Access catches up with the founder of Parklife and the Warehouse Project

Interview by: Annaliese Hesketh

Manchester is the best city in the country, that’s why we hold Parklife here! Myself and my business partner Sam Kandel are both from Wilmslow and grew up in Altringham. I will never take Parklife out of Manchester, and it’ll always stay in Heaton Park as it’s the biggest park in Manchester.

There’s 40-50 people working on Parklife 12 months of the year, but today there’s a few thousand staff working here, on bars and security. It started as a day festival for 20,000, and now it’s at 80,000 over two days, making it the biggest metropolitan festival in the UK.

In terms of our success? We fluked it. Joking. It is part luck though. Everyone is so passionate about it. What sets it apart is that it’s not faceless. The people know the team behind it and we are known in the North West, and engage with the customers. We build a rapport on Twitter too. I try to do nice things. I occasionally see people who say they can’t afford to go, and I DM them with a free ticket.

I think my favourite act was Christine and the Queens, she’s quirky and a bit different. We try to make it diverse but also have the bangers. This was the most female led festival, until Cardi B cancelled after her boob job went wrong.

Parklife has helped change perceptions of Manchester. We were nicknamed ‘Gunchester’, and it was common to see guns on the street. I think this perception has changed. Two years ago, at the Manchester Arena when we lost 22 people, people looked at how the city came together, no matter what religion or creed we all came together for this one purpose. I think that changed the perception of Manchester.

I wasn’t successful at school and didn’t go to university, so I had to make money. I couldn’t do a 9-5 job, and I’m quite opinionated so that narrowed my options. When I left school, Manchester was taking off, with the Hacienda, the Smiths, etc and I never thought I’d get to this place. I was bumbling along until I got somewhere I wanted to be but I never thought I’d be an events manager. If someone had said I’d have the Warehouse Project I’d have told them stop taking heroin because it’s starting to affect you.

My biggest bugbear about festivals and customers is the perception from outside, and I’ve had a go at people about this. People kept saying rain would ruin the festival but people are here to have fun, and it costs a lot of money to come because it costs a lot to put the acts on. People need to get a life, and I think those people having a go at me are just angry they no longer have Jeremy Kyle to watch.

I don’t know how to do anything else. I’m stuck here. What else can I be, a traffic warden? I’ll probably have a zimmer frame and still be doing Parklife.