There is a clue in the name and Alt-Fest is very much the alternative festival that we in the UK could only have dreamed about a few years ago. It was then that announcements were made telling us about this brand new festival and we watched in grow literally staggered as each and every band announcement was made. Alt-Fest embraces many different types of ‘alternative’ music with a big emphasis on Gothic, Industrial and Metal and everything else in between from Steampunk, to performance, circus, DJ’s, club areas and even art. Just looking at the still growing line up for the festival that takes place in Kettering Northants between 15-17th August 2014 is enough to make your head spin. It includes such impressive acts as Killing Joke, Fields Of The Nephilim, Alien Sex Fiend, Marilyn Manson, Gary Numan, The Cult, Satyricon, Cradle Of Filth, Onslaught, My Ruin, Peter Murphy, Skeletal Family, Front 242, Senser…. Well you get the idea and just hit the links at the bottom of the interview if you need any more encouragement. Naturally we are totally sold by the idea of this much needed breath of fresh air amidst a stale pit of increasingly safe and corporate festivals and jumped at the chance of quizzing organiser Dominic Void about all things Alt-Fest.
AN: Hi there and thanks for taking time out to answer our questions. For those of our readers that are not aware of who you are from your running of Club Antichrist can you give us a bit of background information about what it was that got you involved in this and promotion in the first place.
Hi and more thanks for you for supporting Alt-Fest and asking so many great questions. I (Dom) have been booking and promoting bands for 29 years now (showing my age!) albeit on a smaller scale to Alt-Fest. With my wife and co-organiser of Alt-Fest we have been running the somewhat infamous Club AntiChrist for over 10 years which arguably and without wishing to blow my own trumpet is probably the largest multi-genre crossover clubbing event in Europe. AC as it’s fondly known is a scene based event, covering multi lifestyles from within the Alt scene(s) and it’s really from this scene based ethos that Alt-Fest was born.
AN: Alt-Fest as I mentioned was something that we heard about a couple of years ago. Where did the original idea for setting it up come from and how long exactly has it taken to get things to the level that we are now at?
Alt-Fest began as one of those simple ideas while Missy and I were on holiday, the sangria was flowing and we said wouldn’t it be great if…. We chatted and brainstormed the idea for the whole holiday and that was the seed. It just seem such a great idea and for us a logical step to take. The UK didn’t have any outdoor Alternative based events, there’s lots of metal based festivals and a lot of great indoor scene based music festivals. But for us it was the about the Alt scene coming together as a whole, the tribal gathering elements being merged with art, culture, children friendly and not being just a music festival with tents and bands in a field. We wanted to build an immersive event to celebrate Alternative culture and lifestyle as a whole.
We launched the initial fledgling concept in August 2012 forging, building and encouraging a crowd curated ethos, where we answer to the crowd AND the fans and not to a board of directors like so many of the larger corporate run events.
AN: Did you have any idea before you got into this what a huge undertaking it would be?
We just dived on in really at the beginning, everything has to start from somewhere and as we allowed nearly 2 years from concept to build its been a fairly natural progression, but as you rightly point out it is a HUGE undertaking. What’s really changed on the way is the team working on Alt-Fest. When we started it was Missy and I and a few people supporting the ideas and the ideals, we got help from the scene. As the concept grew we began to take on permanent staff and team members with proven experience in delivering a world class festival event. So now we have a full production team that build 9 stages at Glastonbury, our Festival site Director has for many years been in charge of a 50,000 capacity festival, we have a Health and Safety officer, a traffic management team etc etc.
AN: Obviously you have plenty of experience with organising events but this is something quite unique for the UK compared to festivals in places like Germany such as Wave Gotik Trefen and Mera L’una. I take it you are no strangers to these events and have looked at them carefully. Was the intention to create something of a similar nature in the UK as far as line-up was concerned and how did you anticipate UK audiences taking to it?
Over the past 2 years we have been to what feels like a zillion festivals to get ideas, what works, what doesn’t to look at it from a festival-goers perspective. Marrying that up with our crowd curated ethos which is totally unique. Most festivals are music based festivals. WGT as an example is a great event, primarily Goth, dabbling in some Industrial and Fetish elements but its city based. M’era Luna again another great event but primarily a music event. For us Alt-Fest was about being Alternative and offering where possible the largest possible musical diversity but more importantly it was about bringing all or as many aspects of the culture as we could going back to the origins of outdoor festival gatherings. So perhaps borrowing ideas that are more akin to Burning Man or Secret Garden. That is to have art installations, children’s areas, workshops in a more immersive site that is far more than just about the line-up or any specific genre. In terms of the audience we have and will always include them ultimately we are the curators of their festival and the festival will go and develop with their input and ideas being core to our ethos.
AN: I am sure that there will be many visitors from abroad too. Can you give us any indication of what other countries have particularly been expressing interest in the festival?
Over 20% of tickets are from international customers, around 15% of those being European. We have 100’s traveling from America, people coming from Chile, Mexico, Australia. We always intended it to be an international gathering and are very proud that people from all around the globe have embraced and supported us.
