Exclusive - interview with All Points East organiser Jim King

chatting to eFestivals on the eve of APE 2022

By Raph Pour-Hashemi | Published: Fri 19th Aug 2022

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Saturday 20th to Sunday 28th August 2022
Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, Greater London, E9 7BT, England MAP
varies, around £70 a day
Daily capacity: 40,000
Last updated: Fri 12th Aug 2022

 

As eFestivals prides itself on covering the huge breadth of the UK music festival market each year, we were fortunate to have the chance to sit down with Jim King, festival organiser of All Points East - one of the main staples of the summer circuit. We’re big fans of All Points East at eFestivals - and have covered it from it’s first year in 2018. It opens this weekend with another stellar lineup - ranging from Gorillaz to Tame Impala to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.  

 

Jim is really, really passionate about music and cares greatly about putting on the most fantastic show for audiences - and you’ll see that in his brilliant, honest responses below. Jim and eFestivals actually go way back - we interviewed him ten (!) years ago for the Rock Ness festival https://www.efestivals.co.uk/festivals/rockness/2012/interview-jimking.shtml

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eFestivals - I think I've been to nearly every big festival this summer - Europe, around the world, Glastonbury. You name it. They've all had different issues. 

JK - Yeah.

eFestivals - ....Issues that they don't usually have - so what's keeping you up at night? The factors that have caught you off guard? Or is everything all fine and tickety-boo?

JK - Well, I don't think anything's keeping me up. There's things that piss me off. Not personally, because you're trying to create a great experience for fans to enjoy their favourite artists. That's our role, OK? And, I think we do a good job with that. When you have other pressures that come into play, that makes things very difficult for fans, or very difficult for artists, then it's disappointing. Obviously, unfortunately this week, we have a great deal of strike action going on, and whilst I have every sympathy for people's right to secure the best working conditions, and it's something which I think we all feel strongly about and support. It's very disappointing seeing its impact on people who are not involved in that process. I think if you look at the number of people working - you know the industry very well, working out here, and there will be 1000s of good working class people working on this show over the weekend - we will suffer greatly from this, probably more so than TFL with the government to be honest with you. That's a great shame and I wish it could be resolved.

eFestivals - Even Coldplay had to move their gig - and you can't do that....

JK - Unfortunately, we can't do that. And so, you know, it's people who pay money for tickets who are affected. People will have much longer and arduous journeys in and out work.

eFestivals - Any expected no shows? 

JK - Well, there's always an element of that. But we are certainly expecting it to be a challenge for some fans to be able to get to because we had the triple whammy of trains outside of London. Trains inside of London. Both overground and underground. So if you're coming in from an hour away to a show from London to see your favourite artists, it's a challenge.

eFestivals - Chances are you will see your favourite band because it's a huge, massively great lineup.

JK - Yeah, it's disappointing really, because, you know, I feel for the band, Gorillaz have trusted us doing this great show. It's gonna be amazing show regardless for the band, but, it certainly makes it less, less enjoyable, I guess, knowing that that's sitting in the background.

eFestivals - So this is 2022 - Is this like, where you've hit the limit of annoying issues? Get to 2023 are things rosier? Or is it going to get worse - some of these issues -  Brexit, staff, bar queues, water, droughts....?

JK - This is an industry that is built on finding solutions to problems, that's never going to change. There will be issues without doubt, I've been at this a long time. And I'm sure if I look back, there's been an issue each year, there will be other cost of living issues etc going on. It's our responsibility to find ways to make shows important to people so that they want to go to as we're competing with other things that they can spend their money on. And we need to make sure that we get as high up on the "must do things in 2023" list that we can, as people have choices. And when they have less money, we have to make sure that the choice that they make is the right one. Currently when they get here, they go home going "I made the right one". That's the challenge - it's making sure that people are feeling justified and happy they came and they want to come down again.

eFestivals - That's it because I was just at Boardmasters last weekend, and I felt that every youth from the Southwest was there - but obviously London is far more saturated - but then saying that, All Points East is so established - it's almost THE alternative band festival lineup. So how do you stay fresh because because you've got nothing to prove anymore? You're now the big dogs.

JK - We always have something to prove, you know, it's a very difficult market, and it's the most competitive market in the world. London. There's amazing shows all around. We are always very respectful of the competition, we just try and do the best we can. And we think that we run our shows well. We think that we have the fan first and foremost, and we think we have the handle the artist’s requirements best for them - hence why bands and artists like to come. I think as long as we continue doing that, then we're going to be okay. I think that we're not particularly driven by any style, or genre or age, demographic; it's always about booking the most...well... these are artists that we love. These are artists that we listen to. I'm 50 years old, there's a lot younger staff than I am. So starting there, you know, from Oscar to Darcey - these guys in the booking team chip in their styles and opinions, it reflects everybody in our office from 22 years old to me at 50. And that's, I think, the beauty of All Points East, is that it's very varied, but everyone we hope anyways perceives it as a quality lineup.

eFestivals -  Yet still very much on brand to what All Points East is.

