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UK festival joins ‘Drop a headliner’ campaign

Secret Garden Party (SGP) has announced it has signed up to independent collective Chai Wallahs’ Drop a Headliner campaign to focus on nurturing grassroots acts for its 2024 edition.

The UK festival, scheduled for Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, from 25-28 July, is foregoing big-name headliners in favour of allocating resources to supporting rising acts.

The move represents a call to action to save the indie scene, with 34 major events having already declared a postponement, cancellation or complete closure this year, and the Music Venues Trust reports that 16% of UK grassroots music venues have been lost in the last 12 months.

This year’s SGP lineup features more than 350 artists including Unkle, Crystal Fighters, Chinchilla, Franky Wah, Carly Wilford, Adelphi Music Factory, Jakkob, Omega Nebula, Technobrass and TC & The Groove. Chai Wallahs, The Living Room and Noiganica will also host dedicated venues to diverse, grassroots live music, while Save Our Scene, Parable Music, Dubtendo and Truth Tribe will provide stage takeovers.

“We believe in being a breeding ground for talent to grow,” says founder Freddie Fellowes. “Why allocate a massive budget to one or two headliners when it could fuel another 50 outstanding acts? This year’s focus is on providing grassroots artists the ability to shine, whilst actively redefining festival experiences for the future.”

“For the grassroots scene to survive and thrive, this talent needs platforms and opportunities to be able to develop, so we must address the disparity”

Launched in 2004, the 32,000-cap event has previously hosted performances by the likes of Lily Allen, Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Florence & The Machine, The XX and Regina Spektor.

“Having been ardent supporters of the grassroots scene for over 20 years, we were chuffed when Secret Garden Party agreed to be the first independent festival to collaborate with us on the ‘Drop a Headliner’ campaign,” says Chai Wallahs’ founder Si Chai. “There is so much more enjoyment to be had in the discovery of new music, and please trust me when I say that there is a massive world of undiscovered talent. For the grassroots scene to survive and thrive, this talent needs platforms and opportunities to be able to develop, so we must address the disparity.”

The campaign notes that with headliners at that level commanding up to £150,000, SGP is taking the opportunity to re-allocate the figure to finance around 222 individual acts.

“This staggering number would create a marked upsurge in independent music and become a building block for its sustained growth,” it says.

Chai continues: “This campaign highlights not only the opportunities for programmers to be more creative with their million pound budgets, but also presents a chance to support a whole ecosystem of artists. It provides greater enjoyment to open minded music lovers, and a healthy alternative to playing the big name game.”


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