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Miscellaneous - Interview with Sean Birdsall

  by Spencer Robertshaw

published: 29 / 7 / 2010

Miscellaneous - Interview with Sean Birdsall


With safety an increasing issue at festivals, Spencer Robertshaw talks to Sean Birdsall, the organiser of the North Yorkshire-based the Limetree Festival, about its green and family focus

Festivals here, festivals there, festivals everywhere, but which one do you choose? With everyone jumping on the festival bandwagon in an attempt it seems to make some money from what can be a very lucrative event we ask what and which festival do you go to and how do you choose? July saw the ugly face of the corporate money-making festival machine as 21 people were crushed to death at the Love Parade music festival in Germany. This has made the question very relative to this summer and as the festival season continues. Many people would love to know what is what and who is who on the festival scene and we at Pennyblackmusic have the perfect answer in the Limetree Festival. The Limetree Festival, which is based at Limetree Farm in the village of Grewelthorpe in North Torkshire, takes us back to the original ethos of the festival and brings an eclectic mix of acts and activities which all the family can be involved in. It goes back to the original roots and values of the original weekenders, but maybe more so as it has learnt from its own experience and others that certain issues must be kept core to it such as ‘green’ environments, dedicated safe children’s areas and friendly marshals to help gel the event together. Musically there is something for everyone, but there is a slight lean towards the more soulful or funky aspect which is no bad thing as I can think of many a slick beat that would make a party buzz. Bands and musicians that will be performing this year include the Blockheads, the James Taylor Quartet, the Utah Saints and Pauline Black from the Selecter. Children can play in a specially designed enclosure before you whisk them up to have a boogie somewhere, keeping energy levels at a manageable level. Originality and green issues are discussed in the following interview with Limetree organizer Sean Birdsall. He has done a great job of both getting back to basics and also incorporating up to date safety procedures. PB: How did Limetree start? SB: Limetree was started when I visited the site as a guest of the landowners. It was apparent that the site would be perfect for a small but perfectly formed festival. PB: This festival seems to be close to the roots of original festivals rather than the more generally corporate festivals of the present. Is this something which you have consciously acted on? Why did you want to take it back to how it was and should be? SB: Yes it certainly was a clear intention to return to how music festivals used to be. I had spent the last twenty years at one festival or another, and had seen Glastonbury slide from being at the cutting edge of all the festivals to the corporate thing it has become. Obviously there are still parts of Glastonbury that I still find appealing and we used as a model for ours such as the Jazz World stage. Both musically and the atmosphere around that stage was one I wished to recreate at our own festival. The Big Chill in its early days was also a huge influence. The reasons for doing so was to make the experience as pure as possible for every single attendee. We try to be as reasonable as possible in relation to costs on site. We want to make it accessible for as many people as possible. PB: What influences you to book the acts that you do? Is there an ethos or guideline that you apply? SB: The only ethos we employ when booking acts is that they have a great live show. Genre wise I guess we tend to be associated with soul and jazz Funk, but we don't want to be pigeonholed. We also try to give as many local acts an opportunity to play on a stage alongside the more well known national and international artists. PB: How much do you do to keep a green environment and how important do you think it is to try and promote this to your festival visitors? SB: The green issue is very important to both us and the landowners. After all it is their back garden. This year we have taken great steps in ensuring we recycle as much as we possibly can. We also have the services of seven BA arts students who are designing the site so that we get the message out to everyone without it being oppressive or look like we are ranting. I am excited this year as the site is going to look amazing. All this along with the great people who come to the festival, great music and great food. What else do you need? PB: You have an excellent area and plans for children. Is the aim of this to make for a true family weekend where everyone has something to do at any time and was it important for you to consider children when planning the festival? How did you decide what would be arranged for children? SB: The children's area is hugely important as our part of our demographic is young families. We want to make the festival experience as good for them as it is for everyone else. We wanted to give them as many creative opportunities on site as possible. Creativity is to be encouraged in everyone but especially kids, plus who knows some of them may come back to play on the stages in the future. This year we are combining the creativity with the nature aspects of the site. Hopefully the kids will love it as much as their parents. PB: Lastly going back to the green issue how long does the clean up take after the festival and for the ground to repair itself from both tent marks and public contact? SB: Within a week the site is spic and span again. We trawl the site from top to bottom to make sure it is clean and tidy, and this year we are having many initiatives to keep us tidy. We believe all people are good and given the opportunity they will keep the site clean for us anyway. We also have a team of volunteers whose sole responsibility is to manage the litter and recycling. No one wants to sit in a tip and I do think we will have the most beautiful festival site. PB: Thank you.

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