Boomtown’s Creative Director Lak Mitchell says the festival is using the current downtime to dig deeper into its creative offering.
Lak Mitchell is Creative Director at Boomtown, an independently-owned festival that has now become one of the largest in the UK. In 2019 Boomtown welcomed 66,999 festivalgoers to its Winchester site, but its August 2020 edition was recently cancelled due to Covid-19.
What is the lead time on building a festival like Boomtown?
We spend over a year planning and building the festival, every time. It’s so complex, far beyond what you’d imagine a standard festival setup to be.
We’ve probably entered into a lot more debt than any other festival, because of the number of people involved in creating it. That includes the venue crews, set builders, performers, production and build teams, as well as all of the contractors, ops and infrastructure teams. I don’t know any other festival that has staff year-round like that, but it’s the nature of what we make.
What do you make of drive-in events that are taking place in 2020?
At the moment I’m mainly just focused on reimagining and recreating parts of Boomtown for 2021. Actually, this down time is a bit of a blessing. The festival has grown at such a rapid speed that we needed a chance to re-examine the company model.
We’ve got so many wonderful things at Boomtown, but we can’t do everything. We want to focus on things like the exploration, the experience and the layers of detail in the streets and set design. All of the secret parties, the sideshows, the busking bands on the street corner, its that detail we want to bring to the forefront.
Are you concerned for the future of independent festivals?
Most independent festivals are unlikely to have reserves to fall back on, and we’ve deposited out on quite a few contractors. They were in a position where if they gave the money back to us, they were going to fold. Over the course of our lifetime millions of pounds have gone into the local economy from Boomtown expenditure. We do fear that independent companies may be the ones who take the biggest hit.
The industry is going to change massively. We’re going to see the biggest recession we’ve had in many years.
It’s a fine balance. But we are lucky to have a really loyal fanbase, and the majority of our tickets were sold already. But for events that were relying on those last few weeks of sales, its difficult. Still, I think there will always be independent festivals coming through.
2020 feels a bit like a Boomtown plotline come to life. Will the pandemic influence the festival’s storyline?
Tell me about it. Our tagline this year was supposed to be “state of emergency”…
The ideas and the creativity that will come out of the Boomtown world with a five-month window of nothing is going to be absolutely wild, and completely off the scales really. We’ve got a huge creative team here that is already dreaming and visualising and redesigning. It’s really exciting.
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