Interview: Burlesque, fire shows and busking at Barefoot Festival

The music festival format has been so ingrained that it can be hard to imaging a big open air event with tents, stages and camping without a dedicated musical component.

However, the wonderful Barefoot Festival jumped ahead of the curve with an alternative extravaganza focused on dancing, theatrics and naturally – a lot of fire. It takes place 24-26 July 2015 at Prestwold Hall in Loughborough, Leicestershire.

Barefoot was started ten years ago by Louisa Darling after she realised she had a lot of friends with unusual skills such as belly and flamenco dancing, fire artists, yoga instructors and drummers. A lack of interest in the traditional music festival format lead to a fresh new format that focussed on artistry with an intimate twist. Both family friendly and affordable, the event has grown considerable since its conception.

Although 2015’s roster of events hasn’t been revealed, you need only look at 2014’s offering to see that this is a positively diverse festival – from Talulah Blue’s Burlesque and Cabaret Extravaganza, to tribal belly dancer troupe Girls On Fire. There’s also an abundance of arts and craft activities for little ones, as well as a busking and open mic stage for anyone who wants to show off their musical skills.

The festival is now recommending Liftshare as an cheaper, cleaner travel option for Barefoot 2015, and we will have more on this year’s line-up once announcements are made. However, we wanted to speak with Louisa to get the inside scoop on how it all began, and how volunteer and fan support has helped Barefoot flourish and offer a solid alternative to classic fests.

Take it away Louisa!


Liftshare: Barefoot is a positively interesting festival that sets itself apart from the pack. Can you give our readers some insight what you do different?

Louisa: We are actually dropping the dedicated music tent and going back to our busking and open mic stage. We run this in out arts cafe. I think the main difference is between conventional festivals and Barefoot, is we really want you to be part of it. Although you can just sit back and relax and take it all in, we really encourage you to get involved and have a go at something or learn a new skill, make something in the arts tent or share a poem on the open mic. The headliner is YOU at barefoot!

Liftshare: What kind of feedback have your big Burlesque acts, fire shows and other more unusual activities had? Do you feel those type of events are growing in popularity here in the UK?

Louisa: When we started ten years ago very few people knew what Burlesque was and now it’s exploded. I see many other events doing similar things to Barefoot now and so we need to make sure we bring new things each year, it’s a challenge to keep on top but we work with some amazing artists and performers who are at the top of their game and they always blow me away. A lot of performers try new acts at Barefoot because the audience is always so wonderful. It’s like a family and so the performers feel comfortable and so you get a great show.

Liftshare: We like that you have a kids zone, because a lot of festivals lack that family focus. How well is the festival received by families?

Louisa: Our family ticket sales are increasing as word gets out. It’s wonderful for children. I have three children and another one on the way so I see it that if the kids are happy, mum and dad are happy. The idea is to allow parents and children to all have a go at something they like over the week end and join in with events together as a family. It’s a growing section of our event.


Liftshare:  Can you tell us your plans for 2015’s show or tease how big it’s going to be? 

Louisa: As it’s our 10th year we really feel we better make it a big one. We have some familiar faces returning and some and unique acts booked, so it’s definitely not one to be missed this year.

Liftshare: Lastly, how mindful are you of green festival issues, and in what ways do you look to reduce waste each year?

Louisa: We do our own recycling in-house with our volunteer team. This way we really do see what happens with the waste. We work in conjunction with our local council who have always supported our efforts to recycle as much as possible. I can truly vouch for this as it was myself and my brother dealing with sorting the waste last year – not a pretty job (wasp stings!!) but a very important one. We encourage all our traders to recycle and use bio degradable products and we will select the traders and caterers based on their policy on this.

Thanks again to Louisa for a great interview, and be sure to check out Barefoot Festival 2015 this year for an alternative take on the standard music festival.

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