsystem and Horse Meat Disco. 

Arriving around 8pm to the main stage on Friday, I was able to catch Interplanetary Criminal. Skies were clear while heavy bass and disco-y beats filtered over the crowd. The sun was setting over the festival grounds whilst the audience gazed into abstract floral designs as they danced across the main stage. All eyes were glued forward as the pinks, yellows and inevitable blues of the sunset enveloped us. 

A plethora of local food stalls were on offer which cemented the ‘independent’ and ‘community’ focus that the festival devotedly promotes. After a while of dancing and chattin, we took a seat amongst other festival-goers relaxing on nearby hay bales. We got a hotdog and chips before heading to the Pleasure Dome for one of the final performances of Friday evening, Joy Orbison. The grass was green, the pints were flowing, and attendees gallivanted across the grounds until the final moments before lights came up. 

GALA is laser focused on its values of inclusivity, sustainability, and community. This festival is detail oriented to an immaculate degree, whole coconuts were on offer which I watched traipse around the park, straws jutting out. Handheld folding fans dispersed the warm air alongside breezy weather. Festival fashionista’s were out in full force, donning  knit caps, side bags, baseball caps and stylishly bleached blonde hair.

Ending up at the Patio stage, I happened across one of my favourite South London DJs, Bradley Zero who was seamlessly commanding the crowd during a B2B set with DJ Moxie. The grounds are lined with white boxed pillars fitted with mesh cutouts and inside contain various live plants as smoke machines fill the ambient space. The energy was electric as the sun slowly slinked beyond the treeline. Though the sun was setting, the crowd’s enthusiasm did not dissipate with it. 

GALA works with Don’t Be A Creep, an organisation with a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment, assault and abuse of any kind. Other collaborations included Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers. Additionally, a variety of ticket types were on offer, including resident and free/ discounted options to ensure as many people can attend as possible. 

This festival’s affinity for up and coming talent is one of its unique selling points. Though it’s exciting to witness a multi-million-listenership show – I argue you lose interpersonal connection as people shove past, fixated on getting the best spot. The diversity and variety of the lineup created more of an ease-in atmosphere. I found fans were shifting more fluidly, following energy from one stage onto the next. This was a nice change of pace to what I’m used to, which is often fans barrelling to one location to stick it out all day until their number one favourite is set to perform. 

One of the stand out performances was BORN N BREAD’s takeover of the Cornerstone tent on Sunday. This SE London creative collective is a group of lifelong friends turned game-changing cultural influencers. The collective took over the stage, hosted by JUMBI in a big way. After some friends discovered this stage – we kept coming back all Sunday afternoon, we couldn’t get enough. When the afternoon rain drizzled over us around 4pm we couldn’t be happier to be under the high energy cover of BORN N BREAD’s set. After which, almost on queue – a rainbow fell over the festival. I was not the first, nor the last to notice. Influencers flocked to the perfect spot to capture the multi-coloured beams as they fell behind. 

GALA had many elements that nod to the classic expectation that comes with most music festivals but the fact that they are independently focused and collaborative makes it standalone. It felt as if I were celebrating the bank holiday at a friend of a friends’ backyard party. I really appreciated the high energy yet easy-going atmosphere, as opposed to other festival environments which can sometimes feel performative, almost starchy. I had never been to GALA previously but I will definitely be zipping over to the ticket portal as soon as they come available for 2025.

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Words: Lauren Bulla
Photography: Angelina Nikolayeva and Jake Davis at Khroma Collective