Rain fails to dampen spirits at From the Fields fests
Extreme weather tested Manchester, UK-based promoter From the Fields at Kendal Calling and Bluedot festivals this year, but did little to detract from the events’ best ticket sales to date.
Bluedot and Kendal Calling, From the Field’s biggest events, took place on two consecutive weekends from 18 to 21 and 25 to 28 July.
Both festivals were an “absolute success”, From the Fields co-director and Bluedot festival director Ben Robinson tells IQ. Bluedot, now in its fourth year, sold out in advance with a 30% increase in capacity.
“I think we’ve reached our happy size there at 16,000,” says Robinson, stating “we have no ambition to increase further.”
The longer-running, larger Kendal Calling also saw record sales, shifting 30,000 tickets and maintaining a capacity crowd throughout the weekend, despite “a lot of extreme weather”.
“Every stage went ahead as planned and the festival opened on time every day,” explains Robinson, commending the site crew on their efforts “against the elements”.
Taking place each year at the Jodrell Bank Observatory, recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the gigantic Lovell Telescope, the fourth outing was a special one for Bluedot, coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing.
“[The moon bounce] was the most unique thing I’ve ever seen at a festival and something you’d only find at Bluedot”
Audio clips recorded by headliners Kraftwerk, New Order and Hot Chip were used in a moon bounce, a radio communications technique that reflects waves from the moon back to an Earth-based receiver.
Robinson says the Bluedot moon bounce was “the most unique thing I’ve ever seen at a festival and something you’d only find at Bluedot”, which fuses music, science and technology.
The festival received a one-off license extension to 5 a.m. on the Saturday, allowing organisers to projection map onto the telescope and broadcast radio clips in real time with the original moon landing fifty years before.
According to Robinson, the “niche electronic programming” and music/ science combination – scientific speakers such as astronaut Helen Sharman and wildlife documentary presenter and biologist Liz Bonnin shared the main stage along with musical acts – attracts a “more specific audience” than Kendal Calling.
“Kendal Calling really feels like a broad cross section of the northwest of the UK,” says the From the Fields co-director. “There’s something for everyone.”
Orbital, Nile Rodgers and Chic, Manic Street Preachers, Doves, Courteeners and Tom Jones were among those playing the main stage over the weekend at Kendal Calling. Bristol punk rock band Idles were joined on stage by rapper Slowthai in a “truly unique” collaboration.
“There’s a real sense of community at both Bluedot and Kendal, and that makes people feel safe”
Despite their differences, both festivals provide a family-friendly environment, which Robinson puts down to “robust back of house services” and “good security and stewarding”.
“There’s a real sense of community at both Bluedot and Kendal, and that makes people feel safe,” says Robinson.
Both festivals have “landmark” years coming up in 2020, with Bluedot’s fifth anniversary and Kendal Calling’s 15th edition.
If this year’s Bluedot was about looking backwards at an iconic historical moment, says Robinson, next year’s festival will be a lot more future-facing. “The collaboration between music, science and tech gives ample opportunity to keep things fresh, as there are always new and exciting elements within those areas.”
Robinson describes the longevity of Kendal Calling as a “really bold achievement for us”, as the promoter confirms plans to continue the festival for the next ten years at least. Following “quite a muddy year”, the From the Fields co-director believes it is the right time to take a step back and look at “refreshing the site and design” in time for the festival’s anniversary.
Tickets for Bluedot 2020 are already available, with weekend camping priced at £168.75. Tickets for next year’s Kendal Calling go on sale on Friday at 10 am GMT.
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The show must go on…
In Bohemian Rhapsody, the recent Queen biopic, we see Live Aid broadcast to 1.9 billion people. A moment in music history where the combined forces of music and events came together to try to change the world.
Fast-forward 30 years, and the power of music and events to bring people together and change their perspectives remains, and is at the heart of Energy Revolution, a charity set up by a collection of industry professionals with first-hand knowledge of running large-scale events in rural locations.
It started in 2015, when industry think tank Powerful Thinking laid out the environmental impacts of the UK festival industry and presented them at the COP21 climate change talks in Paris. The report was called the Show Must Go On (also, incidentally, the final track on Queen’s 1991 album Innuendo) and was a festival industry response to climate change, the current global issue facing the planet, and one that we all need to address in our lifetimes. The report showed that up to 80% of the average festival’s carbon footprint came from audience travel, which is where Energy Revolution’s mission was born.
There is no quick fix to the problem of climate change. Positive change must come from both practical action and perceptual shifts. Earlier this year, a single episode of the BBC’s Blue Planet caused a shift in perception so drastic that social media feeds are still brimming with ways to avoid single-use plastic. What an epic sign that change can come quickly when the message is clear and powerful.
Energy Revolution works with over 40 UK festivals, their audiences, suppliers, and artists, to help them understand the practical impacts of their travel choices. We help event organisers engage audiences and encourage them to consider more sustainable travel methods – and people are more engaged than ever.
In the words of Freddie, “the show must go on” – and for that to happen, we need to have a healthy planet for the show to be on
But let’s be honest: most festivals happen in fields or remote locations, and there is little chance that touring headline artists will fit their show production into the boot of a Tesla. In accepting this reality, Energy Revolution calculates impacts from travel by measuring and recording fossil fuel miles, calculating the associated CO2, and then balancing unavoidable emissions via donations that we then invest in projects that create clean renewable energy.
One hundred percent of all donations go to the projects, which have so far included reforestation, wind turbines, and community-owned solar and wind projects. So far, Energy Revolution has balanced over 7.8 million average car miles, that’s the equivalent of 2.5 million kg CO2e. It’s a bold start, but the real power in the project is the framework we’ve created that means all events, venues, gig-goers, crew, and artists can educate themselves on the true impacts of travel emissions, and actively balance that impact in a direct, practical and positive way.
Times change: Bohemian Rhapsody shows Bob Geldof expressing the plight of the African continent and rallying for £1 million (£2.2m in today’s climate). That’s around what one artist of equivalent stature might get for a single show today, and in the region of what Glastonbury donates each year to charity. Charity is also at a point where the perception change required is one that drops ‘Do They Know it’s Christmas?’ from its vocabulary, and instead empowers the communities they help.
Today, the greatest threat to humanity is climate change. We need to utilise the power of music and events to change perceptions and encourage practical action. We have reach through our audiences. Just as our industry has developed standards in health and safety, disability access and hearing protection, we also need to have sustainability on the tips of our tongues.
Kendal Calling, Boomtown, Download, Reading, Shambala, Bluedot are already on board, and I implore anyone reading this to get on-board, too, and to help spread the word. In the words of Freddie, “the show must go on” – and for that to happen, we need to have a healthy planet for the show to be on.