Following on from the successful Wilderness Festival, Access spoke to organiser Nick Ladd about new adventure, Somersault.

What is Somersault Festival?

From the creators of the incredibly successful Wilderness Festival, Somersault is a five-day holiday in Devon. It will be an experience of music, the creative arts, wellbeing, comedy, Michelin-starred chefs and family entertainment in the incredibly beautiful, forested river valley of the Castle Hill Estate in North Devon. The main stage hosts major international headline talent such as Jack Johnson (first UK gig in five years), with a second stage from London’s Communion Records. Daily banquets are curated by four of the West Country’s best restaurants including 15 Cornwall and Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen. Amazing theatre and circus is coming from France, while London’s comedy maestros Underbelly provide the laughs.

How is Somersault different from other festivals?

Because of Somersault’s amazing location, we have been able to work together with local providers to incorporate lots of outdoor activities such as surfing, mountain biking, paddleboarding and coasteering – so the festival can be a holiday experience for all ages as well as a beautiful festival. Unique content we have includes a festival exclusive from Jack Johnson, the Underbelly Comedy Tent and the Communion Records stage.

Is the emphasis on the daytime activities rather than the music?

The emphasis is on providing a brilliant time for 5 to 50 year olds! Music is a big part of what Somersault offers… but there is loads to do outside of this. It’s a very broad creative mix.

How did you choose the location, and why?

It really is one of the most beautiful places for a festival in the UK – and it’s close to the beach so we could program all the surfing classes and other outward bounds, so people can really make it a holiday experience.

With an event that has a large potential age-range, is it harder to accommodate your guests and keep everyone happy?

Having got it right with Wilderness Festival, we feel good about the mix of entertainment we have for people. There is a really nice flow to the four show days – lots of one-off, pop-up events and interactive things for people to get involved with.

How does Somersault fit within your portfolio of festivals?

Somersault and Wilderness fit very nicely together. Somersault is going to be similar in feeling and content, but every festival has its own unique character and Somersault is proud to be in the West Country.

Do you think the UK festivals market is in good health?

I think it’s getting there. The fact is that the majority of start-up events are bankrupt within three years. There has been a huge flood of new events in the past six years and I think now people are starting to realise that it’s not easy to create something that is financially sustainable and as a result the flow of private capital into new events is slowing down. The market will right itself eventually – it always does.

When planning a new event, what are you looking for?

An amazing venue, great exclusive headline talent and a creative offering that hasn’t been experienced in that part of the world before – all of which Somersault has.

A new launch is always difficult, what are your biggest challenges?

Communicating the concept to the market. After you have had the first year and people have seen what you are doing, it’s a lot easier to sell tickets. That’s why the sales curve for Wilderness has been so amazing – as soon as people came in year one, they all went home and told their friends. Having said that, Somersault is selling stronger than any year-one festival we have launched.

Is Somersault a lifestyle festival?

Definitley. Along with the amazing food offerings, there is a whole area called ‘Wild Wellbeing’ which offers yoga, tai chi, massages, aerobics and all sorts of healthy things, while around the site all weekend are loads of talks and workshops to expand the mind.

We assume the name came from the fact it combines ‘summer’ with a physical activity?

Nope, we just liked the word Somersault – and doing somersaults is fun!

This is a five-day festival, what is the average stay you expect people to manage?

The day tickets are all sold out now, so we hope all our weekend customers will come and enjoy the beautiful experience of camping in Devon!

What do you imagine the average day looking like for one of your attendees?

Having fun with your kids and a massage in the daytime then dropping the kids off with the onsite babysitters and high steppin’ it to eat an amazing banquet curated by a Michelin-starred chef. Then watch a theatre performance and some headline acts on the main stage and then, if you’ve still got some energy, hitting the late-night forest parties for an old school dance in
the woods.

Somersault Festival, 17-21 July, Castle Hill, North Devon


This was first published in the June issue of Access All Areas. Any comments? Email Emma Hudson