New festival series: A Tale of Two Cities

Introducing Festival No.6 and Love Saves the Day

Photographer:Andy Squire

Alex Fahey - 17 May 2012

For the best of times, in the worst of times, it takes a man of wisdom or perhaps a man of foolishness to create an epoch of belief that their new festival will survive.
 
If Mr Dickens were alive today (and a keen digester of festival journalism) he’d do well to remember that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but his inclusion in this article is not without reason.
 
The media have been keen on impressing the idea that we’re heading towards a ‘Dickensian future’ with ten-to-a-bed rented housing, the widening of pay gaps and the dismantling of the welfare state. Whether it’s the stuff of scaremongering or scary stuff we shall see but our interest lies in not what this country will do to us but what we can do in this county.
 
So what can we do in this country?

There are two men that are presenting revellers with an answer as they try and stamp their footprint on Britain’s city festival landscape. Love Saves the Day promoter Tom Paine suggests that Bristolians, home of urban festivals Dot to Dot and Upfest need a bit more grass and No. 6 Festival founder, Gareth Cooper convinces that the oddities of Italian-style, cult-admired, Welsh village, Portmeirion is the perfect surroundings festival.
 
This summer will be the tale of two cities, or rather one city and a very odd village.
 
As the festival circuit has grown it’s evolved from (but not abandoned) the tent in the countryside affair as the comfort of sleeping, showering and shhh-ing in your own home or at least surrounded by concrete instead of canvas has broadened the appeal of festivals to a new audience.
 
Outdoor stages still feature in the urban event, see any of those held at London’s Victoria Park but festivals have willingly and successfully attached themselves to the ready-made venues of the city landscape providing urban playgrounds that encompass both the sticky-floored pub circuit and the self-serving arenas.
 
Talking with Gareth Cooper he explains that Festival No.6 will be a departure from your normal urban festival. Of Portmeirion he says, "this place is one of the most iconic locations in the UK; it is built for something to happen on it. It is the most amazing, jaw-dropping village you can imagine, it was impossible to say no to."
 
A quick internet search reveals that it’s no exaggeration on Cooper’s part. Portmeirion exposes itself in all its supposed Italian splendour; it is a brightly-decorated Disneyland of a location offset against the rich racing-green backwash of Snowdonia.
 
The flight of imagination in this fantasy-setting could easily be the only lure but a line-up that is headed up by New Order, Primal Scream and Spiritualized proves otherwise. “We see it appealing to a more discerning music enthusiast which is why on dance music we have the likes of Francois K and Andrew Weatherall,” explains Cooper, “it’s a grown up site, it’s sophisticated, it’s mature and it has 180 beds just in its own cottages.”
 
Accommodation is not an issue for Bristol’s, Love Saves The Day as it takes place over one-day, though the promoter, Tom Paine explains that festival aesthetics were: “We have no intention of putting up three big tops and a Strongbow tent and pretending that this constitutes a festival. We all grew up going to Glastonbury in the nineties; we know how magical and amazing the combinations of art, music, performance, energy and decor can be to making an event spectacular.”
 
As well as the Love Saves the Day founders experiencing festivals as punters, they have also been involved in the organisation side too. Tom Paine describes, “eight years of poorly paid festival work at some of the best festivals in the UK and Europe, where we have worked with some of the best people in the industry, some of the best contractors and learnt our trade the proper way.”
 
The proper way has led to astute, calculated decisions on ticketing and line-up which glistens from Roots Manuva to Young Warrior via Annie Mac and Greg Wilson. “We concentrated on a real breadth of music and taking a punt on loads of emerging talent whose sounds we were really feeling, it also helped to keep our ticket price down.” Amongst other factors this judgment has led to the event selling out.
 
Not that it’s been an easy ride to get to that stage, “we couldn't find any financing...full stop. That's about as challenging as you can get! We went to a number of people and they all showed some initial interest but when it came to the crunch they all said no. So we had to make the tough decision as to whether to press ahead or not - and we're really glad we did. We sold out in seven weeks and could have sold double our capacity!”
 
Gareth Cooper notes that experience, as well as belief, are two factors which have turned No. 6 Festival in to a reality, “there is always going to be a risk [starting a new festival] but with the experience and understanding of how to program, promote and produce an event you can reduce the risk and then take a view. Our view of Festival No. 6 is that it’s going to be very popular because it’s the right location, serving the right market with the right entertainment both spoken and sung.”
 
Cooper, who is also the founder of Snowbombing, has a proven he can run successful (and scenic) events it is the, “mix of bollocks, stupidity and not knowing when to give up is probably what’s needed,” though he did admit that his newest venture would be hard pushed to become reality, “without experience and a track record. We would never have got the site unless we could prove ourselves with our history.
 
So it is in history success will be judged. As Britain turns towards its ‘Dickensian future’ we can only hope Oliver’s words, “please, sir, I want some more,” ring true for two of this summer’s events; already we can see the light will fall favourably.


Festival No.6 takes place in Portmeirion, Wales from 14-16 September 2012 and will feature performances from Spiritualized, New Order, Primal Scream and Richard Hawley.

Love Saves The Day takes place at Castle Park, Bristol on Sunday, June 3 with performances from Annie Mac, Mr Scruff, Bonobo, Roots Manuva, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Bristol’s very own DJ Derek - tickets have sold out.


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