It was the second year the festival has teamed up with The Big Issue to create a special festival programme and edition of the magazine, and former cover star Cohen-Hatton was invited to share her story with the crowd ahead of IDLES’ set – appearing on the same stage that hosted Ms Lauryn Hill, Grace Jones and Madness over the weekend.
She was rough sleeping when she sold the magazine at the age of 15 in Cardiff, but after a remarkable transformation she became one of the UK’s most senior firefighters – leading responses to both the Westminster and Finsbury Park attacks in 2017 – as well as an academic and published author.
Quite possibly my most rock n roll moment ever – proud to be a @BigIssue Ambassador at #DownsFestival, talking about social mobility and what we ALL can do…just before my favourite @idlesband played the BEST set ever ❤ pic.twitter.com/5WZ96kwdhL
— Dr Sab Cohen-Hatton (@Sab_CohenHatton) August 31, 2019
“It was one of the most difficult but most important things I’ve ever done,” the 36-year-old told The Big Issue afterwards.
“To stand up and be so open in front of so many people made me feel quite vulnerable but empowered.
“I told them that having struggled is nothing to be ashamed of, that everybody deserves a chance. I’m really lucky to be able to turn up the volume for those people who need it. We should all challenge ourselves and the way we judge people, it’s easy to underestimate the impact we have on others.”
Two vendors, Josh and Mike, were invited back to sell the magazine to festival punters – but this year they were offered behind-the-scenes work, too, doing half-day shifts with security and the accessibility team respectively, which was a huge success.
— Crack Magazine (@CrackMagazine) August 28, 2019
The Big Issue ambassador, whose story made waves around the UK when she shared her story in the magazine earlier this year, left the festival with one undeniable highlight: the punch and energy of Bristol band IDLES.
“They were just amazing. I felt real synergy with everything they were talking about – Joe Talbot, the frontman, touched on a lot of important issues.
“Even my nine-year-old daughter loved their performance.”
The Downs is one of the major players in The Big Issue’s ‘Festivals For Good’ ethos, celebrating festivals that put a social echo at their heart.
Cohen-Hatton also spoke to the crowd about social mobility and how important she thinks it is that there is a safety net for everyone in society.
“It meant a lot to say that in front of all those people. And in some ways, I was speaking directly to the vendors who were there.”