51st State Festival organisers say Brexit, combined with spiralling travel and artist costs, was a challenging recipe…

Celebrating the roots of house music is a task that necessitates an international outreach. 51st State Festival returns to Trent Country Park on 4 August, exploring classic and tech house, garage, disco, soul, dub, dancehall and more.

The event’s prestigious pedigree is down to its truly transatlantic curation, gathering as it does, the finest talent from the US, the UK and the Caribbean.

This year however, with the political and economic climate as it is, the event organisers told Access that the challenges were bigger than ever, as they promise improvements across the board.

“To enhance the festival experience we will be bringing bigger and better production values including immersive themed stages, bigger arenas and structures, sharper sound systems and state of the art visuals,” 51st State Festival promoter Michael Hughes tells Access.

Compounding these efforts are the unique challenges brought on by recent political wranglings.

He adds: “Flexibility in the artist budget is needed due to the increasing costs of flights and travel and the increasing weaker GBP against the Euro and US dollar when agreeing artist fees. It’s ‘the Brexit effect’.

“Other challenges include travel logistics like organising everything from ground transportation, accommodation bookings, arranging meals and visa applications.”

These hurdles make planning new additions to the event all the more challenging. However, this year, the ambition certainly appears unaffected.

New additions include a roller disco area within the Studio 51 Disco tent, where there will be a choice to groove off the normal dance floor or show off your moves in the roller disco with roller skates.

Hughes adds: “The VIP and ‘VVIP’ areas will also be expanded and developed with improved facilities and structures offering an enhanced high-end experience.” 

VIP benefits this year include exclusive VIP entrance, premium drinks & food, vanity areas, posh toilets, viewing platform with views over the main stage area, seating and lounging areas with giant TVs showing main stage performers and a free photo booth with props.

Meanwhile, free massages, face paint and body art will be offered.

As 51st State evolves, so too does the wider festival market, which Hughes says has changed significantly since the 90s.

“Firstly, the age of customers has changed. A lot of our loyal followers from the 90s have grown up with our brands and have families so they are now bringing their sons and daughters to the events to experience the good vibes and great music.

“Secondly, the increased competition is a positive as it spurs us on to up the game by bringing bigger line-ups and better production values.

“In London, especially, the dance music festival market is very competitive, which pushes us to think outside the box and bring unique elements to our festivals and events to make sure we are top of the game.”

The capital’s event excellence is raising the bar for organisers at a time when budgets are tightening. 51st State’s refusal to compromise, despite the precarious climate, should be applauded.

The Suppliers

What: 51st State Festival celebrates the roots of House music, exploring classic and tech house, garage, disco, soul, dub, dancehall and more. Led by pioneers from Chicago, New York and beyond, the 51st State Festival programme is transatlantic, joining the dots between the US, the UK and the Caribbean.

Where: Trent Country Park

When? Saturday 4 August 2018