Big Chill's Katrina Larkin interview (part 2)

festival co-founder talks to efestivals

published: Fri 30th Jan 2009

Leonard Cohen

Friday 7th to Sunday 9th August 2009
Eastnor Castle, Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 1RL, England MAP
adult w/e £145; aged 13-17 £60; parking £7.50; live-in vehicles £50
last updated: Mon 3rd Aug 2009

What else can you tell us at this stage about the line-up?
There's loads of other names that'll be coming out in about three weeks. I think what's really special this year is that we've developed the Enchanted Garden area of the site. We've just gone and bought loads of small, whacky music installations. We're working with the Art Car Boot Fair, they're young artists selling their art out of the back of cars. They've all sorts of things like wooden bikes riding around, it's really bizarre.

We have a busker's stage which was very popular, a crazy karaoke, a chocolate harem parlour, and bands playing in the back of lorries. All this area is growing, it's four stages in amongst the trees. It has a whiskey bar which is in a tree-house. Only fifteen people can go in it at a time. So apart from all these big bands on the open air stage, that's what really makes The Big Chill such a success. And then you've got the dressing-up changing rooms, and the body and soul area where you can go for massages. That all this is forging ahead so early in the year is very exciting.

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Sounds surreal, and that you really have to be there to fully appreciate it.
It is quite surreal. When you see people arrive at the festival, they park their car at the top of the hill, and they go the campsites, and I love the point where because it's a valley, they walk up to the top of the hill, and they look down and its this big vast stretch of colours and stages, and you just see people's reactions. They can see the whole site from that point, and it's stunning.

We also have a lot of comedy names to be released. In the last few years we've been working with Underbelly, who also do a lot of programming at Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

There's an area called Chilling Space, which has to be less music-led. Things like snail races have come out of this, where people have to wear snail costumes and wriggle along the ground. Or the sheep dog trials, where people dress up as sheep and dogs, or fifteen people running around as cheetahs, it allows people to sit through winter planning what they're going to bring to the festival.

Any other strengths of the festival?
I think the fact that it's planned all year round. There's a group of people who take it very seriously, and put a lot of passion into it. They don't come together just a couple of months beforehand, or indeed have other projects. They're completely committed to putting this event on. We're independent, which is really important to me. There's lots of festivals out there owned by multi-nationals, but The Big Chill is an independent organization, and all the directors put a lot of time into The Big Chill. You’ve got people who aren't just looking at the bottom line, you've got people who actually care about the creative rewards that artists feel and the experience that people attending it have. There's other festivals now looking at the Big Chill and taking ideas. The fact is, The Big Chill is full of creative, forward-thinking people.

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You mentioned earlier the 15x15 CD. How did that come about?
Well, we're fifteen. We were wondering whether to be quiet about it, as maybe fifteen is getting old and not cutting-edge, but we're actually quite a young organization, so we’re looking at ways that we can celebrate. One of the beautiful things about the festival is that a lot of artists have grown up with us. Tom Middleton DJed at the very first Big Chill festival back in Wales, Mr Scruff and people like that have been with us a very long time, and we also work with a lot of charity organizations. The fact that we could ask people like Norman Jay, who DJs every Sunday afternoon at the festival, to all recommend a tune that could be put together as a compilation celebrating fifteen years. A time for us all to reflect and also to deliver a really good soundtrack.

The festival itself will also be the bigger celebration really. That's our showcase, where we bring so many things together, and I'm sure we'll be inviting a lot of people back who've been involved over the years.

Tell us a bit about the Big Chill's expansion plans?
The Big Chill has certainly grown. We had about 700 people at the first Big Chill. People said "don't make it any bigger, we love it just as it is." But people come and they love it, and they tell their friends, and so there'’s been this growth. We never set about having any business plan, we take it very much on a year-by-year basis. If we think it's working on the numbers it has, then we keep it that way. We have cut back twice in recent year, until we think we're getting it right. As the event grows, and it's growing in an organic way, and it feels right, it's brilliant, as it shows you can get that amount of people together, you can have a huge bowl of creativity in that valley, and you're really proving something in society, that people can get on, they can have a really good time. And also it allows us to do more things and offer a platform for more people.

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It's about making sure there's many many areas offering all sorts of activity. So if you have more people, you have a bigger range of food offering. We don't like queues, we like people to get their food, get their pint in their hands quickly.

What's been the hardest aspect of it all?
It's very hard when the festival's over, having spent a whole year gearing up to it, and saying goodbye to people you've worked really closely with. But the hardest thing is wanting to do more all the time. We just want to go 'yes yes' to everything, but you can't always do that. It's quite painful when you have to choose between two things that you could put on at the festival.

Any particular favourite memories of the festival?
Everything, from really early in 98 just walking through the campsite early in the morning with peacocks running round the tents. One day I was on the back of the trucks that clean the toilets. They sat me on it and drove me off through the crowds, and I was absolutely mortified. It's very funny, our event, and we enjoy it.

Leonard Cohen
Last year we all climbed onto the roof of our production office, when The Buzzcocks were playing, and the production team and I were jumping up and down and waving our hands in the air, that was brilliant. And Leonard Cohen walking out on stage and introducing himself, really magic moments. The Boosh played, and we suddenly had Boosh-mania with all these teenagers screaming in the front three rows and climbing over into a proper mosh-pit. So many memories. And when we had the animal farm, and people broke in one night to set the animals free. I love it when people come in and stake ownership of the festival.

Tickets for the Big Chill are now on sale, with the option of paying a £50 deposit in December and the balance by Tuesday 31st March 2009.

An adult ticket is priced at £129, concessions £110, teen tickets (13 to 17 years old) are priced at £60, and kid (12 and under) are £4. Day tickets for the Sunday are priced at £65 (per person). There is also a National Express festival ticket & travel: £155 (only available from National Express). Live-in vehicle tickets are priced at £50 (per vehicle for the weekend), and car park tickets are £7.50 in advance, more on the gate.

To buy tickets, click here.

around the site (3)
interview by: Clive Hoadley

Friday 7th to Sunday 9th August 2009
Eastnor Castle, Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 1RL, England MAP
adult w/e £145; aged 13-17 £60; parking £7.50; live-in vehicles £50
last updated: Mon 3rd Aug 2009

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