PREVIEW: Simmer Down Festival ’14 @ Handsworth Park, Sun 20th July


Simmer Down Festival '14 @ Handsworth Park, Sun 20th July / Down Festival returns to Handsworth park tomorrow (Sun 20th July), running from 12:30-7:30pm. Admission to the festival site, as well as access to all the acts performing, is free and open to ages.

‘Birmingham’s biggest FREE international reggae festival’ comes back to Handsworth Park, the site it has held for five consecutive terms, for what event organisers hope will be ‘even bigger and better’ than previous incarnations. But with last year’s event reporting over 8,000 in attendance, Simmer Down Festival has not done badly thus far.

(l-r) David Hinds & Selwyn Brown - Steel Pulse @ Simmer Down '14 / Simmer Down Festival ’14 are Steel Pulse, the big name draw of the event – playing their first Handsworth gig in over 30 years. Main support comes from Apache Indian and Musical Youth, performing as respectable seconds to the Steel Pulse ‘homecoming’, with over ten further acts – including Kezia Soul and Jam Tidy – featured on the one day roster.Musical Youth @ Simmer Down '14 /

Steel Pulse need no introduction at a Birmingham festival, a statement that is both cliché and true, but the significance of them returning to play a gig in Handsworth is paramount; performing at Simmer Down Festival ’14 between gigs in Belgium and Nantucket, it can’t have been a logistical doddle to add it to their schedule. And no other promoter, festival or otherwise, has confirmed Steel Pulse in the namesake of their debut album for over three decades.

So whilst we mull over what brought them back to Handsworth, here’s a little reminder of why we’re glad it did. Clink on the link/image below:

Handsworth Revolution – Steel Pulse, Montreux Jazz Festival (1979)

Steel Pulse @ Montreux Jazz Festival '79


..and you can just imagine the Handsworth park crowd after the opening line gets sung.

But the firm success story of Simmer Down Festival is the event itself; with respectable numbers, line ups and operational track record, this homegrown festival is a feather in Birmingham’s multicultural cap. An achievement that can often appear in text, if not reality.(l-r) Apache India & Mukhtar Dar at Simmer Down Festival '14 press conference - The Drum, 20.6.14 /

Promoted by The Drum, with this year’s event tying into the arts centre’s 20th anniversary, Simmer Down Festival’14 is sponsored by Birmingham Mind and Time to Change – two organisations working on mental health issues.

The Drum / established operators within public sector event funding, The Drum has kept Simmer Down Festival as a free event – which is remarkable on all sides of the experience.

Picking up the old site, momentum, and to some degree legacy of the original Handsworth Carnival (now called Birmingham Carnival)  Simmer Down Festival is bringing Birmingham the annual celebration of  ‘diversity’ (a word so diluted it now stands as merely political rhetoric) that the halls of moderate power so dearly desire – but don’t want to organise themselves. Plus Simmer Down Festival does it well, annually, and on large scale. And as other box ticking celebrations of culture rise, fall or fall over completely, Simmer Down Festival seems to be growing – with each year attendance and awareness coming from wider pockets in the city.

So in short, if you’ve ever complained about Birmingham not doing enough on it’s own doorstep, especially to celebrate the city’s Reggae, you might want to check out Simmer Down Festival. Likewise if you just want a big phat party. For free. Win, win.


Simmer Down Festival ’14 is held at Handsworth Park on Sunday 20th July, from 12:30-7:30pm. Entry is free and open to all ages.

For more on Simmer Down Festival, including directions and line ups, visit

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