JK - Yeah, we'd sort of describe it when Oscar and I talk about it, it's kind of like, you know, that Monday morning, water cooler moment, with different people in the office, kind of like "I respect the decision, you chose to go to All Points East. It's not my thing. But I respect the fact you went to this on the Friday because that's a great artist." And so that's the great variety of stuff that you see across the six shows, we think reflects that. You know, everything from Kraftwerk, to Disclosure, Nick Cave, through to The National over the years, so on and so on. So we feel that we will stay true to that strategy, because it's what we like, it's what we listen to.

eFestivals - So we talked about eFestivals, as their demographic of festivalgoers is not just your average,  one-festival-a-year festival - these fans know what they're talking about. They'll try and guess the lineups. What do you say to those types of sort of niche festival experts who know very much what they're looking for? Do you still think that All Points East will continue to stay fresh? I guess the reason I'm asking is all these great artists that you've mentioned, who is the next range of artists coming up?

JK- I think especially in the lane that BST Hyde Park is a completely different proposition to All Points East…

eFestivals - Then you say that - but then The Strokes have played both BST and All Points East? 

JK - Yeah. Here's the great thing about BST. Basically, it's the biggest acts that we can book. It's everything from Barbra Streisand to the Strokes. We don't care. They are unbelievable artists, every single artist that plays there are fantastic concerts. It's that belief that we hold that we continue to have every type of artist coming from out-and-out pop all the way through to, let's call them the more mature artists of a different genre. But, getting back to eFestivals, you know, it's interesting, because I used to run Rock Ness years and years and years ago, and I did a couple of chats on eFestivals with your members. 

eFestivals - We'll dig it out and link to it. (Ed - https://www.efestivals.co.uk/festivals/rockness/2012/interview-jimking.shtml)

JK - You should do that. God knows what I said as was a long time ago now.

eFestivals - Let's see if your values have changed!

JK - I hope not! I don't think they have I mean, you know, I don’t think they have at all. I look back to Rock Ness. And what we tried to do there was exactly for me anyway (I probably have changed and not realised it!). 

eFestivals - Ha!

JK - But it was an amazing location. The reason why we did that show, though, is for those reason that it was just like, “Wow - I would really want to come here and hang out for three days or four days, and watch great artists perform." That's no different from this. No different from this, you know, and great production, good services, make it easy for people to navigate their way around and have a great time for 10 hours. Sometimes we don't always hit five stars, but we try to - so I would say in terms of what you should look out for the next year is exactly that! Hopefully, the best possible - not just headlines, but the best possible bill - surging throughout the whole day and that's where this one differs from some of the other events that we do. We want people to turn up from one o'clock in the afternoon, do the lineup planner and go "right, I haven't got time to talk, I've got a run over there because this band is about to start." 

eFestivals - Is it harder? Just because of things like cost of living, staff, Brexit? Are all these things so much more apparent in your considerations for running festivals than they used to be? Or is it like you said, "we have challenges every year, this is just this year's set of challenges?"

JK - We have a number of challenges. But also, it's really important to say that fans, and artists as well also have their own challenges. As you mentioned, the cost of living and...

eFestivals - Because I heard that two bands had to pull out… King Glizzard due to reports of an illness or something?

JK - Yeah, we had two actually that fell through on us but look, that happens. Artists cancellations will always happen, we're right across that and we are very fortunate to replace everyone who's cancelled. We think it's important to do that as well.

eFestivals - I mean, Adele cancelled Vegas.

JK - Fortunately she didn't cancel us for BST! But yes. these things happen and Rage Against the Machine, unfortunately had to cancel Rock En Seine. You know, and it's devastating for us. It's devastating for the fans, because obviously, they're meant to play in the COVID years, and we had to move it thankfully really to get them back. And then Zack hurts his leg and can't come! It's devastating for everybody and that hurts us.  So, to go to your question about the challenges -  the ones that we have to make next year, are, as I said before, understanding that it's going to be more challenging for fans to choose what they want to do next year - the cost of living issue places high, and people will make decisions about where they're going to spend that money. We have to make them want to bring it here, and give them value. Like I said before, when they go home from that, making sure that they go home feeling "I'm glad I did that"

eFestivals - So give us an idea of some artists who slipped through your fingers in the past that you still really want to do

JK - Most of Reading and Leeds lineup because we’re scheduled next to each other! - it's the most competitive market out there.

eFestivals - Michael Eavis was always after Prince, or Fleetwood Mac, I'm not saying you'd go for those, but you must have your big whales.

JK - Well Prince every year at Hyde Park… 

eFestivals - I'm not surprised. 

JK - ...and David Bowie, and every promoter has that list of people that they always really, really want to work with. Sometimes, you fortunately get to do that. So, there's probably plenty of act that we've missed out on here. 

eFestivals - And yet the lineup has been fantastic - every year. 

JK - I'm okay missing out on someone, you know. We just want to get them next time. 

eFestivals - Regarding many of these other festivals - I noticed some of them are really not relying on the headliners anymore. Nor even really the undercard. They're trying to get to the "full festival experience" instead. So, what's your ratio on that?

