16 July 2010
Glastonbury sells out in 2.7 seconds; V feels a little corporate; even the small festivals are packed to the rafters; so what's left for those seeking a spot of outdoor music and a refreshing beverage? The answer could be a micro festival, writes Claire Elshaw.
No, it’s nothing to do with computer chips. It’s the latest rising style for some of us to get our musical jollies. They pretty much are what they say on the tin: a microcosm of larger festivals. They have live bands, the beer flows, the sun shines (sometimes) and a good time is had by all. You even get to queue for toilets, just to give you that real down-to-earth festival experience. The difference? They are incredibly local, cost peanuts to get in to and hold far fewer punters. Sprouting up all over the country to fill a void, they are proving very popular with the locals and are spreading fast.
These small scale affairs have a lot in common: they are generally very well attended, very personal to the organisers and have a growing following. Involving hours of hard work and organising, often at venues that were not mainstream music venues to begin with, they have taken an idea and made it their own. Though each with a unique flavour and feel, they share a common sense of providing a service rather than fleecing the attendees of every cent. The venues are often local pubs, cafes, etc., who see the benefits of widening their scope of clientele through the word of mouth approach. Here’s a taste of what you can expect around the country.
Based at the Ferry Tavern in Warrington, Glastonferry started life as a one-off bike show that had some bands on. Now they host three events a year, with tickets selling out fast and the capacity increasing each time to keep up with demand. The event is so popular with locals, both regulars to the pub and regulars to the festival alone, that the £10 tickets are hugely sought after.
In order to give the punters a recognisable musical platter, the event plays host to a myriad of tribute acts, such as the Stereosonics (Stereophonics), Blurb (Blur) and The Fillers (The Killers), as well as supporting local bands to bring in fresh new talent.
The popularity of the events means the pub now has a permanent stage structure outside in the summer months, employs a proper PA company to mix the sound and has an army of local Scouts to help with the clear up. This work with the local Scout group (they get a generous donation for their litter-picking skills) highlights the local links that are being forged in such events. They also support local causes with a Clatterbridge Cake Stall (a local cancer centre) and have a good relationship with the local council and police to help with security and licensing.
Gwdih? (pronounced “Goody Hoo”) has its home in Cardiff. This local café-bar holds a variety of micro festivals throughout the year. The feel and focus of each event changes: some are more mainstream in style, some dedicated to Welsh music. But no matter the content, the quality and focus remain the same. It boasts indoor and outdoor stages, locally-brewed ale and good home-cooked food like hog roasts on-site.
The 140-capacity venue plays host to around 400 people on festival day, with families turning up in the daylight hours and the hardcore musos taking over at dusk. Its prices vary depending on the style, but with a £3-7 price tag per event it’s hardly going to stretch the budget even in these tight days. They are also widening their musical input and searching the country for the best small bands to play at future events.
Held on a small farm near Huntingdon, this is truly a back to nature event. Surrounded by farm vehicles and livestock, it’s Glastonbury with the cows still in situ. The location provides atmospheric surroundings and the three stages provide a platform for emerging local talent to ply their trade.
With bands, DJs and even Nic the Accordion, the varied line-up will cater for most musical tastes. Plus the BBQ grills allow you to bring and cook your own food, signalling an end to the “guess-the-meat” burgers of the mainstream fast food trucks.
The Stables Pub & Brewery
Situated at Beamish Hall in Durham, the Stables pub and brewery provides a very civilised backdrop to a weekend of music, booze and revelry. It hosts an eclectic line-up of ska, melodic singers and local buskers; with indoor and outdoor stages, it’s a first-time event for the venue. The ale couldn’t be more local with the brewery on-site, and there’s a special summer Belgian-style wheat beer in the pipeline.
This is a free event aimed at proving a pleasurable and purse-friendly experience for those in the North East.
For all these venues, the micro festivals have proved a good way of getting people through the door who wouldn’t normally be there. They are a good source of income and a great way to express their individuality. For those who attend it’s also perfect: a festival you can walk to and home from, a very budget-friendly small event and plenty of local character. In this current heatwave, why travel any further?
So if you’ve missed out on tickets to Glasto, Leeds or V, have no fear. You may find that looking closer to home will provide you with an as-yet-untapped goldmine of outdoor summer musical delight.
All these events have minimal advertising but you can find them, they’re all online, they’re all on Facebook. So get surfing.
Friday 16 July :
http://thewebguyuk.co.uk/kingsstocksite/ KingsStock will be back next year. We'll be keeping the great format and adding lovely stuff on top! See you there?