Hi Charlie, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Charlie: I’ve been good, thank you very much. Very, very busy there’s been lots going on but yeah, can’t complain.
What led you to start this festival ten years ago?
Charlie: Yeah ten years ago I played with a band called The Laurel Collective. We’re still officially a band but we haven’t played together now for a while. But ten years ago, the guitar player, Ollie, and I were walking through woodland. It’s actually where I was brought up in Kent. In the woodland, there was a big dugout, which is a like an old clay-mine. It was like an amphitheatre really and we were walking past it and we thought it would be brilliant to play a gig there. Like, why not you know? So a month later, we did that. But, we think there were about eighty people there and they were bringing their own beer and it was basically a party and an excuse for us to play a gig. It was such a success that we did it again the next year but it was probably about a couple of hundred people and it just sort of snowballed really. Every year it’s sort of mutated really from being a party the first time with extension leads from the house to what it is now. Hopefully it always maintains the same ethos from that original party. But it’s a lot bigger in scale and it’s developed into what it is now, which is a platform for new music and new arts generally.
You choose to support the best indie artists rather than big acts – was it a financial decision or that was the initial goal all the way, to support indie artists?
Charlie: Well there’s a whole group of us which do the bookings and decide what we’re going to put on stage. It’s a very democratic process and very long-winded but it’s why we end up with the quality of line-up that we end up with. First of all, we all need to enjoy the music and listen to it on record. Then most of us have to see the act play live, and come to an agreement that it could show. Sometimes it can happen the other way around and someone says “I saw these people and they’re amazing” and then we listen to the record. They need to basically tick all of those boxes. Can they play? Is the music to our tastes? If all of those boxes are ticked then they will be a pretty good shout on the line-up.
What has been the most challenging thing in the past few years?
Charlie: We all have other jobs as well so the most challenging thing is balancing the day-to-day of running a festival as well as doing our other jobs. As the festival develops every year there’s always something new that we’re striving to do. Not necessarily growing in size anymore as we don’t want to become unrecognisable from our initial roots. The site isn’t big enough to host thousands and thousands of people so size-wise we have hit our peak. There are always other things, little stages and other little areas and things that we want to keep developing and that’s all in our own spare time. So that is one of the challenges. Many, many years ago when we first started and we realised we needed a license; stuff like that like contacting the council and getting them on our side. Stuff like that is always a challenge. It’s all a learning curve really. We have all learned so much from the whole process and the whole thing is a challenge really.
I run a lil fest as well and I know outreach is very hard – what’s your trick and how do you feel about shows selling out?
Charlie: Well selling out obviously means that you can make the appropriate income you need to make the show actually happen. No-one wants to lose money on it and we run on such a tight margin that if we didn’t sell out then we stand to lose a lot of money. In fact, the way we run it, the tickets alone don’t actually cover the cost of the festival. Even if we sell-out. We run our own food and drink stalls there as well which hopefully pushes us over the line and keeps us in the black. So selling out is actually quite important because, like I said, we wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise. In terms of outreach, as it’s grown, it’s always been word-of-mouth really for us from just eighty people to a couple of hundred people. That’s how it’s spread. These days we do a little bit of social media and we always have nice little promo by some very talented people who do promotional work for us, Mad Ruffian. But again, the whole platform is about showcasing your art and whether it is music or visual or whatever. Things like the promo are also an outlet for that. So we do use social media for things like that but over the years it has just grown through word of mouth.
What can we expect on this edition?
Charlie: Ooh. Well this is our ten year anniversary so it’s ten years since we had that party in the woods basically. So obviously another part is discovering new and upcoming acts that we’ve painstakingly chosen that we all think have quality and are a good shout moving forward and very entertaining. So there’s that as well as just lots of what we do best really and lots of fresh new stuff. On the Friday night we do have a special event which is obviously, you know, we’ve had the passing of some great artists this year which is very sad and rightly so, there’s been a lot of festivals paying tribute to them and so we’re doing the same thing. Our friends in the band, The Invisible, will be doing a Bowie and Prince tribute so it should be a great event. We’ve got some lovely guests and performers coming to sing with The Invisible. I’m looking forward to that it should be great. And we’ll have lots of the usual stuff that we always have like the Silent Disco which goes on into the early hours with some amazing DJs and a big bonfire and like I said, the Journey of Discovery on the Saturday which is all of the new acts which we have chosen.
What else is happening next in In The Woods’ world?
Charlie: Well we are developing our online platform with the idea being it will continue into the actual ethos of the actual festival but showcasing things online as they come through. It’s kind of like a blog I suppose but with lots of live footage, lots of podcasts and things like that. Just keeping people up to date with what’s out there and what’s happening really in the up-and-coming circles. So we’re developing that online and that should be going live quite soon.
Hi Christopher, welcome to VENTS! How have you been? I’ve never been better. Or older. …