Threshold Festival Talk


Threshold Festival remains to be one of the greatest artistic events I've ever attended. Despite it being a couple of years since I filled my senses with their array of delights, the festival remains fresh in my memory as being a creative hub like no other. The fifth edition of the festival is on the way this weekend and there are plenty of talented people to be seen right through from Friday's kick-off until closing time on Sunday night. To give you a better insight into what the festival is all about, I had a few words with one half of the festival's husband and wife creative team – Chris Herstad Carney;

Tell us a bit about Threshold – how did the idea first come about?

Threshold is a 3 day festival aimed at showcasing the very best of grass-roots music and arts from Liverpool and further afield. It started out as a plan to fill a very large arts centre which had been open for 3 years and wasn’t reaching it’s potential. It was a bit chaotic to say the least. The chaos still exists now, we just pilot it much better.

How much has it grown since the first edition?

We’ve grown slowly and steadily, and that’s the best way. There’s something about the event that demands authenticity in every aspect of how we approach it. That takes time and it takes courage too. We haven’t always made the right moves, but it’s always come from the right place. This year’s event is our biggest yet, but we actually started out with the intention of making it smaller this year. It didn’t feel right, we had to go bigger. It’s a proud moment looking at the programme.

What new delights can we expect to see at this year's festival?

The visual arts programme; 'Contrasting Geometries' is our most exciting yet, the majority of it is being installed in a brand new space which is occupied by Liverpool Craft Beer (they’ll be opening it as a bar, brewery and visitors centre some time this year). On the stages it will be great to catch D R O H N E and Natalie McCool, Statement Haircut, Eliza Shaddad and also Mutant Vinyl. Modig is a real coup for us, he’s a Berlin based remixer and DJ who’ll be ripping up 24 Kitchen St on the Friday. Giggedy. There’s so much to choose from that it can be dizzying to decide, but I hope audiences go and see someone totally new to them. That’s what festivals are about for me, catching an act you've never heard of, doing something you’ve never seen before, in a space you’ve never been to. We have a world premiere too, a film called Violet City. If you’ve ever seen Jon Morter speak at Liverpool Sound City, you’ll know you’re in for a treat with his spot on the panels on Saturday.

Is there any limit on who can apply to perform at the festival or are you open to all-comers?

We don’t set any limits, we want to be as inclusive as possible and try to put on everything that we like. It’s tough though, there were over 1000 rejections this year, and some of them were amazing. We’re a small budget festival so it can be tricky to ship people over, but if we love you enough, we will make it happen. 

Who are the acts that you've been most impressed by at Threshold in previous years?

Paddy Steer, pretty much everything he’s ever done with us in 2012/13/14 and no doubt 15. Stealing Sheep in 2011 at CUC. The first time I saw Broken Men in Elevator 2013, they blew the stage away, I think they broke some hearts that night. The Destroyers in 2014 at District were one of my all time highlights of any festival. Robyn Woolston’s ’Smart Price’ in 2012 was unreal, she consistently creates art installations which astound me. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with this year. In film Vincent Moon’s Efterklang film ‘An Island’ in 2011 was wonderful.

How important is Threshold to the Liverpool music scene? Conversely, how important is promoting young local acts to you?

We feel well planted in the Liverpool scene. We are, hopefully, a stage to aspire to for bands just starting out. It seems to be working, we’ve been cited by a few as that platform. It’s incredibly important to us and in fact it’s in the name. Threshold came from a discussion on how it can be tough to enter the world of music and arts.

You put plenty of focus on other arts as well as music, how important do you think it is to promote a wider artistic culture?

We step up the other aspects of the festival a little bit more every year.  Last year we added the tag ‘Festival of Music and Arts’ for the first time, after several years of having to reiterate all the time that we we’re not just a music festival. So many of the people we work with, including a large amount of our team, are multi-disciplinary artists, so it makes sense. It goes back to my first answer about authenticity, it wouldn’t feel right to just promote one thing. We don’t make it easy for ourselves. Ha.

Do you think the festival could exist in any city other than Liverpool?

Yes. I think Threshold is a transferable concept and it would be fantastic to see it travel. That said I don’t think many cities have the type of area we have in the Baltic Triangle, with so much investment from the city and Baltic Creative CIC for example. Threshold wouldn’t work in the city centre, it’s too ‘out there’ I think. The masses ain’t ready. The Baltic Triangle is our home, it’s where we began and we’ve enjoyed growing up alongside it.

How vital do you think Threshold has been to the emergence of the Baltic Triangle as a creative hub in the city?

Ooh nice segue. I think Threshold has paved the way for quite a few things in the Triangle. Things were already underway when we arrived, but I’d certainly say we’re a catalyst for bigger things and also for new businesses and venues. I spent 3 years on the board of directors of Baltic Triangle CIC, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes and Threshold is considered by many around the table as THE Baltic festival. There’s other great festivals in the area though; International Festival of Psychedelia, Summercamp, Liverpool Music Week, Baltic Block Party, International Street Art Festival. Wow, that’s the first time I’ve listed those, there’s a lot, and more in the pipeline. The city would like to see a lot of the big events moving out there because it has the potential to be closed down and made into a giant festival site. We’re part of #TeamBaltic and it really is a team effort. I love it down there, there’s always a friendly face and something weird going on. My type of place.  It’s great to see Sound City moving up to the north docks, I’m really excited for their next edition in May.

Have you got anything special lined up for the build-up to the festival?

My Dad passed away 2 weeks ago and the funeral is on Tuesday. Pretty crazy time really and almost exactly a year since Kaya’s Dad also died. We’ve just had to keep our heads above water and carry on trying to make this festival great. If there was anything special planned for us, that’s all put a bit of a scupper on it. I really can’t wait for Friday though, Threshold time is the greatest time of the year. Beats Chrimbo for me, hands down.

What's your favourite thing about running Threshold?

The team. I’m blown away by their commitment to the festival, time and time again. The effort and time each one of them puts in throughout the year and over the weekend is both humbling and inspiring. They’re a bunch of weirdos.

What would be your message to grassroots artists looking to get their creative career going?

Take opportunities when they arise. Be nice. Remember people. Work harder than you think you have to and then work at bit harder. Don’t be scared to say no, keep your integrity intact and make art that is truthful.

Anything you'd like to add?

Are you coming? (I wish! – C)

Threshold Festival takes place in Liverpool's Baltic Triangle from 27th-29th March, click here for more information.