eFestivals spoke to Ralph Broadbent founder of Y-Not Festival
If I can talk about Y-Not first and then Truck later. For those that don't know the Y-Not festival how would you describe it to them?
Or slogan is 'small, fresh, and loud' and that epitomises what we are really. We're a small festival and we're all about fresh music, and putting it across in an exciting way. When we started the festival it was about bringing back what festivals had been about in the past, 10 or 20 years ago, getting into a field and just having a good time. Through our love of new music, we concentrated more on the up and coming artists and that what it's about even more these days.
When you started out six or so years ago did you expect to still be doing it six years on?
No, not at all. I was only when we started it. It was really intended as a one off, and then, as these things happen, it went well, and so it continues to grow.
How did it come about, what made you decide to start it?
I was going to have a house party in the summer after sixth form, as my parents were going away on holiday for a couple of weeks, and so I invited the whole of the sixth form. Then, my parents turned around and said they weren't going away, and obviously I hadn't told them about the party. I couldn't tell my parents that 100-200 people, the whole of the sixth form, were coming, and I couldn't cancel the party. We all chipped in, and hired a quarry down the road, and got a couple of toilets, and had some bands from school play. It was basically a private party, and then in year two we got a license to do it properly and it's grown from there really.
Had you been to any festivals before that?
I'd never been to a single festival before I started organising them to be honest.
Have you been to any since?
(Laughs) yes, I've been to loads now. To be honest, it really wasn't meant to be a festival, it was meant to just be a party with some mates who were in bands, and DJs playing. Rather than a full on festival, but it's kind of grown into one.
Are you intending to keep on developing it, it's capped at present at around 4,000 isn't it?
It's capped at 5,000 now, and I think we'll play it by ear. We've got some planning to do over the next month, and we may take it up to around about the 7,000 mark, pending a few things falling into place. We've been this size now for the last three years, so I think perhaps it's time to start growing again. But we'll only do it slowly.
Are you pleased with how ticket sales have gone since you put the early bird on sale?
Really chuffed, in the first day we sold double what we did last year on the opening day. It's really strong at the moment, and I'm sure we'll sell out again this year. It's the time of year, going through January, when you're always a bit nervous about how ticket sales will go on day one. You don't really have an indication before that, but we sold 500 tickets in the first 90 minutes, and then that again through the rest of the day. I really wasn't expecting to be selling that many to be honest.
You haven't announced anyone yet, what is the plan with regard to unveiling the first acts?
I think we're going to do it this Wednesday (15th), it's difficult, everyone is asking, and want to know. But, it's about getting the bookings done. We don't want to rush it, but on the other hand we do want to let people, but we will announce the first wave of acts on Wednesday, and we've got some wicked names lined up.
Have you had any difficulty booking acts because of exclusivity deals?
Yes, loads, it's an absolute nightmare! I think that is probably the biggest threat to small festivals. It's not just the big headliners that are getting sewn up, it's right down through the bill. Whenever we try and book any small artist more often than not they're already under exclusives, normally with the bigger festivals.
Because we're all about new fresh music this makes big problems for us. New music has really exploded in the last few years. Now the major festivals really want to get involved in that, so they put in exclusive contracts.
I think that ultimately what they want to do is make anyone that wants to see any of the popular new music acts have to go to the big festivals. This makes things very tricky for us, as we don't have the budgets to compete with them.
Do you think this policy has any effect on the music scene?
Yes, this is what we try to say to the agents. I think it definitely prevents fans from seeing the acts they love. I think that's also why we don't see any new massive artists nowadays that you used to. I can't imagine a new Oasis emerging now because artists are only allowed to get so big before the amount of live performances they do at festivals are choked a little bit. I mean anyone who does Reading or Leeds can find themselves only doing those in that year. To me, I can't see any massive acts being able to develop, you get to a certain level now and that's the ceiling. That ceiling has been built by this cloak of exclusivities for large performances.
It's really frustrating for us, because music is just music, and it should be there for everyone to have a good time, and I feel it's all about the money these days.
So if Y-Not ever had the power to offer exclusives, would you make the deals in your own bookings?
No, we don't claim to be a big event anyway, but, I don't think we would, we always try to keep ticket prices low, and we're one of the lowest in the country. Obviously, the prices do have to go up each year because of costs, inflation alone is at 5% at the moment. The costs of festival stuff like stages, and fences are going up by more than 5% to be honest. But, we always try to keep things as low as possible, and cut out things we don't need. The important thing is to ensure that you always put on a good festival. If we became a major festival, we wouldn't be looking at following the same approach.
You're obviously without corporate sponsorship, have you ever been approached?
