Over The River: Peckham Rye Music Festival Talks

Art & Culture

Ambition is a good thing, and Glenn Middleditch has it in droves. Last year he was the driving force behind the very first Peckham Rye Music Festival. Spread across a plethora of clubs and venues dotted down Rye Lane, the festival was a herculean effort in organisation. The festival aimed to showcase some of the very best of the electronic music talent that has bubbled up in the vibrant local scene alongside international acts such as Juan Atkins, Smallpeople and Lakuti to name but a few. Now Glenn and the PRMF team are back, this time spanning two weekends with an equally if not more ambitious vision. So with the opening weekend upon us we caught up with Glenn to find about the journey that gave birth to one of the most exciting festivals in the capital.

So we’re in the run up to the second PRMF but I first want to go back to last year’s event. First off can you explain the concept and tell me about the process of putting on the inaugural event last year.

The idea was to bring all of the artists, venues, parties, labels and record shops together for one weekend to collectively punch above any one individuals weight. We felt like there was so much great stuff happening in silo that could get the recognition it deserved by banding together. Having worked in the media all my life I feel ok to say that most journalists are a little bit lazy and if you write the story for them they’ll put it out.

Had you done anything like this before? It must have been a pretty steep learning curve.

I’ve run club nights playing along the house and techno axis for nearly ten years which has been my outlet for the music I was really passionate about. My day job for over a decade was producing radio at the BBC, I worked across a really wide range of programmes but none of them scratched my itch for the music I really love which led me to putting on my own nights. As a radio producer I’ve made programmes from many of the big household name festivals like Glastonbury, Notting Hill Carnival, Bestival, T-in-the-Park, Reading, Leeds, Creamfields and a load that have gone by the way now. Through my role at the BBC I also got the opportunity to get involved with organisation of our in-house events like Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend and the 6 Music Festival and a number of the team that work on PRMF are also former colleagues from the Beeb.

Despite all of this it was still a massively steep learning curve, I learned so much from year one, mostly – don’t try and do everything yourself and don’t under estimate how much everything is going to cost!

What were the highlights of 2016 for you?

The moment we got the power back on after what felt like an age but was actually only 10 minutes during the launch party at Copeland Gallery. Lawrence from Dial and Smallville playing live in there on the Saturday night, Lakuti was great, Juan Atkins was obviously a real moment as he’s a big hero of mine. The most touching moment was a thank you from DJ Gilla at the end of the First Word party on the Sunday night, I may have had slightly watery eyes at that point.

What was the worst moment of 2016? Or maybe more politely put – what did you learn last year that you’ll be taking forward into this year’s festival?

The aforementioned power cut during the opening party at Copeland Galley was a truly awful experience, I just felt absolutely useless, so glad we got it back on quickly. We’ve obviously put things in place to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

It seems like you’ve got a pretty tight knit team that you work with – tell me about the crew and how you all came together.

Yeah we are, I think like any group of people that work closely together on a passion project you form really tight bonds. Kieran Miller who looks after the pounds and pennies was my flat mate for about 5 years before we both got married and has been my partner-in-crime on many a night out and festival weekend. We started our first club night 10 years ago so it’s a special year for us as a partnership.

I met Jack our operations director when he was running Corsica Studio’s daytime project The Paperworks, we put one of our Friends Of Ours parties on with Leif. Jack came on last year initially just to run the bar in Copeland Gallery, I was bowled over by his work ethic, attention to detail, passion for music and knowledge of the night time sector. Sarah who heads up our marketing is a former BBC colleague, she’s amazing! Georgia who manages our artist relations, media and press is a friend of my wife who has fulfilled similar roles for loads of festivals big and small.

I met Weeksy our production manager when we were flyering outside Peckham Rye train station last year, she asked if we needed a hand. My mate Lyndsey who had been taking care of this for us was also building her own artist management business which was really taking off, meaning she could devote less and less time to the festival so it was serendipitous that I met Sarah just at the right time.

Also, you’ve focused quite heavily on working with local artists, labels and promoters alongside bigger international talent. How important is it for you that the festival represents local music scene?

That’s the core principal of the festival, it’s the reason we started the thing in the first place.

Alongside this – in recent years there’s been a big influx of people coming to the area and a huge focus on Peckham as a hub for trendy electronic music but there could also be a tension between this and the more urban, less glamourous music that exists here and doesn’t get such media hype. How important has it been to make sure that this is also reflected in the line up?

It’s always been our intention to gradually present a more varied range of music. I took the advice given to new authors write about what you know for year one so the vast majority of the artist bookings were made by me going through my own record collection. 

Which artists are you most looking forward to seeing play? Do you get a chance to actually enjoy the festival or are you just running around like a blue arsed fly?

Last yeah I was definitely a blue arsed fly, this year I’m hoping to take a little bit of time out here and here to catch a few acts. I’m really looking forward to Kokoroko, they were a suggestion form my wife Tessa, a local afrobeat 8-piece band that she introduced me to, I’ve only seen videos of their performances but that was enough!   

Finally – what are your plans for the future? Can you even think of that yet with the current edition looming so large on the horizon?

We really just want to continue what we’re doing. We have plans to roll out our music production, video art and dance workshops to become regular events that young people can take part in all year round using the festival as a platform for their work.  We’ve got some really exciting plans to grow the festival but it’ll happen slowly and gradually.

You can grab tickets to the festival HERE 

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