A NEW festival coming to the region this summer is being organised by a group of people who see themselves as fundamentally music fans.
No Direction Home, on the Welbeck Estate, near Worksop, is an offshoot of the End of the Road festival in Dorset which has been running for six years and now attracts a capacity crowd of 10,000.
“In order to keep it special and intimate and make it bigger – because we do sell out and know there are people out there who would like to come – the only way is to start another festival,” explains director Sofia Habsberg.
Taking place over the weekend of June 8-10 it has a music line-up which includes Richard Hawley, Andrew Bird, The Low Anthem, Slow Club, Martin Carthy and the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band. There will also be comedy, a literature tent, a cinema, workshops and children’s activities.
The whole thing was started by a group of friends in London – Swedish-born Habsberg, painter and decorator Simon Taffe and bookkeeper Philip Wickes – who had a common interest in music.
“Everyone dreams of starting a festival but Simon in 2005 really started to look into the figures and said, ‘I think it’s possible’ and he tried a few friends and no one believed in it until he found me and I said, ‘yes, we really have to do this’,” recalls Habsberg. “So it was me and Simon for a month or so and then Philip came on board and we were the three directors until quite recently. Now there are five of us.”
And they had to fund the venture themselves. “Simon had to keep on working to survive and to sell his house to fund the festival which was very brave. I left my job as PA to an architect which is a risk in itself and I think when we started we thought it was going to be a lot easier than it was in terms of work load but losing money we were not prepared for.”
But that’s what happened with the first festival. “We wanted 5,000 people which we thought was the perfect size and we got 1,600 in the first year. That was very tough, we lost about £300,000 and Simon was 26 or 27 at the time and I was 29 so it was a big thing.” But having gone so far they weren’t prepared to give up. “Walking around the site it was the most incredible feeling,” she says.
“We were rushed off our feet all the time but to see all these people having such an amazing time we knew that they are going to go back home and next year they are going to bring their friends and we invested a lot on advertising and fliers and that was the thing that had the biggest impact in the second year, the fact we had pulled it off so well that everyone came back. We got 4,200 in the second year and then by the third year we were sold out.”
And now they are expanding at a time when there is a lot to talk of the festival bubble having burst. “It’s true people in general are fed up with standard festivals of big acts and big events which I am not dissing they definitely have an audience and I used to go to Reading 10 or 12 years ago but I think people are starting to care more about community and atmosphere and meeting like minded people.
“You do that at Reading for example but not the kind of people we attract and where we are in the industry of festival has potential to grow because I think today compared to where we were 10 years ago that there is a whole new breed of people who would never consider going to a music festival back then. And now they take their children and love it.”
Sofia Habsberg was talking during a visit to Sheffield, seen as one of the key cities to provide audiences for No Direction Home. “I am here to spread the love,” she says, and then noticing the quizzical response, adds: “That’s what we put on emails but when it came out there, it sounded a bit funny.
“It’s about the ethos of making it personal which I think has always been important to show it’s a project we care about and is important to us because there’s too much of things with big companies and no faces. By me coming here it’s allowing people to see who we are and to ask questions.”
Details of the programme and how to book on www.nodirectionhomefestival.com