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Birmingham promoter John Fell tells IQ he has big plans for the new city-centre festival, which boasts a line-up "up there with the best"
By Jon Chapple on 23 Jun 2017
The man behind Birmingham’s first three-day rock festival has told IQ he hopes to turn Beyond the Tracks into the “flagship festival” of Britain’s second city.
Event manager John Fell – who is also event manager/head of booking for Moseley Folk Festival and Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul, both in Moseley Park, Birmingham, and Lunar Festival, held in Nick Drake’s home village of Tanworth-in-Arden – says he hopes the new event will become Birmingham’s leading festival – and that, if ticket sales are any indication, it’s off to a good start.
“For an inaugural event we are delighted with the ticket sales so far,” explains Fell (pictured). “We have certainly sold more, at this point, than predicted, so we are excited to see how the trend continues. We would be over the moon with a sell-out in the first year, and with the line-up we have it is quite possible.”
That line-up is topped by Orbital, Ocean Colour Scene and Editors, who respectively headline three themed days of music: electronica on Friday 15 September (Leftfield, Faithless, Jagwar Ma) indie rock on Saturday 16 September (Maxïmo Park, The Coral, The Twang, The Libertines’ Carl Barât) and alt-rock/shoegaze on Sunday 17 September (The Jesus and Mary Chain, Wild Beasts, Slowdive, Peter Hook of New Order).
Fell says the booking philosophy behind Beyond the Tracks was was to “create three diverse days for music fans”. “The programming is definitely different from our other events, but it has given us the opportunity to offer something different,” he explains. “The prospect of putting on Orbital, Leftfield and a Faithless DJ set in Birmingham city centre on a Friday night is something we are all far too excited about!”
In addition to being his first festival targeted towards towards a primarily adult audience, Beyond the Tracks is Fell’s inaugural event in Eastside City Park, a 6.75-acre urban park in the Eastside district of Birmingham. The park, which opened to the public in 2013, has yet to host a festival, and Fell says the city-centre location is a major selling point. “We have secured the perfect grassed area, surrounded by the iconic buildings of Birmingham,” he comments. “I think this one is about location, location, location.”
“The prospect of putting on Orbital, Leftfield and Faithless in Birmingham city centre on a Friday night is something we are all far too excited about”
Fell says a large proportion of ticket sales so far have been to people outside the local area – something he also attributes to the Eastside location: “Ticket sales so far are showing a large percentage of people attending are coming from outside Birmingham. We believe the location and the convenient transport links make it an easy festival to attend, attracting people from the north, south, east and west [of England].”
The past few years have seen an increase in the number of greenfield, city-centre festivals in the UK, with DF Concerts’ not-a-T in the Park-replacement Trnsmt, Goldenvoice’s Demon Dayz at Dreamland Margate and LWE’s Junction 2 in London all making their debuts since 2016. Fell attributes this to a “combination of festivals abroad offering a cheap option with the guarantee of sun [and] the convenience factor. Inner-city festivals offer great transport links and the option to go for a single day. Plus, when the festival finishes at 22.30 there is the option to head to the local pubs, making it a great day-and-night option.”
Greenfield festivals, being located in residential areas, present a different set of challenges for promoters, but Fell says Beyond the Tracks has been “very lucky with how accommodating the council have been”.
Aside from the logistics of putting on a 10,000-daily cap. music festival in Birmingham city centre, what has been the greatest challenge in getting Beyond the Tracks off the ground?
Probably artist fees, says Fell, which are “becoming more challenging each year, as the bigger festivals with bigger budgets are able to lock artists in early on”. He is, however, confident that will become easier as the festival finds its feet, with pressures on booking “naturally eas[ing] as we become a more established festival”.
“With that said, we are delighted with our inaugural line-up,” Fell concludes, “and think it’s up there with the best.”
The inaugural Beyond the Tracks runs from 15 to 17 September. Weekend tickets are priced at £145, with daily tickets available from £54.45.
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