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A Day In The Life Of A Festival Organiser
This week we interview Anna Brown - Decoration/Hospitality Brownstock Festival
How long have you been part of the Brownstock team?
10 years. I set up the festival with my brother and sister in 2005. At the time it was just a family party really.
What does your job involve?
When working on the festival I have two main responsibilities. Firstly I oversee festival decoration and theming. We try to make sure there are interesting areas for people to enjoy at the festival and I collect and plan all the items to theme and decorate the areas. I also often build some of the items from scratch, such as last year I built our treehouse stage and giant birds nest for people to sit in while watching the music. I try and make things as quirky as possible and am always on the hunt for weird and wonderful things. My favourite ideas from last year were saddle stalls in our saloon bar and car seat sofas in our vip bar. The other responsibility I have is being Brownstock’s Hospitality Manager. During the festival I look after all our headline artists when they arrive backstage. Rather than the artists going off to their own changing room, we have a themed bar area with yurts and this works so well as it means that they all really enjoy putting their feet up and having a drink. It does mean though that I am responsible for making sure they all get their riders and that when they go on for the set they are as happy as they can be! For the rest of the year I run the farm, looking after our cows.
How far in advance do you start planning for Brownstock?
We start planning the next festival pretty much as soon as the festival is finished. Autumn is planning time, and then tickets go on sale from February.
What is a typical day like for you in the run-up to Brownstock?
Incredibly hectic. We start building the site 2 weeks before. Once we are at this stage it really is all go. Cup of tea before anything can happen of course and this happens at about 7.30am. Then it is on site by 8am. Good lists are vital and just working through one job after another with the deadline of opening site always in the back of your mind. Then it will be out to the field to paint, build, hang decorations and pictures, put together my ideas for each space. Last year we spent one full day building people out of straw bales so it really is varied!
Where do you find your inspiration for the festival themes and decoration?
I do look at other festivals or bars, but as much as anything it is about seeing what I can find lying about on the farm and what I might be able to make out of it. For example the birds nests were made using old cable reels. I also go to a lot of auctions to get ideas too. This is where I bought the old audi car seats to make the car seat sofas and all sorts of quirky furniture to decorate our farmhouse area. This a mock farmhouse area in the middle of the main arena. It is a pop up room made to look like a farmhouse. It is wall papered with windows, curtains and pictures. Basically somewhere to sit and put your feet up. Quite a lot of the theming has a farming slant.
What makes Brownstock different from other festivals?
We really hope that it is these ‘personal touches’ that makes us a bit different. Lots of the time people genuinely can’t believe that I handbuild so much of the festival myself. Then there are other personal touches like the fact that you can only buy our beef at the festival, which is raised in the very field that the festival is held in.
You must have been lucky enough to meet some of the bands performing at Brownstock – who is the most memorable?
Yes, seeing as I am Hospitality Manager I do get to meet all our acts. There are a few memorable moments. Last year Duke Dumont arrived early and was tired from touring so we invited him into the farmhouse for a bit of recuperation in the afternoon before his set. Hilariously our 89 year old nanna came in and sat watching TV all afternoon with him, with no idea who he was. “What a nice chap” she said when he left for the Good Shed to do his set to thousands of people. He tweeted after to say thank you. A very polite superstar DJ!
Professor Green arrived and we had his whole rider ready, all he wanted before his set was a cup of tea. It was just after he got married maybe he was a bit tired. Just a really nice guy.
Pendulum played in 2011 and little did we know that one of them is the son of an Australian sheep farmer. Dad thought this was brilliant and spent ages in an in depth chat to him about farming backstage. Not the kind of conversation you expect to overhear back stage at a festival!
What is the most unusual thing you have seen on an artist’s rider?
Brownstock branded pants. They were dutifully embroidered and supplied on arrival. Not mentioning any band names here of course!
Which bands are you most looking forward to seeing this year?
I just can’t wait to see Dizzee. Just amazing that he is heading to our field! But also there are a couple of the newer acts like Josh Record and Chloe Howl that it will be great to see.
What are your festival essentials?
The right footwear really makes the weekend. For setting up the festival I swear by my Le Chameau wellies which also come farming with me of course. Then over the weekend I always have wellies as a back up, but also often go for an ankle boot or biker boot to keep mud at bay. Then all the ‘can’t live without’ things, like suncream, wet wipes and dry hair shampoo are a must.
To follow Anna and keep up to date with Brownstock news', visit the official Brownstock site or follow Anna via Twitter.
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