The numerous challenges involved in staging events under Covid-19 guidance have not stopped Norwich-based promoter Ben Street (pictured) taking the plunge and launching his first outdoor music festival. He tells Access why he is doing it.
Due to take place 12–13 September, the 2,000-capacity Wild Fields festival will see around 30 acts play across two stages at the 150-acre Norfolk Showground. The line-up includes Kokoroko, Olivia Dean and Gengahr.
The audience will be broken up into 320 roped off, socially distanced, “pods”, each able to accommodate a maximum of six people. Skiddle is handling digital ticketing to enable contactless check-in and to allow for track and trace.
Street has performed at greenfield festivals while in the band Coasts but he has never organised one. The decision to debut an outdoor festival, regardless of the Covid-19 backdrop, came after he was forced to postpone this year’s planned edition of Wild Paths, which last year saw 200 acts perform, across four days, at indoor venues in Norwich.
Asked if he thinks launching a festival is a brave move in the current climate, Street says, “There is a fine line between bravery and wild abandon, but Wild Paths was also a daring project. It was our first festival and we had hundreds of acts across 23 venues and we pulled it off, with local council support. Norwich really needs something like this because only 3% of music festivals happen in East Anglia. There is an amazing bubbling music scene here but no events to support it.
“We are putting a lot on line the line in terms of reputation and financially but it is all too easy to sit back and do nothing.”
Street says that Norwich City Council has been hugely supportive: “A lot of the liaising had been done with the council by Summertime Social, which is running a series of events at the venue and who we are working with. I have had nothing but good responses and support from the council. I think that is a combination of the fact Norfolk has one of the lowest Coronavirus R numbers in the country and the council really being engaged in helping arts and events.”
There has been much talk of how events with social distancing are all but impossible to make profitable, yet Street says he is reasonably confident Wild Fields will be: “It is uncharted territory and maybe that’s to my advantage because this is how I have had to approached my first outdoor event.
“I have good relations with a lot of booking agents so we have managed to meet in the middle when it comes to agreeing fees. In every area of the project there has had to be some kind of compromise made and I am quietly confident we will go beyond breaking even.
“We are trying to get close to a traditional festival feel, and maybe this can help set a precedent for not just how events can happen in the region but nationally. There has been so much talk about a return to decentralised, regional, events and hopefully this is a good example of one.”
Key suppliers include:
Ideal Event Services – Staging and infrastructure
ETS – sound and lighting
East Anglian Bars – bars