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Ellis on Trnsmt: ‘The market has evolved’

DF Concerts boss Geoff Ellis says demand has waned for major camping festivals in Scotland, as he gears up for the second edition of the metropolitan Glasgow event

By Jon Chapple on 22 Jun 2018

Geoff Ellis at Trnsmt 2017, Glasgow

Ellis at Trnsmt 2017

DF Concerts expects to welcome in excess of 230,000 festivalgoers to the second edition of its Glasgow Trnsmt festival, which this year has grown to two weekends after an “amazing” response to last summer’s debut, CEO Geoff Ellis has said.

The launch of Trnsmt was announced in January 2017, two months after Ellis revealed DF’s major camping event T in the Park, a mainstay of the Scottish festival scene since 1994, would be going on an indefinite hiatus. Trnsmt took place that June – on the weekend formerly occupied by T in the Park – and attracted crowds of around 120,000, proving “an exciting new addition to the festival calendar”, said Ellis at the time.

“It went really well – better than we could have imagined,” Ellis tells IQ. “There are enough headliners around this year, so we thought, ‘Let’s go to two weekends’. We’ll always do at least one going forward, and two if there’s enough talent.”

The headliners in question are Stereophonics, Liam Gallagher and Arctic Monkeys who will top the bill on Friday 29 June, Saturday 30 June and Sunday 1 July, respectively, and Queen + Adam Lambert and the Killers, who headline on Friday 6 July and Sunday 8 July, respectively. Ellis’s gamble on expanding the fledgling event appears to have paid off, with ticket sales “rocketing” over the past few weeks and the Liam Gallagher and Arctic Monkeys shows already sold out.

“Last year we had one sell-out show over three days,” he comments. “This year we have six shows [of which are two are sold out], so we’ve doubled the number of shows and [at least] the number of sell-outs.”

“Tastes evolve, and as a festival producer you have to be mindful of that”

The weather is also looking good, with forecasts of a heatwave after weeks of cloud, and Ellis is feeling rightly proud of securing the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Queen, neither of whom are playing any other UK festivals in 2018.

But while music fans have taken to the new festival, a cursory glance at social media and in Scottish newspapers shows many fans and even local MPs are strongly in favour of T in the Park (TITP) returning, despite well-publicised problems with the 70,000-capacity Strathallan Castle site and resulting financial impact on DF Concerts.

Ellis says he has fond memories of TITP, which he co-founded with Stuart Clumpas in 1994 after two years booking Glasgow’s King Tut’s (300-cap.), but that the demand is no longer there for a camping event of that size in Scotland.

“The market in Scotland has evolved considerably,” he explains. “T in the Park was all things to all people, but the demand isn’t there for a festival of that size. There’s been a diversification in terms of taste, with people wanting smaller events.

“What people are liking is the fact they can come to Trnsmt and spend a few days in Glasgow – [to dip in and out of] the festival and go to clubs, bars, late-night restaurants… And all the local traders are buzzing about it – last year they felt they did their best year to date.”

Buoyed by Trnsmt’s success, DF Concerts is also launching another city-centre event this summer, Edinburgh Summer Sessions, as a spin-off of its popular Glasgow Summer Sessions festival.

“There’s a great spirit in Glasgow”

“We don’t have any plans to do a big camper event in the near future,” Ellis continues. “That’s not to say we’ll never do a camping event, but we’ve had a big success in Trnsmt.

“Tastes evolve, and as a festival producer you have to be mindful of that.”

Trnsmt 2018 is set to have extra resonance for local fans, as well as many its performers, after fire destroyed much of Glasgow School of Art and famed venue O2 ABC last weekend.

“There’s lots of sadness and woe in the city,” says Ellis. “ABC was firmly established as an important venue on the touring circuit – it hosted early shows by the Arctic Monkeys, Adele, Kendrick Lamar, Paolo Nutini – and was seen as that next step up from King Tut’s.

“The fire was disastrous for the city. Most musicians in Glasgow were touched in some way or another, and [Trnsmt performers] Franz Ferdinand studied there. There’s a great spirit in Glasgow, and music is good at bringing people together, but there’s that poignancy that maybe we’ll see manifest itself as Trnsmt.”

Trnsmt 2018 takes place on Glasgow Green, in Glasgow city centre, on 29 June–1 July and Friday 6 and Sunday 8 July. Five-day tickets are sold out, but limited numbers of day and weekend one passes are available from trnsmtfest.com/tickets.


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