The Levellers - Beautiful Days

trying to get that 'weirdness' back into festivals

published: Tue 24th Jun 2003

Saturday 16th to Sunday 17th August 2003
Escot Park, near Fairmile, Devon, EX11 1LU, England MAP
w/e: £55, £35 aged 5-12; days: £27.50, £17.50 aged 5-12; FREE under 5's
last updated: Fri 11th Jul 2003

We caught up with Mark of the Levellers & Drunk In Public, to ask about what they're up to, and specifically about their Beautiful Days Festival.

So Why the change in name from Green Blade Fayre to Beautiful Days?

"We had a lot of trouble last year in trying to put the Green Blade Fayre together. One of the locals to the site we wanted to use got a bee in her bonnet about it, and was not going to allow this festival to happen... She got a petition together signed by about 500 people. We were risking a lot of money - we'd probably have won on appeal, but we couldn't afford to take the risk of loosing. So with a change in name for this year we disassociated ourselves from much of the bad press we'd had. We did loads to good work with the local authorities - they were up for having it, it was only the police who weren't, due to the petition."

So it was easier to put it together for Escot Park this year then?

"Much easier. The guy who owns the house is really cool. He's an aristo-type, up for anything. He runs a small digeridoo festival there anyway, and he's always wanted to run a music festival on his grounds, like you would if you had that much space. He's a really cool geezer."

How did you manage to get the festival set up after all the trouble with a licence last year? What drove you to try again?

"We were determined - we'll do what we want to do. We've got all the right people in place to do it, and that's important."

Did you deliberately choose the same weekend as V, or was it just a convenient date in the summer?

"No .... it was just a random summer weekend. But it is nice, the ethos of the festival is anti-thesis of V."

Why no live-in vehicles in camping area? Will there be a separate camp for vans etc?

"It's to do with the license conditions. The rules and regulations for licencing live-in vehicles.... The distances, they have to be parked so far apart.... We haven't got a field big enough to fit them all in. We're trying to discourage people from doing it THIS year ... next year, once we're all in, it's all good, the council are good, nothing has gone bad ... next year we'll get a bigger licence for that. This festival is intended to last, its going to run and run, that's the whole point of it. So, we've had to make some compromises, and that's one of the compromises."

Don't you worry that it excludes some of your loyal following?

"Not really, our loyal following don't live in vehicles, they might have years ago, but they don't any more. People who live in vehicles are mainly the techno hardcore ... they're not bothered about The Levellers."

So you're planning to make it a regular thing ... does that mean that you'll rule out playing other festivals? If so, would you still consider playing Glastonbury and elsewhere in the future?

"No, it they're good festivals, we'll play them. We're playing some this year anyway."

Yeah, Guilfest, as Drunk In Public....

"We always do that one anyway."

Why - when so many festivals allow under-tens in for free - did you decide to only let under-fives in?

"Because of the capacity - it's only 5,000, so every single person counts against that. They're very strict on how the numbers work for the licence."

Is this something you've thought of, that you're holding the festival so close to the site of the A30 road protests?

"Near Fairmile? The guy who owns Escot, he heavily supported and looked after the protesters, he let them come on his land, brought them sandwiches and tea.... The building of that road killed Fairmile ... the pub is on its last legs. Consequently, the protests led to a lot of local support for the festival, because they got a good impression of the protesters and what they were trying to do."

The line-up for Beautiful Days has some of your collaborators & friends, was that deliberate?

"Our aim with the bill was to get acts that would put on a great show, that would captivate the audience, not because they've got the latest hit record out. If you're a music fan, you'll like it. We've called in a lot of favours in getting the bill together ... as this is our first year we've had to watch what we spend, and do it all as cheap as possible, so we've said come and do it this year, and next year we'll pay you more, simple as that."

Is there anything special you're planning to do that you're not really advertising?

"Yeah, there will be ... we've invested a lot of money, and got a lot of money from Arts Councils, to do a lot of crazy shit ... never a dull moment, guaranteed."

You've said the capacity is 5,000 ... How are tickets selling?

