Ask ‘the festivals’: Alex Trenchard from Standon Calling on the challenges of hosting your own festival

"In the first year of the festival, our Main Stage blew away!"

“They should have booked INSERT MASSIVE BAND HERE!”, we all cry. “Why don’t they just put on more loos?”, we ask. Seriously, when it comes down to it, we don’t know much about running a festival. But that’s okay, because we’ve tracked down the people behind your favourite events, and asked them all the questions you’ll ever need to know. (Okay, maybe not the toilet one.) Next up, we have Alex Trenchard from Standon Calling, which takes place this weekend (26th-29th July) in Hertfordshire, with sets from George Ezra (pictured), The Horrors, Django Django, Paloma Faith, Goldfrapp, The Amazons, Shame, Marmozets, Pale Waves and more.

How did you start working on Standon Calling, then?
Standon Calling started out as a small event for 500 people who were friends or friends of friends. That first year we had such a great time, and I loved the addictive buzz of being able to organise something that gave people so much joy. I well and truly caught the festival bug and haven’t got over it since!

What’s a typical day like for you in the lead up to the event?
As you might expect, it’s busy and pretty varied. Working with my team to book big acts, find new talent we’re excited by and generally curate a festival programme we’re proud of. I visit our festival site regularly, constantly looking at changes and improvements to the layout and operation of the festival itself to make sure our audience have the best time.

What’s the biggest challenge the festival has had to contend with during its time?
In the first year of the festival, our Main Stage blew away! Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then.

You’ve loads of great bands playing this year, what or who do you think will be the highlight for 2018?
I’m really excited to have a local act, George Ezra, headlining the festival on Saturday night. Goldfrapp will be a stand-out moment supporting Bryan Ferry on Sunday night – any other year she would have been a headliner. I’m a big fan of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and we have them for a rare UK outing, The Horrors are always amazing, and new talent such as Pale Waves, Shame, Marmozets, Gengahr, Dream Wife, Confidence Man and Nelson Can will all be outstanding. Any of them could become someone’s favourite band from the festival this year. I love that sense of music discovery at a proper weekend festival, and hopefully, we offer that in spades.

How do you see Standon Calling evolving over the next few years?
Over the last few years, we’ve focused on growing our audience. We’re now at a really exciting point where we can shift to focus on how to add even more depth and interest to our programming and site. People love Standon Calling because of the mix of experiences you can have across the weekend, and I would really like to keep pushing this and seeing where we land!

What advice would you give others who’d like to work on live events like Standon Calling?
“If you build it, they will come”, never listen to this, it’s not true. You have to work really hard and be open to learning, constantly. Your assumptions are wrong all the time, especially when you try something new. But keep going, and the rewards of working in this industry are completely worth it.

Standon Calling takes place from 26th-29th July in Hertfordshire.

Words: Sam Taylor

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