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Don't Tell Dad: How Boomtown is championing underground artists

by Molly Vandermeer

"Boomtown was the first festival to give us a chance".
A photograph of singer Flossing hunched in the middle of some red fabric
Xstacey, DJ AI and Ori Fierce of Don't Tell Dad at Boomtown 2023. Credit: Molly Vandermeer

In the wake of dust settling from the muddy glamour of Glastonbury and other iconic UK festivals, the immersive music and theatre festival Boomtown is born. As the start date draws closer, diverse and talented performers descend upon the fields of Hampshire and attendees, dubbed ‘citizens’, prepare to celebrate the festival's much anticipated 15th anniversary.

Boomtown has always championed the unknown and the up-and-coming; giving opportunities to performers across multiple disciplines - including dancers, drummers and actors. It’s unlike any other festival, as they curate an immersive experience and story. This year, attendees were thrust into the world of ‘Chapter Two: The Twin Trail’, aided by the detailed and imaginative sets and the use of performers throughout the festival. The storyline was based around the character of Elen, various districts within the festival searched for Elen and were even able to vote on the Woov app to determine if Elen was in fact ‘friend of foe’ - the result of which then affected the outcome of the closing ceremony.

Among the unique sets and performers sweeping the festival grounds, nestled in the shadow of the tower that sits between Grand Central, Origin and Metropolis, is one of the up-and-coming performers and experiences that Boomtown champions so passionately. Don’t Tell Dad is an immersive and subversive game show that was launched in the heart of lockdown via livestreams; the show provides a judgement free environment for performers and attendees to find a safe and encouraging space where they can explore their own self expression.


Soundtracked by the dulcet tones of strong bass that echoes throughout the festival, you can find a fun, accepting and utterly whacky haven. This act stars Xstacey (the Drag Queen host), Ori Fierce (the ‘gimp’ assistant) and DJ Al. Those familiar with the UK Drag scene will note parallels between the more experimental, gender fluid and subversive Drag of artists such as Danny Beard and Bimini and the form the characters of Xstacey (who keeps their facial hair) and Ori Fierce take. Don’t Tell Dad have toured multiple festivals, but also perform regularly in London - to find out more you can visit their Instagram page @dont.telldad.

All those who attend their shows witness it bringing smiles and joyous confusion alike to those who take part. But as Ori Fierce explains “the show doesn’t work without the audience, without them there wouldn’t be a show”. Don’t Tell Dad explains how Boomtown is unlike any other festival as it allows them to reach audiences which other shows typically wouldn’t. It allows them to reach those who are new to the queer scene or have no knowledge of it at all. XStacy notes “we watch people who exhibit typical or even toxic masculinity turn up to the show, enjoy it then even get up on stage and feel they are a part of this show that doesn’t put people in boxes but allows people to express themselves freely”.

VLURE, a Glasgow band photographed by Oli Erskine
Peaches at Boomtown 2023. Credit: Sian Herber

Xstacey observes ”Boomtown was the first festival to give us a chance” and after a successful first time performing in 2022, Don’t Tell Dad were given a bigger and more iconic spot which welcomes traffic from the Main Stage and Metropolis, scheduled over a period of three days. This demonstrates the extent to which Boomtown champions its performers.

Boomtown curates its acts from top to bottom, to ensure that they align with the festival’s interactive ethos and storyline, which is why an immersive and unique show such as Don’t Tell Dad is able to function so successfully within such an environment. The atmosphere created by Boomtown allows artists of all levels to thrive and be as creative as possible, for example punk royalty Peaches drew a huge and dynamic audience to Grand Central on the Friday Night which pushed sexual and gender boundaries, as well as performing a moving tribute to Sinéad O'Connor.

Boomtown truly is a festival like no other, its high production levels and the immersive feel truly thrusts the ‘citizens’ into the world of ‘The Twin Trail’. This leaves attendees and performers alike, looking forward to becoming citizens once again in next year's ‘Chapter Three: Revolution of Imagination’.

Follow @dont.telldad on Instagram to stay up to date with their latest events.

Molly Vandermeer is a film director and writer. Follow her film projects at: @mvp_mollyvandermeerproductions.


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