Yes, we've been approached before, every year, well nearly, in the early days we didn't. But, certainly in the last few years we've always been approached. I think it's one of those things, they approach us with offers of subtle things, saying they could do this and the customer wouldn't know. But, we feel that once they get their foot in the door then maybe... So, so far we've always tried to keep well away from it.
Moving on to Truck, you've taken on the organisation of Truck, how did that come about?
Well, we first read about it on your website, obviously the first port of call for festival news. I'd met Robin, one of the organisers at 2000Trees quite a few years ago. 2000Trees is our sister festival. I dropped him an email to see if there was anything we could do to help. Obviously, i didn't know what the situation was. I bumped into him again at the festival awards and we sat down and had breakfast the next day and talked about it. He thought there might be some way of saving it, obviously they had had a rough year. I think quite a few festivals did last year, it had been okay for us. We chatted about it, looked at what the situation was in a bit of detail, and we found there might be a way out where Truck could continue.
Obviously it was a bit of a delicate situation, because it had gone bust and owed people quite a bit of money. It was one of those things where we had to think whether we wanted to get involved or not. We thought from our point of view, if we were going to get involved with it, it would be best if we let it carry on so that people can continue to enjoy it for years to come. It's one of the longest established festivals in the country. We also wanted to ensure that all the festival suppliers that weren't paid last year were given the chance to tender again this year.
I think it's important that when a festival has been going for 14 years that it doesn't fall by the wayside because of tough economic conditions. Hopefully, it's future might be a bit more rosy in the future.
What about the acts that weren't paid?
That's obviously a bit more of a tricky one. We'd love to see some of those bands come back, but some of the agents aren't keen. Some are fine with it, our management is good, we have an impeccable record, we've never made a late payment or anything like that. Some are happy for us to run it, and have given us acts. One agency has said that until bands are paid then they're not happy for us to book any of their artists. Purely for Truck I must point out, not for Y-Not. We'd love to see the bands come back, there were some good names throughout the line-up, but it's a case of how the agents feel about it, and we're far too small an organisation to pay off all the debts of Truck Festival 2011 that are owed by Steventon Events Ltd who went bust.
Are they still involved in any way with Truck?
Robin and Jo Bennett who were the directors of Steventon Events Ltd they're helping with the transition over the next few months, then we'll take over and completely control the whole thing.
For Truck regulars, will Truck still be the same event?
What our aim is, is to look at the last 14 years of Truck, and pick out all the best bits, roll it into one, and call it Truck 2012. In order to achieve that, we're taking a back to basics approach. One of the reason they went bust last year, was that they tried to grow at a time when it really didn't suit them. We're going back to basics, a layout that's much more like 2010, on a condensed site, and we're bringing back things like the Barn, a little bit legendary amongst Truckers.
We're chopping a few of the stages out, but only so we can reinvest that into getting a strong profile of artists through the other stages. There will still be the Rotary Club there doing the food, and all the charities involved in Truck, which has always been one of the big things about it, will still be involved, and continue to raise money for their respective causes.
The idea is, although we're coming in, we're not going to take everything that's good out, we're just going to add new bits, and a lot of what is going to change is the stuff behind the scenes, about how the event is financially managed, and stuff like that. Hopefully the festival goer will only see improvements. Obviously people are worried about the charities, and how they're going to fit in, but we've promised all of that is going to stay. It's only going to change for the better.
You mentioned that Truck came a cropper through expansion, do you think your expansion to two events will be a safe one?
I was at university for the last few years, I only graduated in June last year, and we were able to run it okay whilst I had that going on. Now, I have a lot more time to devote to festivals, I did engineering which was quite a time intensive degree. The guys with me are also full time now, so I think we are quite well placed. Truck is a very similar size to Y-Not, and I think we're well placed to do it, and we've got the confidence we will do it as well.
When is the line-up planned to be announced for that?
It's very early days to be honest, we've only just taken it on. We're trying to get on top of everything really, and find out what's what, so we may look to make our first line-up of names the Wednesday after we announce Y-Not.
Y-Not festival, now in its seventh year, takes place from Friday 3rd until Sunday 5th August 2012 near Matlock in Derbyshire, and has a capacity of 5,000 people, and aside from the music on two stages, there is a whole host of activities including yoga, African dancing, a pub quiz, dodgems and much more!
The festival attempts to have an intimate nature, with many of the bands camping with festival goers, and friendly stewards. Late night entertainment includes a dance tent, or camp fire singalongs and there will be real ales and local ciders available.
Early bird tickets sold out in the first 90 minutes. Tickets are now priced at £75 for a weekend adult ticket. To buy tickets, click here.
interview by: Scott Williams
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