Interview: How BoomTown Fair became one of the UK’s most unique music festivals

On Monday we took a quick look at BoomTown Fair (August 13-16 on the Matterly Estate in Winchester), which is arguably one of the UK’s most unique music festivals. Formed in 2009, the first year kicked off the opening ‘chapter’ of a long narrative focussed on the fictional village of BoomTown and its weird and wonderful inhabitants like Nicholas Boom himself.

Each new year adds to the story and dictates the theme of individual events, while giving the festival a different feel. In short: we’re fans of the format, but narrative aside, BoomTown is a heavyweight festival, featuring the likes of Less Than Jake, Flogging Molly, John Butler Trio, Dub Pistols, Dreadzone and many more on the bill.

Team Liftshare wanted to know more, so we got in touch with a member of the BoomTown organising team Kate Hellon to ask some burning questions about how the festival got to be so big, and where it’s bold format came from.

We’ve also partnered with BoomTown to give its fans access to cheaper, greener and social travel to the festival. Simply offer or request a lift via our BoomTown hub to get started.

Take it away Kate!


Liftshare: Can you give us some insight into the origins of Boomtown Fair from 2009, and why you chose to follow your intriguing chapter format?

Kate: BoomTown is like no other festival, it’s an immersive world of theatre, audio visuals mind blowing sets and fully interactive streets, the storyline and characters help bring all this to life, along with the incredible citizens of BoomTown! We are now on Chapter 7 and the story is worth a read.

Liftshare: You have a positively eclectic mix of acts on offer each year. How do you go about curating acts for the festival, and why do you feel this broad approach is best?

Kate: Our independence and diversity is a fundamental part of our identity, not simply promoting one style of music, art or performance but throwing open the gates to every kind of expression and celebration, something for everybody and the freedom to enjoy it as you want to! – with a sense of unity, humanity and understanding between all people.  Our amazing stage programmers are incredible at what they do, they search high and low, taking months to pull together our eclectic line ups and they always smash it.

Liftshare: What can you tell us about the Matterley Estate – what the grounds are like, your site’s village format, local surroundings and what visitors can expect from the atmosphere?

Kate: It’s a fantastic place for a party! The site is natural amphitheatre with lots of character made up of woodlands, peaks and valleys where we can create streets, stages and secret hideaways for people to stumble across! The city is made up of nine themed districts, with streets, interactive buildings and many doors leading to secret venues. It truly is like being on a film set.


Liftshare: What is your approach to maintaining the estate from a green point of view?

Kate: Sustainability is a topic which is really important to us, we have many things in place but we know there is always more that can be done. We have a dedicated waste team who spend months after the event picking every last fleck of waste up leaving the site completely clear.  We have the EcoBond initiative which encourages our citizens to pick up their own waste and return it to a depot in exchange for a £10 note.

We have also partnered with FareShare South West who will be on site collecting surplus food from campers and traders and turning them into delicious meals that will feed local community projects.  Every year thousands of tonnes of perfectly good in-date food is wasted around the country, whilst millions cannot afford to feed themselves. FareShare South West and Boomtown Fair are seeking to address this imbalance.

In addition, we have the Philippines Community Fund on site collecting discarded cans and ring pulls and turning them into a huge selection of beautiful bags, belts and jewellery which you can buy from their stall in Whistler’s Green.

We have also teamed up Energy Revolution who have found that the main contributor of carbon emissions at festivals is usually travel. Energy Revolution will facilitate accounting for the carbon emissions from journeys to and from festivals by supporting a renewable energy project, which our citizens can do by donating when they purchase their ticket.

Car sharing with Liftshare is fundamental to supporting this, it’s a win-win, you get to reduce your personal carbon footprint as well as the festivals, save money and make new friends in the process.

Liftshare: What more can you tell us about 2015’s event?

Kate: We’ve upped our game again! Chapter 7  is shaping up to be the biggest year yet. The line ups have been announced, our new nine-storey palace stage in DownTown has been revealed, but the rest is being released over the coming months…

Liftshare: Lastly: Boomtown Fair is family friendly, but can you give our readers a picture of what families can do there besides music?

Kate: One of the nine districts of BoomTown is Kidztown where mini boomers roam free and truly rule the roost! With its own main stage, the Sandcastle stage there is music and good times galore as well as lots of make and do workshops and activities.

Outside of KidzTown in the wider HillTop and Temple Valley areas of town, there are also lots of chilled out with food stalls, craft areas and folk, reggae, blue-grass and swing music as well as all the colourful walkabout acts and intriguing characters to meet along the away. One major highlight is the Kids Carnival parade on Sunday afternoon, which brings the spirit of Rio to the streets of BoomTown!

With more and more families attending BoomTown each year, new for 2015 is a discounted family ticket meaning the festival is more affordable for families. Additional family focussed facilities include; a dedicated family entrance, family campsite and family car park close to the entrance.

Many thanks to Kate for her brilliant insight into BoomTown Fair 2015. Remember to check out their homepage for more information, and to book travel with Liftshare to save big money.

Main image credit: Charlie Raven

Author liftshare


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