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Bearded Theory interview | FESTIVALPHOTO

Bearded Theory interview


Ahead of the first bands being announced for Bearded Theory 2018, Festivalphoto asked festival organiser, Steve Blount a few questions.

Festivalphoto: When you put the Early bird tickets on sale they sold out almost immediately and people bought normal tickets so you sold 5000 tickets in the first weekend. Was it a surprise to sell so many?

Steve: We usually sell out the early birds quickly, and we did so nearly instantly this year. There was still huge demand for tickets on our website though, so we made the decision to put the standard tickets up straight away so that people weren’t left disappointed. It was definitely worthwhile doing that as we have now sold an incredible 50% of our capacity in just over a month, without even announcing an band yet!
Knowing that we already have a substantial portion of tickets sold so far ahead of the festival gives us huge amounts of confidence to go out and put of the most fantastic event that we can possible afford, so its a win-win situation for everyone.

Festivalphoto: It must be a big confidence boost knowing the fans have so much faith that they're willing to buy tickets before a single band has been announced?

Steve: Yes definitely but it’s not an entire surprise as we are very focused on what we want to achieve quality wise and we listen (and most importantly, work to resolve!) all feedback . Whether its the beer, food, staff or the bands we book, we are always striving to provide the highest quality at the most reasonable price. Our unique, free, OFSTED approved school that we run on the Friday is also a huge draw for parents - this year despite record numbers of places, they were all booked in 3 minutes!

Festivalphoto: On the other hand do you feel more pressure now as you book bands?

Steve: Yes and no really, we have some really good relationships with agents but you can never get complacent and take your eye off the ball.

Festivalphoto: Bearded Theory has a very diverse range of bands playing on any given year. When booking bands do you aim to have a certain number of bands of each genre?

Steve: I wouldnt say we have a ‘quota’ per genre, but we are always focused to ensure there something for everyone across the musical spectrum so that leads to us always having a really wide variety on offer. Whatever the genre, the number one consideration is always whether the band is question puts on a great live show!
The more stages you have helps with this as the amount of bands you have there obviously increases. We have 5 stages now, perhaps 6 next year we haven’t decided yet!

Festivalphoto: How much of the band choice is based on what people request on Facebook?

Steve: We read all the comments and it does absolutely have a bearing on who we book. We can’t do them all though - I think this year our band suggestions thread has around 2000 different comments on it in total! Of course, some of them are out of our reach at the minute cost-wise, and others for unobtainable bands (such as those who don’t tour the UK or have even broken up) but we do genuinely take into account the requests for artists, along with every other aspect of the festival.

Festivalphoto: When do you expect to be able to announce the first headliner?

Steve: We never know for sure until the contracts are all signed and sealed, but I would say around the first week in November at a guess.

Festivalphoto: I've noticed that non-musical acts seem to be very popular too - Circus insane last year, or Joseph Peace doing his fire stunts a few years ago being good examples. How do you go about choosing entertainment for the site?

Steve: It’s a tricky one to answer really as its normally a chat with my colleague, a recommendation, something we’ve seen at a previous festival or maybe a video on youtube/facebook. Our eyes and ears are always on the hunt for things that will improve Bearded Theory. God only knows where Joe Peace came from, he will be back in a bigger role though - he’s hilarious!

Festivalphoto: Bearded Theory is the most family-friendly festival I've attended. Can you tell us for the benefit of parents thinking of attending, what entertainment or activities do you have for kids to do on site?

Steve: For a start the people who attend are awesome, we have full wallets of money handed in and to lost and found still intact. The whole thing is very safe, we have never had any trouble in 10 years. I don’t think anyone can be bothered!

We have the full school curriculum on the Friday of the event and all being well we can provide a letter for their school so the head teacher can authorise absence for them. The school is Ofsted approved. All the children’s area is free, the staff are CRB checked. WE have a food trader in our enormous children’s area providing meals for them at lower prices. I have children and hate being ripped off! There are masses of activities all day from bouncy castles to face painting, there are loads more but the security threw me out before i could see them as i hadn’t got my children with me and that’s not allowed.
Something else we do which is quite unique is to have separate areas provided for different age groups - the interests of under 6 year olds are very different to early teenagers, so to us it makes perfect sense to separate activities. Also, did I mention that EVERY SINGLE Children’s/Youth activity on site is FREE and included in the ticket price.

Festivalphoto: Running a festival is a huge task with lots of people involved behind the scenes over the weekend. Roughly how many people are working at a typical Bearded Theory?

Steve: Directly now probably around 15 but over the weekend hundreds if not thousands. It’s not rocket science we just started by making a list of things that annoyed us at other festivals and sorted them out - we’ve got quite far down the list now but still always striving to improve!

Festivalphoto: Planning a festival is a long job - how long before the festival do you start making plans, booking bands etc?

Steve: The day after it finishes......................

Writer: Anthony May
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