When it began, Farmfestival was a small intimate event hosted for and by friends and locals. 7 years on it has evolved into a spectacular 5 stage family event, attracting up to 2000-3000 each year.
We recently caught up with Simon, Dejan and Joe from Team Farmfestival, for an insight into what goes into creating the festival, and what attendees can hope to experience and enjoy at this special event.
If you could summarise Farmfestival in one sentence, what would it be?
S: “The best 40 quid you’ll ever spend...in Somerset...In July!”
J: “Ha! I thought The Guardian did a good job of summing us up, ‘the perfect antidote to the overloaded, corporate festival.’”
What kind of music genres can we expect to see at your event?
S: “We never really make any conscious decisions about what genres we should have. The most important thing for us is that the bands or DJs we book are great live.”
J: “Yeah we cover a lot of bases. I’d suggest we’ve covered pretty much every genre over the years, except metal maybe. Generally speaking the acts we get down that are local to the South West tend to be more folk, skiffle and hip hop based – all the traditions you associate with the West Country! And we do our best to pick out some rising stars, we’ve had Friendly Fires, Egyptian Hip Hop and Man Like Me all play before to give you a flavour.
We absolutely adore your "Wear a hat, it's compulsory" policy, what was the inspiration behind that?
D: “We didn't want to take ourselves too seriously, so we thought if everyone was wearing hats, and hopefully the crazier the better, it would help create a laid back atmosphere. We've had some pretty bizarre hats over the years."
S: “It's a multi purpose bit of festival gear! They keep you shaded from the sun, dry when it rains, and warm your bonce at night when it gets a bit nippy.”
J: “I think the group of about 20 who all had enormous, old lampshades on their heads one year were my favourite!”
We noticed that in the current UK festival market, there is a rise in popularity and creation of sponsor free and non corporate events, why do you think this is and how does Farmfestival fit into this ethos?
S: “Festivals had become too commercial. You had to pay to park, queue to get tokens, queue to get drinks and then when you finally got there you only had the choice of the official beer or spirit. Essentially, the essence of what makes a good party was getting lost.”
J: “I think people are generally fed up with being taken for a ride and with festivals it had just become a case of ‘put on a load of massive names and they will come’, with no thought to anything else other than making money. The spirit had gone and I think people have begun to realise that increasingly.”
D: “This is a big part of why we began Farmfestival. These are the reasons why we decided to do something for ourselves. We wouldn't want anything that would interfere with the way we put the festival on and corporate sponsorship wouldn't allow us to do this.”
Take us back to that moment when your team decided "Do you know what? Let's put on our own festival" How did that come about and what were the first steps towards creation?
D: “There was no Glastonbury in 2006, so we decided to put something on ourselves that year. Mainly as a big party for friends and friends of friends. Matt (another team member) and I asked our friends if they could help us, other people volunteered and it went from there. We built a stage from an old hay trailer and the back of a lorry and before you knew it most of our friends had got a role at the festival.”
S: “I think it was just a sense that we could put something on ourselves, for our friends, and it would ultimately be more enjoyable and rewarding than what was on offer elsewhere... a move back towards the simplicity of partying with your mates in a field.”
We noticed that the festival has a very home grown vibe with the food and drink provided by local farmers and brewers, are there other ways in which the local community helps with the festival?
D: “Lots of people in the local community help with the festival, giving up their time or lending us really expensive equipment for a couple of weeks. Without this help it would be impossible to put it on. Its for this reason that Farmfestival has always donated to charities, to put something back.”
S: “We don’t outwardly promote ourselves as an ‘eco-festival’, but actually as with most small scale projects if we can source stuff locally we will as it’s normally cheaper. And it helps build trust in the community that you’re doing a good thing!”
What new developments can we look forward to at this year's event?
S: “We’re very conscious of not trying to grow too quickly, so each year we keep what worked well and try and add a few little touches. Musically, this year sees the addition of a new tent curated and dressed by the Ff team, named The Den.
J: “It’s a whacky take on a mythical 19th century members club!”
S: “And there’s also a secret, hidden disco for the first time this year which some friends of ours will be organising, which we’re very excited about.”
D: “And we'll be hosting our own alternative 'Farm Olympics", involving welly wanging, bale hurdling and the like."
Of the line-up, which act would you highly recommend checking out?
J: “They played last year and the response was unbelievable. And we know they’ve upped their game even more this year, so I would say don’t miss Man Like Me. I think being in the crowd for them may well be the best atmosphere of the weekend.”
S: “DJ wise PBR Streetgang are rockin’ my boogie boat this year. But the band I’m most looking forward to seeing are The Lovely Eggs; they’re a cross between Saint Etienne and The Ramones with lots of Northern humour. And they do a song about the f word, not that I condone that kids!”
Growing from 400 capacity to 4,000, where do you see Farmfestival in 5 years time?
S: “We are just concentrating on keeping what we have and enriching it further really. We’d like to share what we’ve created with as many people as possible but at the same time we need to manage it to make sure it stays special”.
J: “Yeah we’re really keen not to stray from the ethos and the origins of the festival, that’s what makes it so unique in the first place. We’ve come this far without a plan but the one thing we’re all decided on is never exceeding 5,000 people, for the benefit of the festival and for our benefit too! Given that everyone involved gives their time and efforts on a voluntary basis, it’s a big commitment. Other than that we just want to try and put on the best party we can each year and make lots of money for charity!”
What would you say to someone who is attending Farmfestival for the first time this year?
S: “Meet me at the end of the weekend and I’ll buy you a pint if you haven’t got a smile on your face.”
J: “Wear a hat!”
And lastly apart from Farmfestival, which other festivals would you recommend revellers to check out?
J: “We're too busy we don't get a chance to go to other festivals anymore!"
S: "That's not entirely true, we made a point last year of getting away somewhere as a group after the festival and we went to Stop Making Sense in Croatia."
J: "Yeah, it wasn't quite the chilled break we originally had in mind but it was a lot of fun to say the least!”
S: “I’ll second that!"