Next stop on Liftshare’s festival interview slate is the award-winning Willowman Festival – a huge four-day event in North Yorkshire that was conceptualised by just one man, the great Steve Williams – although that’s not to dimish the effort all of the organisers and staff put in each year. Festivals are hard work, after all!
This year’s festival takes place 18th-21st June at the Hillside Rural Activities Park in Knayton, and you can bag yourself an adult weekend ticket for £75. One trait we’re noticing throughout our season of festival interviews is that beyond the big events like Download, Leeds/Reading and Glastonbury, there are brilliant events pulling in line-ups of stellar acts all over the UK.
Look a little closer into Willowman, and it’s clear that Steve is no stranger to festival organisation – in fact, we’ll hear all about that in a moment, but that fact that he has managed to secure such headliners as Bob Marley’s old outfit The Wailers, and this year’s headliner Echo and the Bunnymen, is surely worth recognition.
Not only that, but the festival also has charitable aims. The event’s ‘Creative Inventions’ chill-out cafe accepts donations each year that go to the Pegasus Project, which is an orphanage run in Tibet that houses around 100 children at a time. All the proceeds, volunteers and time foes towards caring for the kids and Willowman even has its own prayer flag planted in the mountains of Tibet to underline its support.
With that in mind, let’s dive into our chat with Steve about Willowman’s origins, growth and plans for this year.
Liftshare: Can you give us some insight into Willoman Festival’s origins, and your own background on the festival circuit?
Steve: The Willowman Festival was spurned off the back of Viking Volks Fest, an event I used to run. As a keen VW owner I liked to spend weekends out in my Type 2 Campervan. I supplied sound and lighting to a larger VW event for years but never made it in my own van as I always had a truck full of gear so I started the only Northern Event.
Now there are several smaller ones that have diluted the scene and it is simply not worth the effort anymore. As the Willowman got bigger I dropped the VW event as it became less economical. I had also previously worked on a Scottish Festival for eight years with a similar name. I have a large Willow tree in my back garden and the name came from that.
Small festivals are difficult as you are always trying to balance the ‘Ying and Yang’ of finance. Keeping tickets affordable is one thing but it limits your purchasing power for artists. As we all know artists are not selling many records or CD’s so their fees are getting really expensive as it is the only means for an income for them.
Liftshare: You’re now in your 6th year. What do you think have been the keys to your success, and what can you tell us about the acts on the 2015 line-up?
Steve: Last year we had the Wailers and I couldn’t of got that more right. Sunny weather, great songs that Bob Marley wrote giving the whole weekend a fantastic atmosphere.
Each year I try to vary the artists and bring a good eclectic mix to the table. Something the Willowman is nw well respected for. We have several good artists booked already and still some up our sleeves.
Peter Hook and the Light are a fantastic live show and I have requested half New Order and half Joy Division songs in the set. Other artists booked are Hazel O’Conner, Andy Kershaw DJ set, Talisman, Neck, Astralasia, New Groove Formation, Ferocious Dog and Pearl Handle Revolver. Bar=Steward Sons of Val Doonican offer a variety of musical styles from Folk Punk to Dance Classic Old School and entertaining comedy. The secret is to make people feel relaxed happy and make them dance.
Liftshare: You have won a lot of awards, including one for your approach to families. What other activities do you offer aside from the music stages, and how do you cater for families and kids over the weekend?
Steve: Willowman offers a family friendly atmosphere where the parents can relax whilst the kids run free in a safe environment being entertained without breaking the bank. We try and ensure that our food and catering is of top quality with Eco friendly products and free range ingredients where possible.
Liftshare: What is your approach to sustainability and keeping things green?
Steve: Noise pollution is the only thing left in the atmosphere when our team of litter pickers are finished on site, often returned to the guardians in a cleaner state than when we arrive. We try and get as much as possible recycled. We are looking forward to using Liftshare as we feel it will assist in getting everybody there at a lower immersion and financial cost. Also we could end up with a larger than last year crowd.
Liftshare: Lastly, what can you tell us about your involvement with the Pegasus Children’s project?
Steve: The Pegasus Project is an Orphanage ran in Tibet by donations and hard-working people who devote there time to the project by way of finance, building, education and shear grit and hard work. There are normally just under 100 children benefiting from the project. We collect donations in the “Creative Intentions” Chill-out cafe where Paula and her team make you feel very welcome. The Willowman has prayer flags in the mountains of Tibet along with our very own Prayer Flag pole, and the flags are blessed by the local monks for the region.
Steve looks forward to newcomers visiting Willowman Festival this year – 19 – 21st June 2015. Don’t forget to check out his official site for more details.