Access attended Parklife, and talked to founder Sacha Lord about its journey to becoming the UK’s largest metropolitan festival.
Starting as a one day event for 20,000 people back in 2010, Parklife (8-9 June) now attracts 80,000 people – making it the UK’s largest metropolitan festival.
The event evolves year on year under the guidance of founders Sacha Lord (pictured below) and Sam Kendall and an in-house team which works with Ground Control.
The event’s theme and aesthetics change to suit their vision for each edition, and the production team has moved away from tents, towards more bespoke arena-style structures.
Access caught up with Lord during the event (see p58), and again a week after the event, as he prepared to re-use some of Parklife’s infrastructure for a Courteneers gig. “We’ve de-rigged the whole site now, except for the Main Stage, toilets, bars and other amenities,” he says. “Courteneers announced this, and other headline shows late last year with special guests James and support from DMAs and Pale Waves.
Of course, given its location’s susceptibility to the elements, attendees are encouraged to pack rain-safe garments, which this year proved to be sage advice. “People go ‘fuck it let’s get muddy’. On our part, however, this does require certain provisions. We’re confident we stored the most wood chip of any year, throwing tonnes of the stuff down.”
Other elements were less predictable. For example, Cardi B cancelling her headline slot with 48 hours notice following complications after a spate of post-birth cosmetic surgeries. The rapper’s pictures on social media, depicting her swollen feet attested to her alibi, but that didn’t prevent slapped foreheads in Parklife HQ, and among fans. “Sam did have a very long look for replacements, but with 48 hours left, there was little we could do. Although there was an inevitable backlash, people do appreciate what it takes to book an act, and that these things are out of our control.”
Other bedrocks of support come from the famously event-friendly team at Greater Manchester Council. “It’s an organisation with a long history of championing events. When there was pressure for the Hacienda to shut down, the council kept it open. They understood its value for the economy and tourism, as well as Manchester’s standing globally. Parklife is great too, contributing more than £10m.”
“Every year we tear up the previous plan. We have a great in-house team, and we use Kate Maross to design the look and feel. Our bars were provided in-house and the ticketing was also a lot smoother this year too. We consider our ticketing options carefully, but I think there’s a sense of nervousness over RFID.”