Having been a regular at End of The Road Festival, Lauren Down went on to write about it as a music journalist before becoming the festival’s managing director. From turning an onsite flood into a fun festival feature to battling through the pandemic, here Down recounts a career path that has seen her draw on her evident creativity to help make the independent festival one of the UK’s most successful.
What was your first festival experience and did it spark an interest in the events industry?
The first festival I went to was V in 2003, when I was 15. My parents let me go for the whole weekend, I couldn’t believe they would let me do that, it was amazing. Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, PJ Harvey, Foo Fighters… such a great line-up. My love has always been music and going to gigs, I don’t think there’s been a year that has gone by where I haven’t been to at least one festival. I don’t think that festival sparked me wanting to work in this industry, but I did love it.
You started off as a journalist and have written for countless music titles, how did you become involved in festivals and did the skills cross over?
The crossover was mostly in terms of the love I had for End of The Road. I started going to the festival in 2008 and totally fell in love with it. The following year I went back as a journalist, and have been every year since. During my tenure at Line of Best Fit, I began looking after our media partnership with End of The Road. I worked very closely delivering that package and started organising the secret performances around site, such as St Vincent doing a reading, and interactive playful things like a table tennis tournament between the bands.
In early 2014, the festival’s co-founder Simon [Taffe] asked me to write all the copy for the festival programme. Later, he offered me a job. I had project management skills and knew the festival like the back of my hand. I think if you’re keen and smart you can learn anything, but you can’t learn to love something. They decided to hire me, and I came on board in 2015 alongside Rosanna Dean – we were both festival managers.
Can you give an example of a major challenge at EOTR that you overcame?
There have been so many. I feel like this job is constant firefighting, particularly when you’re onsite, but when you’ve got an amazing team around you that you know well, that’s how you get through those situations.
The site rarely gets waterlogged but we had a really bad weather year and a huge pond formed in the tepee village. This is why I love my team and End of The Road so much; instead of throwing down straw and wood chip, they put a white picket fence around the water and threw in loads of rubber ducks and an inflatable shark’s head to make it a feature.
The challenges regarding Covid have been huge – 2021 was a nightmare organisationally, we lost our main beer supplier five weeks out, we lost our electric supplier four weeks out, our second stage supplier cancelled on us one week out. There were endless challenges. I think the next 12 months are going to be really trying with the supply chain and price increases.
So, what do you do to relax?
I have a little Beagle Cocker cross and I love taking her for long walks, I love swimming outdoors, seeing friends, and absolutely love going to festivals and gigs. Obviously, that was decimated in the last few years so it’s great to have that back.