JK - I still think this is heavily influenced by the headliners that we have. I don't think exclusively that though. BST, one would argue that it's much more obviously driven as a headline experience. And I think this is less so, but the headliner for us is the first flag in the ground about what we're trying to do with the day. Then once we fill down - we launch these shows with ten or fifteen acts, whatever it might be around it. So the headline was basically the statement, hopefully, about what the day is going to bring. And then you're building around that with the support artists. And I think my booking teams have done a great job; I'm always excited about this show, it's always the one we really look forward to.

eFestivals - It's always very hard not to find at least a day or two of artists that you want to see. So, looking back then, what's the show at All Points East that you're proudest of? Or one that you think "wow!" based on challenges or whatever reason - what's the first one that comes to mind?

JK - Well, first, I mean, it gets me in trouble, because obviously, you know, I’m great fans of all of the artists, but I'm a huge LCD Soundsystem fan, and it was year one. 

eFestivals - Feels like yesterday as well. 

JK - I know! 2018. And it was electric, an electric performance by them. It was a real moment. But Nick Cave was as well - felt very spiritual. 

eFestivals - And he brought Kylie out! 

JK - Yeah, I mean, it was. It's very hard to do - pick just one, I mean those two - I look back to Year One more, I think because it was the first year we did it and try to get through and there was that crazy electrical storm...

eFestivals -  I remember, it didn't really rain and you could see it in the sky. It was a magical day, that day…. 

JK - Yeah, it was. And I look back to that a lot.

I thought The Strokes were great. I mean, it's very disappointing that some people talked about and obviously did have a bad experience with the sound. And you don't want that. It's not why we do this. And I think it was really disappointing that it was confined to their performance because The Raconteurs were on before and killed it! So I think it was just one of these one-off situations in a small area of the crowd where something just didn't happen. And it's disappointing. But outside of that, that was a great, great show. I think this is going to be a special week. Last year was great, though. I mean, Jamie X X was great and everybody coming out at COVID. Kano was fantastic. London Grammar, for that band to play outdoors, do what they do and do it so elegantly. It was such a powerful performance. I thought that was brilliant and Jorja Smith was great. Last year was great. And then Foals who are always really, really good. So basically every show we've done, you look back on them. And we pick these bills and there's a team of people that work on this. It's the one festival we do where everyone's throwing in what they want to do - marketing team, ticketing team, booking team. "We should do this". Yeah. And that, hopefully, comes through in the the lineup. 

eFestivals - Give us a hint for next year? 

JK - We're still working through it. We are still working through it. I think it's gonna be great. I mean, the people that were talking to, a lot of great acts next year. I think it's gonna be a great All Points East.

eFestivals - Yeah, I think we all trust All Points East - we have faith in the bill.. And finally, which festival, that you're not affiliated with, do you look out for and think "I might go to that?" Or "I can't wait for that?"

JK - That's a good question? Good question. And I think what I would have answered more or better, probably years ago. Shows I love going to for inspiration; I don't go to 20 festivals because I'm working. So if I look back over the last 20 years, and the shows that I've absolutely loved, I loved Primavera when I went. In terms of the booking of it. I thought it was beautiful. 

eFestivals - a lot of synergy between the two? 

JK - Yeah, I thought beautifully curated festival. I love Coachella, still. I think in terms of the way it's put together, the way it runs, I think the fact that you have these great clashes of culture and style. Yeah. I still think it's an amazing experience. I love Rock En Seine! We have a team who run it in Paris for us, but we all help put the show together. That's a truly great show. 

eFestivals - I guess a lot of people who work in festivals, they lose that love for outside of it. Do you still go to concerts and think "this is great!" Are you a fan in the audience? Are you still thinking of your work? 

JK - Well, you always think that - that is the problem. You always are. You think nine times out of 10 - you're looking at things from a work point of view, but then you flip over into that, that last 10% of those experiences you have and they're the great ones. I went to Coldplay the other night.

eFestivals - I was there on Tuesday.

JK - Yeah me too - Tuesday. Yeah, it's great. And I love what they do because to think that what they've put into the production is amazing. You know, and whether you're a Coldplay fan of the music or not, I just think the production levels which they bring to that and the attention which they bring - it goes back to what I was saying before - everybody walks away from that show saying, "Wow, we got value for money." I thought it was a tremendous, tremendous show.

eFestivals - But again, you said it yourself - you enjoyed it - but you're still wearing both hats at the same time?

JK - I'll let you into a little thing - when LCD Soundsystem played - I had a concert on the same night with Rolling Stones - playing Olympic Stadium. And I was going between the two and I got back here and I had four cans of Red Stripe waiting for me and I watched it on my own! I couldn't find my friends - couldn't find anybody! So I ran out into the crowd and watched the whole of LCD Soundsystem on my own - so it's stuff like that. I still love doing that. I mean, you don't lose that love for your favourite bands. 

eFestivals - Well, Jim, we at eFestivals love All Points East - it's a tremendous, established part of the circuit. We can rely on it. Thanks so much on behalf of our website visitors and readers for such a wealth of great answers and we really appreciate your time and good luck for the festival tomorrow! 

JK - Thank you!

 

Thanks to Outside Org for arranging this interview.

Tickets for All Points East can be purchased here






interview by: Raph Pour-Hashemi


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