# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - Interview with James Houston

  by Spencer Robertshaw

published: 24 / 7 / 2012

Miscellaneous - Interview with James Houston


Spencer Robertshaw talks to James Houston, the organiser of North Yorkshire festival Galtres, which is now in its eighth year, about his extraordinary festival and its links with charity

It seems that everyone on the planet is trying to jump on the festival bandwagon! I even saw a poster recently for a festival run by Morrisons supermarket. Festivals when organised properly can both make money and even be a springboard for other ventures with a great diversity. The best festivals are always though which have been built up with love, care and attention, and not by some marketing man in a bland, grey-painted office trying to squeeze as much money out of the public as possible. They have been usually nurtured like a small child, given all the important things slowly and steadily and that so when they grow up they are both grounded, but also very creative in their thinking. This is what I believe the Galtres Festival is. Now in its eighth year, it takes place in Crayke in North Yorkshire over the August bank holiday weekend, and this year between the 24th and 26th August. There is something going on everywhere for everyone so each step takes you to another world of interest and fun whilst being handled gently by the staff of the festival. A lot of the Galtres Festival’s proceedings are given to charity, and we are not just talking a few quid in a collection either. They give money to list of charities that receives anything from hundreds to thousands of pounds. That list is not small either, and that alone tells you what a warm, kind heart this festival has. In terms of music, the Galtres Festival is eclectic in its outlook and definitely has something for everyone. This year’s festival will see performances from Ash, the Buzzcocks, Adam Ant, Simon and Oscar from Ocean Colour Scene who will be playing an acoustic set, Seth Lakeman, Billy Bragg, the Guillemots, Martin Stephenson, the Bluetones’ Mark Morriss, Ellen and the Escapades, the Men They Couldn’t Hang and the Travelling Band. This is all not bad for an idea that started off in a pub car park and has been carefully developed as a true labour of love. Pennyblackmusic spoke to James Houston, the festival director, about the Galtres Festival. PB: To a newcomer to the festival how would you describe in three or four sentences your festival and what it offers to people? JH: It's a small, friendly, safe family event, but one which delivers an extraordinarily high quality programme. No one knows how we manage to attract the calibre of headliners we do, but people are most impressed by the quality of the smaller bands playing over the weekend, and the sense of fun and high spirits which pervades everything. We do things a bit differently at Galtres, offering over 100 different local beers and ciders, and offering genuinely local food catering. The family activities and entertainments are far more than a diversion for the kids - they are creative and exhilarating. The only problem we have is in getting people to go home at the end - they just want to stay! PB: Why did you decide to give a percentage of your profits to charity? JH: The event was originally set up as a charity fund-raiser and was run entirely by volunteers. A lot of money can be raised by running a beer festival, as ours started out, and we wanted to support some needy and deserving causes while having a lot of fun. Over the years it has grown and become more professional, and we need to pay for quite a lot of the services which are provided to the event. But we still use an awful lot of volunteers, and part of their motivation is to help raise funds for the charities we support. Some people who come to the event aren't too bothered, but most like the idea that with every purchase they make some of the money is going to good causes. PB: How did you decide which charities you were going to donate money to? JH: We have a board of trustees who decide. Initially we spent a while drawing up a policy which identified what type of charities we wanted to support - both to help us decide, and to give guidance to applicants. Generally we prefer charities which are based locally, and prefer to fund a project or purchase which results in something tangible - rather than simply pouring money into a pot. We also like to spread the money out, so we make two or three big grants (thousands of pounds) and another fifteen or so smaller grants (hundreds of pounds). PB: Looking at your festival you seem to organise a lot for kids to do there. Are you hoping that Galtres will be very for a lot of adults and their kids a really cool holiday/short break? JH: Yes - even aside from the festival it's a beautiful camping holiday in rural North Yorkshire. We have increasing numbers of families coming back year after year, regardless of who the headliners are. It's just a wonderfully safe and fun way for members of the family - differing age groups and interests - to have great fun together. PB: Galtres started out more or less from a pub car park. Why do you think that it has grown to the size it has? Was it simply a case of letting it progress slowly and nothing happening too quickly, or were there other factors? JH: We've managed our growth carefully - we're well aware of the festivals which have been seduced by the smell of opportunity, grown too fast, and imploded. We've grown steadily, focusing more on developing a strong community of musicians, artists and supporters around the event, than on simply booking famous acts and trying to sell loads of tickets. We have a strong core, and a lot of people willing to work for next to nothing to make it good. This has largely been achieved by sticking to our core values - good local food and drink from local suppliers, supporting talented emerging musicians and performers, donating profits to charity, and working to reduce our carbon footprint. Also on a personal level I like to get stuck in and be involved in all areas of the event - from choosing beers and bands to writing the programme. A larger event would leave me managing a business, or managing a contract with an events company - and that's not what interests me. Limiting our event to around 5000 people means we can run it ourselves and enjoy it. PB: What format do you use when choosing your musical line up? What are you looking for when signing an act to to the bill? Do you have a set of guidelines or perhaps a panel who all meet to discuss and eventually fine tune the line up? JH: Obviously the headliners are chosen for their profile and broad appeal - they help sell tickets. We have drawn up some guidelines to help us to choose all the others, and have set up an online applications system in which bands have to tell us how they fit our guidelines. We talk about originality, diversity, quality, profile, entertainment and ambition. We received nearly 2000 applications this year for 100 stage slots, so it's a tough job choosing, and we have a panel of people who spend many, many hours in a studio going through the bands. But it's worthwhile - the quality of what we put on is unsurpassed. PB: How long does it take you to plan a festival? Do you basically start the day after the one before has finished? JH: We actually started negotiating with booking agents for the 2012 festival headliners a couple of months before the 2011 festival! It's a year-round non-stop process. Our festival runs over the August bank holiday, and last year I hoped to take a week's holiday in October, but couldn't, and it's been full-on ever since. It's a frighteningly enormous amount of work, but I've a great team supporting me. Somehow we always make it! And when you see all those people grinning and having a fantastic time, it makes it all worthwhile! PB: Thank you. More information about the Galtres Festival can be found at www.galtresfestival.org.uk

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