Goldrush's Robin Bennett formed Truck Festival waaaaay back in 1998 with his brother Joe.
11 years later 12 years later and they're still here, still putting on some of the finest acts in the country in Steventon, Oxfordshire. Here, Robin walks us through the twenty essential steps to running a successful festival. Take it away, Robin.
Think of a reason why you want to run a festival. Perhaps you would like to celebrate the music that you love, raise funds for a good cause. Or maybe the venture capital or drinks company funding your operation told you to do one. If you're in a band, one way to be sure you get booked to play at a festival is to put it on yourself - it worked in Wayne's World, and it's worked for us. And maybe Aerosmith will come.
Find a location. Every place is different- Truck is on a farm in a small village, Wood is in the campsite of an 'alternative living community'. Our forthcoming OX4 festival is on the distinctly un-rural Cowley Road in Oxford. The location should dictate what kind of event you put on there. The deal at Truck is that the farmer does the catering, via Didcot Rotary Club, which gives the event its unique flavour (burnt onions).
Think of a name. We like to keep them to one syllable - Truck, Wood - and name them after whatever the stage is made of. Some people name them after themselves, which is maybe a bit presumptious. Or name it after a town 10 miles away, like Glastonbury, which may just as well be called Shepton Mallet.
Form a band or learn to DJ - you might as well play at your own festival, right?
Enough of the glamour stuff- now you're going to have to apply for a music licence, if you intend to server alcohol. We almost forgot to do this in our first year so had to postpone the festival to September! If you're having less than 500 people you can send in a Temporary Events Notice, but if you're having more you'll have to send in the full application (hope you like filling in forms...)
The council will want to know how you plan to deal with issues like traffic, crowd control and health and safety, and whilst it seems like a drag, you really can't afford to skimp on these things as it's your responsibilty to make sure those attending your event are safe.
You'll also have to do risk assessments - the dreaded compliance industry! - and create your own personal paperwork mountain. Plus, you'll need to print flyers, posters, tickets - better plant some trees to make up for it all.
And get some insurance - public liability insurance is essential. One insurer will even give you a discount if you can implement some green measures at your event.
Lest we forget: toilets! these range from the familiar blue tardis type, doused in noxious blue fluid - and victims of arson attacks at some festivals! - to our personal favourite, the hand-made wooden composting toilets we use at WOOD. These even have a view of the stage, and the audience 'output' ultimately fertilizes the organic farms on at Braziers Park, where they event is held. For larger scale events, it's possible to use plumbed toilet blocks which are really as nice as your bathroom at home. A friend attended the ill fated Z008 festival last year-- by all accounts they had 2 cubicles to go round the whole event - we don't think it's worth underestimating the need for pleasant toilets.
Security - for the first few years we struggled with this, changing firms each year. It's hard to find people who are both able to secure your event while keeping things relaxed. Then I was I fortunate to move into an apartment with the boss of a local music security firm, who have been keeping a firm but fair grip on things ever since.
Stewards- as well as the basic control provided by security, you'll need helpers with more general tasks- we call them stewards, though their role includes running the gate, making sure the toilets are clean and the bins are empty, and generally welcoming people. We are very proud of our stewards, in their famous orange t-shirts. They are the public face of Truck, after all!
Now we've mentioned it, what about bins? you'll need plenty of them. There are a number of ways to go about collecting and recycling waste. Our aim is for there to be as little of it as possible. At WOOD we are able to compost food waste on site, and we've switched to corn starch cups which are also compostable. For the large quantities of waste (a truckload!) at TRUCK, we use a local firm who separate out recyclables at their plant, and aim to recycle 85%. A blight of modern times, as any Glasto-goer will know, is the abandoned tent, gazebo and camping chair graveyard that occurs the day after the festival;. these things are very hard to recycle, so: love your tents, and don't abandon them! Our lovely stewards also make sure that when you wake up on Sunday morning, the site is free of rubbish.
Fencing - not the Olympic sport, but the stuff that keeps things out and in. You'll need some, unless you have a moat. And you'll need some strong people to put it up. Shout out to the TRUCK fence crew who have just put up this year's fence!
A stage- you'll probably want at least one. We used a flatbed truck, of course, though nowadays there are many clever stages available. For WOOD, we wanted to avoid continually rebuilding a stage, so we built a permanent one out of green oak. It should last 100 years, longer than us! It now also has a lovely grass roof which has been seeded with all kinds of plants and flowers which will sprout next spring... if you have a cowshed or barn, why not have a stage in there? but wash it out first...
Unless your festival is in Arizona, you may like to provide some waterproof coverings and marquees. This was no help to us in the floods of 2007, when the whole village of Steventon was doused in water and the best mode of transport was a dinghy.
You'll probably need some money! It's not a great idea to spend ticket money until the event has taken place - if you do have to cancel it, you'll have to refund people. I've heard it said that a decent festival costs 2 million quid to put on - but that is absolute nonsense. That said, there are many costs you can't avoid so make sure you budget carefully. Of course, with the decline in the recorded music industry, bands - at least, 'name' bands - are trying to butter their bread with income from live shows, and who can blame them.
Oh yeah! Bands. Or DJs. Or mime artistes. Or puppets. Whatever you feel like...
Friends and family - this is one enterprise you don't want to go into alone, and you'll need people you can trust around you, who won't walk out the first time you lose your temper. Putting on a festival is one of the most stressful things you can do, if also one of the most rewarding. With such a wide variety of responsibilities, you'll need to be able to delegate some of them.
Pray - Krishna, Christ, Buddha, rain-gods, Michael Jackson; whoever you have up there who can arrange some decent weather...
Don't forget to pick up the leftover tentpegs afterwards- otherwise the cows'll try to eat them...see you next year.
Article first published July 23 2009.