AN: But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit here… One of the first and most difficult tasks was no doubt securing a venue and getting through all the licencing red tape and the minefield of health and safety etc. How easy was this? I believe you looked at various options and got very close to one location before it fell through?
Yes we were in the early days in a venue in Kent which was already licensed. At that point it was all rather chicken and egg you cannot sell tickets without a location/venue. We hadn’t signed up any production and then the venue went into liquidation. At the time it was all rather stressful but it was a blessing as once we signed up our production team we decided we needed to find a greenfield site that wasn’t associated with another festival event. And to find somewhere flexible and big enough to allow not just for all the stages but all the other areas for the festival as well… We have our own health and safety officer now and we have meetings monthly with the local council and local authorities as well as the fire officer, local police etc. It’s pretty much a well-oiled machine now.
AN: So Kettering in Northants! It’s not an obvious place one would think of for hosting a big UK event so what was it that drew you here and what are the advantages of the location. Travel wise it should be accessible for the masses in London at around 80 miles and similarly with good connections to the midlands and further North too.
Actually you hit the nail on the head it wasn’t about choosing any location other than the site itself and its accessibility to as many people as possible. Being near Kettering means you are less than an hour by train from London, close as well to Birmingham etc. There are 3 large airports equally as close, its central geographically and accessible to many and the site itself is not only huge but beautiful so it simply put ticked all the boxes.
AN: Have the natives been responsive to the festival and are they in support or getting the burning pitchforks at the ready?
Generally very supportive. The local council and authorities have been particularly welcoming and helpful. As with any large scale event it’s always also about working with the local community and tactfully dealing with any fears or objections they may have. Planning is crucial as well to ensure a minimal disruption to roads and ensuring noise is managed appropriately etc…
AN: For those travelling from abroad who want to make a holiday of it and spend some time around the area as well as attend the festival, here’s your chance to be a tourist guide. Where would you recommend?
Trip Advisor has a wealth of things in Kettering itself here: http://tinyurl.com/lyo9k43 with Boughton House our home being one of their recommendations! But the countryside is beautiful there are also many National trust properties worth a visit including these :http://tinyurl.com/n2efm5y
But in short the local villages and countryside are of outstanding beauty and there are some great country pubs, tea shops and so many things to see and do. It’s most definitely worth a holiday over from Europe or further afield
AN: Moving onto the bands the line-up is fantastic and it is still growing with announcements keep catching us by surprise. What bookings were personally ones that you simply felt you had to have and what point was it that you suddenly realised just how big the event had the scope to be?
We always committed to and are passionate where possible to be led by the crowd with our bookings. Being crowd led right from the word go we committed to booking the bands that the people wanted to see. Living an Alt lifestyle myself meant I had the bonus that most bands being asked for were bands I personally liked, the line-up for me personally is amazing, I just hope I have the time to see some of them! Honestly we always wanted the event to be big, we had a clear vision and ethos that we have stuck to
AN: Was a metal stage always on the agenda and what did you look for when choosing acts to perform there? With other events such as Bloodstock, Download and now Sonisphere on did you find it difficult to secure the bands you wanted?
Metal is as much a part of Alt culture as all our other genres so yes it was always on the agenda. The Metal Stage is and will most likely continue to be the hardest stage to book due to the many other metal festivals in the UK so yes!
AN: It’s great that you have a stage dedicated to Sophie Lancaster too. There’s not so much a question, as asking “why” is bloody obvious but I just wanted to point it out!
Yes totally worth pointing out, right from the start we thought it was very important to support The SOPHIE Lancaster Foundation. Additionally we have no free guest list places at Alt-Fest, all band guests will have a set donation which will be split between the SOPHIE Lancaster Foundation and Battersea Dogs Home.
AN: One thing that I have noticed following you on various social media platforms is that you are extremely interactive with your followers. You ask them for opinions on everything from what bands they want to see, to what food and beer they would like available at the festival. It has a really close knit community feel to it. I take it you have been completely open to ideas and have actually shaped the festival partly around feedback?
Absolutely, right from day one and as mentioned before we run Alt-Fest for the people, for the scene by the fans for the fans. We answer to them and their input, ideas etc have shaped Alt-Fest and have been and will continue to invaluable to us and to future editions of Alt-Fest
AN: Ticket prices are incredibly reasonable too certainly compared to other corporate events. However it seems like you can’t win as I have noticed a lot of negative comments and concerns about how you will possibly fund the event considering some of the higher profile artists appearing. What would you say to put such fears at rest?
Humans are a strange bunch! The simple answer is some festivals fleece their customers and the ticket prices are more often about profit than actually offering people a fair price. We wanted Alt-Fest to be affordable and for the prices to be fair and to be especially affordable for say a family of 4 to attend. From a business perspective year one was about growth, learning what people wanted, building relationships within the industry and with bands booking agents etc. We ran multiple P&L scenarios based on varied turnouts and costs and as we hit certain levels of ticket sales we increased the spend for the next lot of bookings….
