Farmfestival Talks


In 2006, a small group of friends native to Somerset made the decision to host an intimate festival for their friends as an alternative to the events dominating the English Summer. Farmfestival's eye for a party and subsequent success has seen attendances grow organically through word of mouth, from an initial 400 to its capped 4000 capacity.

Year after year, loyal followers and newbies alike make their way down to its countryside home at Gilcombe Farm, Bruton, for the promise of wallet-friendly good times and acts on the cusp of stardom.
The festival remains adamantly sponsor-free, the lo-fi DIY aesthetic combining with the genre busting music policy to create the unique atmosphere. Previously quoted as one of the UK's best kept festival secrets the cat is slowly being let out of the bag… so we thought we'd let it out a little further with a little catch up with the increasingly frazzled sounding but always gentlemenly organisers Simon and Joe.

Afternoon lads, can you tell us about your first festival experience? Where did you go? How old were you and what impression did it leave on you?

Simon: "My first festival was actually Reading in 97 or 98. I was 16 or 17 and went with a bunch of goth mates from school. I sacked off Muse and pissed off to the dance tent on my own for most of the weekend!

Joe:"My eldest brother of ten years took me to Glastonbury when I was 15 with a bunch of his mates. I think it was actually my first gig! Slow starter I know. I was blown away by it and went back for the next three years. It's been formative to say the least!"

Deciding to organise your own festival is a pretty big commitment! What inspired you to start your own?
S: "It was a combination of the summer being dominated by large corporate gatherings and the realisation that within our group of 20 somethings we had the skills between us to put one on. It just took Dejan to come up with the idea of it all… and he had the balls to push on and make it happen."

Did you always intend for it to be an annual event or was the success of your first festival that inspired you to continue growing?
S: "I suppose it's the feeling after the end of each year. There has always been a momentum, and a positive feeling that "yeah, we have to do that again don't we!"
J:"Absolutely. After all the hard work and planning, and then a long weekend with very little sleep, we finally get a moment to ourselves, usually around Sunday morning at 6am, and it's amazing just how invigorated and up for it again everyone is."

6 years on and you’ve come a long way from two trucks in a field! Will you continue expanding each year or do you have an ideal size in mind?
S "To be honest, we've stayed very close to our first festival in spirit and how we do things. It's all made, modified or bought 2nd hand by our team or friends. Not much is hired. That way, even though numbers are gradually increasing and we've added a few more tents, the feel is still lo-fi and handmade. 
J: "We are very much about taking it year by year, but one thing we have agreed is that we'll never grow above 5000, if we ever get to that stage!"

Producing a non-profit festival with no commercial support is a pretty special labour of love! How many of you are there on the Farmfestival team?

S:"There is a core group of 8 or 9 of us. A couple of us are more or less full-time, in terms of the time we spend on it, from Jan to July. We keep getting more and more of our mates / family involved. Anyone with skills can join in. We're keeping a few Dads busy this summer!"

Festivals can be magical places. What elements would you say make the perfect festival environment?

S: "Booking acts that are great live, not just hyped. No ripping people off at every opportunity… and making it affordable for all. Not excluding any age or social group. Not being exclusive in anyway. Making the site a manageable size. Amazing art and set design everywhere. Local meats, cider and ale…
J:"I guess we can only speak from experience and that's pretty much how we've gone about it. In doing so we've attracted people who get what we're trying to do and really enjoy participating in that. And ultimately I think that's when the magic happens."

Raising money for charity is an important and very admirable aspect of Farmfestival. Can you tell us which charities you work with and why?

S“We support Practical Action as Dejan has first hand experience of failed aid projects in Africa and they do a very good job of equipping people with the right technology to help themselves.”

J“We now support the British Stammering Association as our friend Gavin Harry was a member (he struggled with a stammer as a kid). Gav was a critical part of the Farmfestival team before his tragic death last year at the age of 27, just months before the festival. Last year was dedicated to Gav and the festival was very bitter sweet for all of us as Gav had booked most of the bands for the main stage before his accident. It really was his work that we experienced last year. Supporting the BSA seemed appropriate, it keeps a tie to Gav, he was our greatest friend and so influential in the growth of the festival.”

S“We also support the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, unfortunately due to another tragedy, but this time with a silver lining; a friend of Dejan's was killed in a car crash, however the air ambulance saved his partner and their unborn child.”

If you could have anyone to headline, who would you chose and why?

S: "Dead or alive?

J: "Nah, they're shit!"

Recent years have seen a revolution in the festival scene as people move away from large commercial events in favour of smaller and more intimate. Last year saw the sad demise of the Big Chill following, after they were taken over by Festival Republic. Do you think the time for large commercial festivals is coming to end?

S:"Yeah, maybe. There are too many other festivals which cover every niche now. You aren't forced to go to the bigger events. The music lovers and true festival characters will still populate events in the summer but maybe the hype followers will start to look elsewhere for summer kicks… which will make the surviving parties an even stronger community."

I recently read that there are 726 festivals in the UK alone. What are your favourites for 2012? Which will you be attending?

S;"It's weird that since we've put on a festival, we've gone to hardly any others. This year we headed to Blissfields and Leefest. And we were meant to have a smasher at Bloc…"

How many naked people do you get each year?

J:"I don't think I've ever seen anyone naked there actually."
S:"If you look hard enough you might spot a few cocks about." 
J:"They'll be the ones wearing the AAA tags!"

Strangest experience from Farmfestival over the past  6 years.
S:"Walking into a tent and seeing an angry frontman, dressed as Ronald McDonald, stage diving into the crowd. I think I actually did one of those comedy double takes."
J: "Watching my mum and dad strolling round all weekend having a bloody good time!"

Worst experience of Farm so far?! 
S:"Dropping a hired CDJ face down in knee deep mud, whilst setting up for our own Dj set in 2007. You live and learn."
J:"Watching my mum and dad strolling round all weekend having a bloody good time!"

It's down West is Farm… what cider will you be serving? This is an important question! 

Black Rat – Hardcore Somerset party beverage!

Bull Beggar – Proper stuff (From a local not-for-profit community orchard)

Brothers – Local success story that started as a stand at Glasto. Providing the fruit based flavours for the ladies.

Lets face it, although us Brits know better than to let a bit of rain put a dampner on a good party, the UK weather can be a problem! Do you have any plans for events in warmer climates in future?
I don't think people would drive tractors to Croatia, would they?

Could you tell us 5 festival essentials you should always take with you?

A hat (It's compulsory)

Your own booze (we let it in to the main area and all)

Your dancing shoes

A big fat grin

and, wet wipes, you smelly bugger!

What’s the best festival set(s) you had the pleasure of seeing?

Leftfield, Homelands 2000… Why did they split up again?!

Oh I dunno, I was gonna say Leftfield at Glasto! (They were a bit better than they were at Homelands!) 

Are you the new Michael Eavis? 

J: "He comes down for a pint most years, actually"
S: "I think Joe could be the new Emily Eavis"

Who are you particularly looking forward to at Farmfestival this year?

S:"PBR Streetgang, as it really gets going in the tent at night. Live, The Lovely Eggs, Trophy Wife and Fingathing bringing their full live show back after 8 years…"=
J:"Man Like Me absolutely smashed it last year. They're even better now so I can imagine it's gonna go right off for them. I'm expecting lots of fawning young ladies. For them, not me, obviously.

On a scale of 1 – 10, How excited are you?!

S: Off the scale excitement and nerves!

J: "I'm starting to peak!"

Farm Festival happens from 27th to 29th July this year. Full details here.