Feature Friday: Why tomorrow’s Nibley Music Festival is the best hobby in the world

Feature Friday is a new post where I pop on my blog feature articles I have recently written for magazine-organizing1newspapers or magazines.

This week is a feature that appeared in last week’s Citizen and Echo Weekend Magazine. It’s an interview with Chris Gordon, the organiser of the amazing Nibley Music Festival in Gloucestershire, which is on tomorrow, Saturday 6th July. In it, Chris talks about the behind-the-scenes secrets of running a successful festival and how it is, hands down, the best hobby in the world. Oh yeah.

“Biggest isn’t the best” (Citizen/Echo Weekend, June 29th 2013)

Tens of thousands have descended on Worthy Farm for Glastonbury this weekend, but there is another boutique music festival making waves closer to home, as Nikki Owen found out…

It’s the day before my interview with Chris Gordon, one of the organisers extraordinaire of Nibley Music Festival. My husband is very, very excited. “Go on then,” I sigh, “what do you want me to ask him?” He nearly squeals. “The bands!’” he says immediately. “Ask him what it’s like to meet the bands. Ooo, and how they pick them. How do Nibley pick the bands.” He pauses. “I’d love to be a festival organiser. It must be so cool.”  He stares into space. I start to wonder if he should get out more.

Seven years ago, Nibley Music Festival was born after a group of friends with a love of live music got chatting in a pub. Come 2013 and Nibley has become not only a local phenomenon, but a national one, too – and is on the radar of major music agents. Held on the first Saturday of every July, Nibley showcases blistering bands (The Wonder Stuff,

Nibley Festival by day
Nibley Festival by day

them of 90s fame, are playing this year) with a family friendly atmosphere that is legendary (last year there was free laser quest, local culinary food and craft tents.).

You’d think organising a festival like Nibley is quite literally a full-time job, and surely a breeze, right? I ask straight-off. “What’s it like organising a festival?” Chris cracks the biggest smile. ‘’It’s the best hobby I’ve ever had.” Great. But then he starts to talk about how much he and the other Nibley committee members do, and that’s when the penny drops: the entire thing is run by volunteers. All of them with day jobs, families and lives, all mucking in, wiping mud from boards. Easy it ain’t. “Last year,” Chris says, “to protect the field, we carried every piece of equipment on by hand.” “What?” I say. “Even the stage?” Chris nods. “Even the stage.”

So it’s even more extraordinary to consider that, in 2011, event website Britevents voted Nibley one of the top ten music festivals in the UK along side the likes of Glastonbury and V Festival. In fact, so popular is Nibley that this year, tickets (all 4,000 of them) sold out within 42 minutes. ‘To sell out so quickly is unprecedented,” says Chris. “We have other festivals contacting us asking us how we do it.”

And what about bands contacting Nibley? “It’s great that we’re inundated with so many bands wanting to play Nibley,” says Chris. ‘We have an online form for them to fill in. It drops automatically into a spreadsheet so we can cope with the deluge. We’ve got very systemised in our back-room operations.” Ah, so that’s how it’s done. “But,” he adds, “when you actively seek out a band that you think are brilliant and they say yes – wow. I mean, I can’t tell you how excited we were getting King Charles.”

Singer, King Charles
Singer, King Charles

He’s referring to glam-folk singer, King Charles, who is so big he’s a support act to The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park this July.  We watch him on You Tube – he looks like a cross between Adam Ant and Freddie Mercury. With catchy music. “He’s massive!” Chris smiles.  I sheepishly say I have never heard of him before.  Chris then proceeds to reel off the You Tube hits Charles has received – i.e. millions. It’s a reminder just how well-regarded Nibley has become to attract such a major act.

We proceed to talk all things live music – Chris’s favourite thing – and before I know it, it’s come the end of the interview. I have to ask it. “What’s the most glamorous thing about running a festival?” Chris thinks. “It’s a great excuse to see loads of fantastic gigs.” And the least? “Carrying portaloos across a field.” Ah.

And so ends the interview. It’s amazing, really, to think that Nibley is run entirely by a committee of volunteers. Added to that, all the money raised goes to local good causes.  “We would really welcome some new committee members,” says Chris, as I leave. “All they need are commitment and a passion for live music.” I nod and make a note to tell my husband. It’s like Chris said – running a music festival – it’s the best hobby in the world.

Nibley Music Festival takes place on 6th July 2013. For more details, and to contact if you’re interested in being a festival organiser, visit www.nibleyfestival.co.uk

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