Beach Break Live’s Celia Norowzian

Readying itself for its second semester, we chat to Beach Break Live headteacher Celia Norowzian about what she's got planned for this year's student soiree.

This July, Cornwall's Polzeath Beach will again play host to Beach Break Live; a unique three-day festival exclusively for students.

Following the first event in 2007, an appearance on the BBC's Dragon's Den helped make organisers Celia Norowzian and Ian Foreshew's festival dream a reality. But despite winning the cash they declined Peter Jones' offer in favour of a partnership with Outgoing Travel and as a result this year's bash is set to be even bigger.

Revellers celebrating the end of their exams can kick off the summer with music from the likes of The Wombats, The Enemy and The Cribs, let their hair down with a spot of surfing and plenty of other fun and frolics courtesy of The Mighty Cornish Goblet Farmyard Olympics!

It would send a shiver down the spine of many a tranquil coastal town but Polzeath is seemingly unfazed at the prospect of a mob of festival frenzied students being unleashed on its shores. We caught up with Celia Norowzian to get the lowdown on the ultimate beach break for 2008.  

Virtual Festivals: What was the inspiration for Beach Break Live?
Celia Norowzian: "I originally set up a charity festival in Birmingham University to raise money and awareness for Sudan and the after effects of Rwanda which inspired the idea of running festivals. I love being part of the community of people that come together at a festival. Ian, my partner, used to run trips to Amsterdam, Italy and Ireland for students at the end of the year and we always had a ridiculously fun time so thought that maybe we should marry the two together."

VF: Beach Break Live is the first festival exclusively for students. Why did you take this approach?
CN: "The festival market is very saturated at the moment and there are so many amazing festivals. We wanted to create something unique which had a niche market that we were very comfortable with and something that reflected those summer experiences that we'd had. As much as you're in a uni where there’s 25,000 people, it's hard to meet and get to know new people as a student, so it’s a really comforting idea that everyone can get away at the end of the year to this big event that everyone looks forward to."

VF: What makes it different from other music festivals?
CN: "It's a 10 minute walk from the beach. I think one of the main differences is that at a lot of festivals you're locked in for 3 days and 3 nights, some people love that but the nice thing about Beach Break is that you can go down to the beach for a surf or to a cafe in town and then just walk back up the coastal path to the festival. There's that sense of refreshing yourself and having that typical English holiday experience as well as just going to a festival. The fact that it is all students means it is definitely different to other festivals although I'm not saying that it’s necessarily better that everyone is young. We've been inspired by Bestival and the Secret Garden Party and the idea of people just having fun and not taking themselves seriously. We're doing the Mighty Cornish Goblet Farmyard Olympics and we're also having a big barn where people can get down and dirty and barn dance. The idea of Beach Break is to drop all your pretenses and have loads of fun. The music is almost second to that."

VF: What will the Mighty Cornish Goblet Farmyard Olympics involve?
CN: "Hay bale hurling which is actually an old traditional Cornish game, sheep racing, a game called 'pass the pigs' but on a giant scale so the pigs that you have to pass will be massive, and scarecrow building which is going to make up our security area. There is loads of stuff going on over the three days."

VF: You're encouraging people to be environmentally aware by taking part in the Eco race. The journey in the most efficient time with the smallest carbon footprint wins. Did you do this last year?
CN: "No we didn't but transport is quite a big thing for us. We don't market ourselves as a ridiculously green festival but we do try and do things fairly such as keeping down carbon emissions. People travelling to festivals in cars create more pollution than any other aspect of the festival, so we put on coaches from everyone's uni's so that people have the option of coach travel and we also run a park and ride scheme so people don't drive straight into Polzeath town which is a cute, little place that would get over-run. The Eco race was the next step from that. People are trying to get there on skateboards and someone is trying to windsurf. The idea is for people to bear in mind their impact on the environment in getting to the festival."

VF: How do you ensure that the festival fits in with the local community?
CN: "In actually getting our license we spent about 6 months in and around Polzeath, debating and discussing what we wanted to do with the residents association and council body. For example, they might say "Polzeath can't take many cars," so we implement the park and ride scheme. It's been an ongoing conversation between us and the community to make sure it is something that does fit in, but we've taken that further by supporting local charities and making sure we source everything locally from beer and water to food. A lot of it is actually from the farm where we run the event. It's a very Cornish based festival in the fact that it doesn't bring in resources from outside."

VF: So are the local people of Polzeath happy to have a 3-day student music festival descending on their village then?
CN: "Apparently so. There are a lot of young students in Polzeath during summer working in surf stalls and we gave free tickets to all of the locals last year to make sure they could all come down and check it out. We've got local tickets set aside so that people can come down and be a part of it even if they’re not a student."

VF: You successfully took part in the BBC’s Dragons Den. What was that like?
CN: "It was really funny. You would think that there would only be the four dragons in the room but there were actually about fifty people. I suppose it went well because Ian and I know the business so well and we really love it. Also we had already put on the event once so it's not like an idea that you're trying to convince someone could work. It was fun. Deborah Meaden was lovely and Peter Jones is like a giant. When he stood up he was eight foot tall or something."

VF: Why did you decide to take part in Dragons Den after having already done one Beach Break Live?
CN: "As anyone would tell you, running events is such a risky business. You put so much money up front and basically run to lose it all. We ran the first Beach Break off of student loans and a couple of saved investitures so we didn't have an investment as such, but we decided that we needed a proper injection of cash to be able to run it properly and make it a big event rather than something that always stays small and can't build a line-up because of cash restrictions."

VF: What made you decide Outgoing Travel were the partners for you?
CN: "I think the main reason is from a resources point of view because there is just so much that they were able to give us. We can use their web team to do our website, their designers, marketing and databases. Ian and myself were up for being a part of a bigger team and they're really nice, fun guys. They also run student events so they’re a really relevant company and we fit nicely into the model they have already built."

VF: The Wombats, The Enemy and The Cribs are headlining, how did you choose your acts?
CN: "We've got an amazing programmer who we work very closely with called Mark Roberts, who is also a DJ, so it was an ongoing debate between all of us to get a balance of headliners who would sell the tickets and headliners that we actually liked, who would create the right vibe. Beach Break is a very sunny, happy event and kicking off with The Wombats is the perfect way of starting the festival. Ian and I are both into folk and music that is quite chilled out, so trying to make a balanced line up that was really strong and of the moment that also created the happy feel of the festival had a big impact on the acts that we chose. We want to make people feel a part of something really positive."

VF: What did you learn after the first Beach Break Live?

CN: "I learnt that you need to delegate roles because if you don't you'll die at the festival, which basically happened. If you don't delegate, you end up not being able to do anything. We learnt that it was something that we were willing to risk everything for and that we loved it."

VF: So will there be any changes the second time around?
CN: "Oh yes, I'm sure. If you ask me this again after the next festival, I'll probably say if you don't do something else you'll die. This year it has gone up a gear in the sense that we're getting production teams in, stalls, caterers and just making sure we've got the right people in charge of the right thing while keeping the spirit of the festival and not losing touch with what we're trying to create. I'm sure there will be a million things we change again next year, we're always learning."

VF: Do you see it as an annual festival in the long term?
CN: "Definitely. Maybe even two."

VF: Finally, for anyone thinking of going to a festival this year, how would you convince them that Beach Break Live is the one for them?
CN: "The whole idea of Beach Break Live is just going away and having a really fun, happy time at the end of your exams to kick off the summer really positively. I don't think there are many festivals where the main stage has a beautiful ocean backdrop. It's a totally rejuvenating and amazing experience where you get to see loads of bands but can also kick back and have a holiday."