“A gambler’s wet dream and an accountant’s worst nightmare!” : the enormous seduction of the micro-festival | Music

“We started with five of us putting £100 in a pot and hoping for the best,” says Henry Morris of the Field Manoeuvres micro-electronic music festival.

Along with Leon Cole and Ele Beattie, they’ve been hosting their annual “no frills rave” at a secret countryside location since 2013, when 350 people showed up to sweat it out in a field. “It started out as a party for us and our friends and it still is, it just got a little bigger,” says Beattie. This year’s event, featuring Kode9 and Overmono, will host 1,500 people, but there are no plans to expand further.

There is a growing desire to keep things small. The experimental Supernormal music and arts festival hosts 1,500 people at Braziers Park, Oxfordshire; just 600 people attended Sea Change in Totnes earlier this year, and indie band Sea Power are hosting their own festival, Krankenhaus, for 750 people at a Lake District castle, featuring Low and Richard Dawson, during the bank holiday of August. weekend. “People love that it’s so intimate,” says band guitarist Martin Noble. “It’s really magical for people seeing big bands on a small stage.”

Sea Power performing at Hospital 2019. Photography: PR document

In an age of countless music festivals, many of which try to be everything to everyone, micro-festivals are an opportunity to create something unique instead of adding to the clutter. “At some festivals, you feel like you’re herded like cattle to be gutted of as much money as possible and then sent back again,” says Supernormal’s Jimmy Martin. “We wanted to be the antithesis of that.”

The corporate character of some festivals can also be circumvented. “You spend your life being told to buy things,” says Morris. “If a rave is anything, it’s a bit of an escape from this world.” You won’t find expensive VIP add-ons either. “There are no hot tubs or four-course sit-down meals,” says Cole. “We do however have a pub, peanuts and a fruit machine.”

Micro-festivals also increase bonding potential. “At a bigger festival, you might share a moment with someone on the dance floor, but who knows if you’ll ever find them again,” says Beattie. “At Field Manoeuvres, on Sundays when you try to introduce people, they are already new best friends. We have seen some great relationships blossom. There are definitely a few babies that are the result of the festival. Similar micro-festivals have also been dreamed up by participants, such as Twisted, Floorless and Above Below.

Organizing something that results in creative collaboration is rooted in the core spirit of Supernormal. “It’s about creating a forum where people can express themselves and brainstorm ideas,” says Martin. Synth-pop-punk band Charismatic Megafauna is a key example: they met there, formed, and then returned to play a year later. Martin describes him as a “huge catalyst for artists”.

These events also hope to break down the boundaries between audience and artist. At Krankenhaus, the backstage is ditched in favor of common areas, where you can munch on a burrito with Gruff Rhys or “stumble across New Order’s Stephen Morris strolling around watching bird exhibits,” says Noble. Birds of prey exhibits are one of the many other features on offer, alongside guided walks, lectures and steam train journeys. “It’s like a vacation,” says Noble. “We want to highlight the rich landscape as well as the groups.”

A scene from the 2020 Field Maneuvers festival.
A scene from the 2020 Field Maneuvers festival. Photography: PR document

As well as a desire to foster a sense of community, it’s also the unique setting for these festivals – bands playing in a barn inside Krankenhaus Castle, while Braziers Park is in a country house and a level II domain – which determines the comfortable capacity. “We’re not prepared to do it elsewhere, but it’s worked to our advantage as we’ve avoided many other pitfalls that plague festivals, many of which relate to over-expansion and the pressures that come with it. “, explains Martine.

Basically, profit doesn’t seem to be a key motivator. Krankenhaus offers an additional free ticket for people who need caregivers and reduced prices for those who are unemployed or on low wages. “We don’t see it as a lucrative business,” says Noble. “It’s like our annual party. If we break even this year, we will be more than happy.

Similarly, Field Maneuvers operates with tiny margins. “It’s a gambler’s wet dream and an accountant’s worst nightmare,” says Morris. “But every year we’ve gotten a little bigger and tried to pay people as fairly as possible, with all the money going directly to make it the best party possible.”

Supernormal sold out in minutes this year – an irony not lost on Martin that by trying to make a festival super-intimate and inclusive, you risk becoming inadvertently exclusive.

However, it represents a real appetite for something more intimate, genuinely counter-cultural and idiosyncratic. “People make an emotional connection to it,” he says. “There is a great community here and I hope people come back from the festival feeling not shorn of every penny, but moved by the transformative power of art.”

Supernormal takes place at Braziers Park, Oxfordshire, August 12-14; Krankenhaus at Muncaster Castle, Cumbria, 26-29 August; Field maneuvers in a secret location, September 2-4

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