"They're going all right actually, but they could always go better. If we'd sold out in a day like Glastonbury that would've been great ... but it's new. We put tickets on sale last year for Green Blade Fayre, and ended up having to refund, so I guess a few people are being a bit cautious this time around. The buzz in the local area is really great."

You obviously like festivals - hence your own. What's the appeal?

"The whole reason for doing it is that many festivals are shit. They just haven't got that right element of cultural exchange. We're trying to get that 'weirdness' back into festivals, which is the whole point of doing it. I went to my first in 1982; I've been brought up on them.... I still think they're the most valid way of enjoying yourself that you can have in summer in England. The world's changed, but there are ways of keeping those ideals alive that I learnt then ... they will change they will alter, but I still want all that, it's the feel ... as soon as the corporate hands sticks it's tiniest bit in, they're fucked."

You've been to a lot of festivals over the years, which stick in your mind? Did you go to Treworgey Tree Fayre in '89 for example?

"We played at Treworgey. That was a mad one ... I was scared there, genuinely scared. That was too much, it was crazy - I like crazy - but people died there ... I'm glad I was there, but it doesn't go down as one of my greatest festivals."

"The Elephant Fayre was my favourite.... That had craziness with safety. They're never going to be like that again."

Last time I saw you as The Levellers was at Essential in Bristol last year. They went bust off the back of that - did you get paid?

"Yeah.... We got paid in advance."

You're playing at Guilfest as Drunk In Public - and you've played there before. Is this an event you particularly like? Why?

"The reason we do that one, do it regularly, is that the guy who runs the festival - Tony - he wanted to do a festival to put The Levellers on. He's got similar ideals to us with our festival ... except he's doing it in the middle of Guildford, which must be hard - I'm amazed."

Will you be drunk this time - in 2001 you proudly stated that you weren't for once. :-)

[laughs] "... we'll try"

So what's the best festival you've ever been to, and why?

"The Elephant Fayre.... But it's all personal isn't it? ..... Who you're hanging out with, your mates."

What do you think of organisational, security and other changes at Glastonbury over the last few festivals?

"They've had to walk a path to make it work. I haven't been, and I probably won't go again. Michael Eavis has somehow taken against The Levellers anyway, we don't know why. We tried to get on the Acoustic Stage to play as Drunk In Public ... we did call him a tosser from the stage once, that might have something to do with it ;-) ... We still send him a Christmas card tho. But it's changed so much...."

Do you think festivals are over-regulated?

"They are, but there's way of getting round these things."

So you think the public be trusted to have a good time with no trouble without this amount of regulation?

"Yeah, of course they can."

What do you think of the UK music press?

"We were never bothered about that shit. I gave up on it all years ago."

I see you've been working hard touring this year. Is this purely for the love of it, & to maintain momentum as a band? Are you worried that if you don't keep doing it, you'll fade away?

"Essentially ... what else would i do?"

So do you see yourself still working in The Levellers/Drunk In Public at, say, 65?

"Yeah, great. Well, i won't be alive at 65, but should i be, i'll still be doing this."

How do you feel about the whole pop-idol/popstars/boy band thing? Is it good/bad for music in general?

"Some of them have talent... there's a guy i know in Brighton, he's only 18, and he wants a career, and I help him out. His parents pressured him to go and do Fame Academy, he's got a place, he's in it, if he wants it ... and I've said to him "don't do it". It'll kill him.... It's like winning "Battle of the Bands". Fame Academy is slightly OK.... I just think it's a really disastrous move, you should make it on your own."

Cheers for your time Mark - have a great summer, and I hope Beautiful Days is everything you hope it'll be.

The photos with this interview were taken of Drunk In Public the same night.
interview by: Neil Greenway

Saturday 16th to Sunday 17th August 2003
Escot Park, near Fairmile, Devon, EX11 1LU, England MAP
w/e: £55, £35 aged 5-12; days: £27.50, £17.50 aged 5-12; FREE under 5's
last updated: Fri 11th Jul 2003

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