ArcTanGent: Standing out from the Crowd
There are more festivals in the UK than ever before. Remfry Dedman speaks to the three organizers behind 2000trees to find out what makes their new festival, ArcTanGent different from the rest
We’ve all had one of those nights. You and your mates have had a few too many drinks and suddenly the muscles in your mouth are lubricated and the brain begins to hash out any old crazy idea. “Let’s start a takeaway business from our flat.” “Why don’t we start a traffic cone collection?” Or the ever popular, “Let’s start our own music festival…”
Then in the sober light of morning, a storming hangover prevents any notion of putting last night’s asinine idea into action. Not so for childhood friends, James Scarlett and Simon Maltas. Both attended Reading Festival in 2006, one of the country’s best known and well-loved festivals and both decided that it was… well, a bit rubbish. “We were sat around the camp fire, we’d had too many drinks and we were just saying ‘this is s**t, they’re basically just trying to take all our money and this has got worse and worse every year, let’s start our own festival.’ You have a million ideas over the years, and nothing ever happens but with, this one…we did it, we didn’t know what we were doing, none of us were event organisers, none of us had ever booked a band, booked a stage, organised security or anything.”
That festival became 2000trees in 2007, and now James and Simon (alongside new partner-in-crime Goc O’ Callaghan) are back with a new festival ArcTanGent, the first of which is set to take place at Fernhill Farm near Bristol.
“We’re targeting a certain group of people,” says James. “This isn’t like 2000trees, or Reading or Glastonbury where it’s very broad. It’s more narrow, but the people who like that kind of music will say ‘That’s the best line-up I’ve ever seen’ and that’s the point.”
And what a line-up! Alongside headliners 65daysofstatic, the weekend will see in excess of 80 bands playing over three nights, including sets from Rolo Tomassi, Future of the Left, Earthtone9, Three Trapped Tigers, Amplifier, Bo Ningen, Maybeshewill and Bossk. Eclectic barely covers it.
James tells me, “I essentially imagined Mogwai and The Mars Volta were headlining a festival, and then booked a line-up that would go with them.” Simon chips in, “We will be getting The Mars Volta to re-form in the next few years […] Yeah, that’s the ultimate,” agrees James, “We’ll retire the year after that.”
Alongside the unusual line-up, there’s an independent spirit to ArcTanGent that makes it a very different proposition to the wallet-breaking mainstream festivals. ArcTanGeneers are encouraged to bring their own alcohol into the site. Food and drink is locally sourced and prices are kept low. Capacity is set at 4000 to keep an intimacy to proceedings across the 54,000 square metres of space (that’s 56 football pitches to you and me). Campers can set up their tents a mere 35 meters from the main stage (The Arc) and bar (The Drive-In). As Goc explains, “You never even have to leave your tent, if you don’t want too.”
With such a different set-up to the majority of UK and even European festivals out there, it’s little wonder that ArcTanGent have sold tickets to people in far-flung corners of the continent, as Goc explains “We’ve had people who’ve been enquiring how they’re going to get over from Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Spain… I’ve dealt with so many international enquiries about how people can get here. I don’t think there’s anything else out there to rival us in the UK or Europe, not as a three-day camping festival. Otherwise why would people travel that far?”
Barely a single British summer passes without pictures of water-logged festival revellers being printed in the nation’s papers, but the ArcTanGent crew have even thought of that with their main stage (pictured). The dome-shaped canopy can cover 1500 people if the weather takes a turn for the worse, but at seven metres high, the canopy is so high that those outside the tent can still get a perfect view of the stage.
“No-one has ever had this as a main stage as far as we know,” says James, “and the fact is, it always rains at British festivals. We have four stages in total, three marquees and the main stage, but obviously a large section of the main stage is under cover so… we’re weather proof.”
ArcTanGent has already garnered a devoted cult following, partly through the organizers reputation with 2000trees, but also because they’re appealing to festival-goers who want a broad eclectic line-up, with decent local food and drink and the company of like-minded music enthusiasts. And all for a ridiculously low price… I guess sometimes, those crazy drunken ideas are the best.
The very first ArcTanGent Festival takes place 29 – 31 August at Fernhill Farm, near Bristol. Tickets are £59 (Thursday early entry tickets £69).
For more information visit www.arctangent.co.ukTagged in: 2000Trees, 65daysofstatic, ArcTanGent, Future of the Left, Glastonbury, mogwai, Reading Festival, Rolo Tomassi
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