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Interview with Brownstock's Jessica Speakman

Posted on Sun 17th May 2015

I caught up with Brownstock's Jessica Speakman at the Prince of Wales pub, just a stone's throw away from where Brownstock Festival will be taking place in less than 3 months.

We kicked off our chat on the thorny subject of bring the date forward from its traditional first weekend of September to early July.

JS: The decision was a tough one, but we felt we had no option as our traditional date would have clashed students would be returning to uni. We did consider bringing it forward to the Bank Holiday weekend, but this would have resulted in an increase in costs for the services we use.

FFA: It seems that this year's festival is becoming more dance orientated, what has driven this decision?

JS: Primarily customer feedback, following last year's festival we sent out a survey and it was apparent that the majority of our audience wanted more dance acts. The Good Shed has always played host to a wide range of DJ's, so we have just extended that to the Main Stage where we have Example & DJ Wire headlining on Friday, Basement Jaxx on Saturday and DJ Fresh on Sunday.

The Good Shed Brownstock

FFA: So how do The Darkness fit in with this change of programming?

JS: We still have a significant number of people who want to enjoy rock, and when given the chance to book The Darkness we couldn't say no, plus the feedback has been great, I get the feeling that many of our audience see them as a 'guilty pleasure'.

FFA: Talking of rock it appears that the Treehouse is full of local talent just waiting to be found.

JS: Yes we have partnered up with Fréres to find the best local indie bands to play in The Treehouse. Bands love to play the Treehouse as it's different to any other stage they play on, plus there it always attracts a big crowd and has a great buzz.

The Treehouse at Brownstock

FFA: A little birdie tells me that you are having a blues bar this year

JS: Your little bird is right, we are having a blues bar this year curated by Nick Garner of Chelmsford's "Blues In The City" festival. Since we introduced the Saloon Bar we have found that it is very popular with the most festival goers visiting it at least once, there is also a hardcore of people who have grown up with the festival that just enjoy the different style of music on offer.
We haven't officially released the line up for the Saloon (Blues) Bar, but here it is:

Penguin Party, Roy Mette Band, Pie Face, Hokum Boys, Rostock, Dave Ferra, Mississippi Mac and the Cottonmouth Kings, Blues Spiders, Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective, Happnin Boy & Mike Rasmussen, Dave Jackson Band, Dave Sharpe, Steve Morrison Band with Alan Glen, Joel Fisk & The Breakdown, Delta Ladies, Red Butler, and Blues Consortium.

The Saloon Bar at Brownstock

FFA: You appear to be using a large number of local promoters, what it the rationale behind this?

JS: When we started the festival we were all about local talent and now we are in a position to book leading UK & international artists, it is still critical that we promote local talent.
In addition to Fréres and Nick Garner we have partnered with Too Damn Glam and Sense, providing some of the coolest House you could wish to hear.

FFA: So are you saying that the Brownstock family is getting bigger?
JS: I guess yes, we get regular updates of what's happening locally, and allows us to be more dynamic, it also makes life a lot easier in reviewing the 1000+ acts that want to play Brownstock, and ensuring we get the best for our customers.

FFA: Now that the council have agreed that you can increase the capacity by 2,000 per year does that provide more security?

JS: Yes, we are now in a position where we can plan on getting bigger in a controlled fashion, we are still a small festival and that's how we like it. The increase in capacity means that we can secure bigger artists and we know we have the space in the surrounding fields to ensure we are not cramming people in.

Main Stage FFA: Brownstock was at the forefront of banning legal highs at festivals in 2014, will this continue?

JS: Absolutely, we work closely with The Angelus Foundation, last year we sent e-mails to all ticket holders about the risk of legal highs and how they would not be tolerated at Brownstock, the mail had a phenomenal 75% open rate. We will be doing the same again this year, and anyone found with legal or illegal drugs will be ejected.

FFA: I note that you have removed the limit of alcohol you are allowing people to bring into the campsite
JS: Yes, the limit had initially been part of the licence, and over time we increased it slightly, but decided that this year we would remove the limit.

FFA: Do you have new additions for 2015?

JS: Each year we try to add to our offering, this year we are also looking at the Brownstock version of Folie Douce near the Main Bar. In addition we have improved our VIP offerings with, increased bar area, After Parties, pampering packages, this year will be the first time that we open the doors to the Stumble Inn on Friday with Too Damn Glam taking control, we've also waved farewell to the piano bar this year, after the success of the silent disco in 2014 we decided to go all out, giving it a venue of its own in the campsite running throughout the day and into the early hours. We also have a few surprises in store but we are keeping those quiet, you'll have to come to Brownstock to see it!

Brownstock Festival takes place at Morris Farm, CM3 6SG from 10th - 12th July
Tickets £79.00 VIP £134.00

Article by: Mick Game

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