AND even more importantly thanking people for their belief and support by offering particularly low ticket prices for the people that shared our belief so early on. Many of the naysayers have dissipated now as our line-up etc has grown and the support has grown with it. There is also that strange human notion that you must start small and build it up, but in all reality from our perspective we have started small and 2015 will be even bigger! Part of our ethos was and is to raise that metaphoric middle finger high at THE MAN so it can be disappointing when you hear the naysayers but really they are in a very small minority as the support from the scene is fantastic
AN: Can you give us a bit of up to date info on what the current ticket prices remaining are, as I know you have been selling in various pricing tiers and also how many more band announcements can we expect?
As I type tickets are £125 for a weekend, £195 for a joint/couple ticket, £57 for a day ticket and camping at £20 for up to 3 days or £30 for up to 5 days. The next ticket rise will be fairly soon towards the end of June with our final tier kicking in a few weeks before the festival so as ever if anyone hasn’t got their ticket best to buy now and save. There are a few more metal announcements, a big Steampunk announcement and a large handful of Gothic Stage bands to still be announced these are coming end of the month!
AN: can we have New Model Army and Hawkwind added please (no you don’t have to answer that I am being cheeky
Nought wrong with a bit of cheek… maybe for 2015, NMA were particularly well requested but we were unable to book them this year so will hopefully have them in 2015
AN: Some quick fire questions! How easy is it to get to the site from the station, will shuttle buses be available?
Yes and quite easy. We have shuttle buses running and a cab takes about 30 mins to the site itself.
AN: Weather gulp we are in Britain after all! Have you been watching German festival efficiency and have a means of responding to keep areas from becoming a swamp if the worst comes to the worst?
Thankfully we have ordered sun from the 15th-17th of August let’s hope it’s delivered! But yes we do have extra trackway, woodchip and hay etc should it be particularly wet. Thankfully though the site is pretty good on drainage, but let’s not tempt that it WILL BE SUNNY 😉
AN: Actually, also with that in mind, are the stages outdoors as such or in big tents?
The Main Stage, Metal stage and SOPHIE Stage are all outdoors, and the Gothic, Industrial Electronica Stage and Steampunk Experience are indoors. We chose that so we can have lots of smoke and lasers etc during daylight hours in both the Gothic and Industrial ones, they are blackout big tops as well… Also the Circus is in a ’proper’ circus tent with seating as we wanted it to look and feel like going to the circus and the shows are timed and ticketed so everyone gets a seat at their chosen show(s).
AN: Ah the other important thing apart from the weather is dreaded line-up clashes. Some are going to be unavoidable but how are you looking at getting round things especially for those of us who like everything musically across the board?
That’s a tough call to a point as with 6 stages there will always be clashes. However the Main Stage finishes at 10.45pm, The Industrial Electronica at 2am, Gothic at 1am. SOPHIE at 12 and Metal at 11.30 Friday, 12 Saturday and 11.00 on Sunday (due to caveat in our license based on its directional placement!)… in short that means you’ll be able to travel between stages to minimise headliner clashes
AN: For those that want to party all night I am assuming that after bands there will be clubs running late?
Yes absolutely DJ’s go on till 3am
AN: And for old farts like me and those with kids I take it children are more than welcome and there are going to be quieter camping areas?
Yes we decided to split our camping up as families and those with children are in one, there’s a party campsite (for those that like to wander round at 6am singing nelly the elephant), an Adult campsite for those that don’t want to be near children and a Quiet campsite, so in answer to your question yep absolutely that!
AN: I know there have been a couple of disappointments, a certain band dropping out has caused a major headache or two I’m sure. I guess it’s a case of gritting teeth and just persevering when things do go wrong though?
Realistically with so many bands on the bill and some of those being booked 2 years before the event it was perhaps inevitable there were a few changes, that said the few billing changes we have had have all been outside of our control and not down to anything we did so all part of the running of such a large and major event. Ultimately we as the organisers are always disappointed to let our people down but thankfully the replacement bands went down particularly well so it worked out rather well for all.
AN: I take it you have a lot of support and was wondering how many people you have working behind the scenes with you. With everything involved on an operation of this scale it must be a huge amount to take on logistically.
Our core team of people working for us is now at 15 but that doesn’t include all the suppliers, contractors and ultimately the hundreds of tech and crew building and working on site throughout the event. As mentioned earlier we have a festival director who ties up all the logistics and coordinates the teams etc. So whilst it’s been a challenge at times we have been for some time a well-oiled machine and have cracking and wonderful team of people working with us.
AN: Too early to say yet I’m sure but I am guessing that you have plans that if everything goes well Alt-Fest will not be a one off?
Alt-Fest is and will be an annual event and we are already beginning plans for 2015. The 2015 website is being built, we are looking at a new stage and getting the booking processes geared up to kick in mid-August when it all starts full on for booking 2015.
AN: I think I have taken up enough of your very busy time so thanks again.
Anything else you would like to say to our readers?
Really just to wholeheartedly thank everyone who is and has supported us. I’d also really encourage those few that have yet to buy tickets to do so now, not just to support an independent for the scene event but because you really really will kick yourself if you don’t come to the massive spectacle that will be Alt-Fest! I thank you for the interview and for everyone that read this far.
For the latest line-ups, ticket prices and details on all the other attractions at Alt-Fest please go to
Interview Pete Woods