Thousands drink in Sunderland Split Festival

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MOWBRAY Park became a mosh pit of electric energy and big booming beats as headliner Dizzee Rascal took to the Split Festival stage.

Though the chart-topping rapper may have been an opinion-dividing booking for a festival more known for its indie and folk sets, there’s no denying Dizzee knows how to put on a show.

With lasers lighting up the park sky, he brought the razzle dazzle you expect from a household name to this boutique home-grown festival.

Clad in Sunderland’s signature colours of red and white – probably a coincidence – he whipped the crowd into a sea of jumping bodies and out-stretched arms.

“I love to see energy and people bouncing about with each other,” the Londoner bellowed to the crowd. “I’ve been doing this for 10 years and this is my first time in Sunderland.”

His set spanned the songwriter’s decade in the business with grime-led tracks from Mercury Prize-winning album Boy in da Corner, such as Fix Up Look Sharp and Jus’ a Rascal, through to his more commercial tracks including Bonkers and Dance Wiv Me.

He capped off a sun-drenched first day of the weekend festival which also saw a more pared-down acoustic set from Simon & Oscar, of Ocean Colour Scene fame.

An appreciative calm came over the crowd as the pair performed a simple, yet effective set. No fireworks here, the songs spoke for themselves and the acoustic nature of their performance allowed the lyrics of tracks including the anthemic The Day We Caught The Train to shine.

Another huge crowd-pleaser were local lads Hyde & Beast.

It was standing room only as they headlined Stage Three with tracks from their new album Keep Moving, which was recorded just down the road at The Bunker.

It’s this combination of locally-grown talent and chart-toppers which makes Split stand out from its festival counterparts and it was a mix which fused seamlessly this weekend.

Around 7,000 attended the two-day festival which featured a second day headlined by The Cribs and Maximo Park.

Though the event’s relocation to Mowbray Park from its birthplace in Ashbrooke Sports Club caused some controversy, with Friends of Mowbray Park voicing their concerns over protecting the area, every precaution was taken to protect its integrity.

Fences were thrown up around the park’s kaleidoscope of flower beds with three stages limited to grassed areas.

Futureheads frontman Barry Hyde, one of the Split Festival founders, said: “I’ve been absolutely delighted with how it’s gone. The past few days have been superb and the setting up went really smoothly.

“We had some great help from volunteers, plus Sunderland Council have been exceptional with their support.

“Parks were built for the public, as a public garden. Mowbray Park is a very special place, I have many memories of playing here as a child, it’s got an air of romance about it. And it’s great to see it transformed like this.”

Barry, who performed a solo set yesterday, praised Futurehead bandmate Ross Millard for booking the acts.

He said: “Booking Dizzee was huge for us. He’s an international star, a Mercury Prize winner, he kicked off a whole style of music.”