FIONA STEWART | INTERVIEW
Fiona Stewart, the Managing Director and owner of Green Man festival, speaks with Luke Owain Boult about supporting Wales and what to expect from this year’s festival.
What are you most excited for at this year’s Green Man?
I can’t quite believe it but it’s Green Man’s 15th anniversary and we’ve put a lot of dreams, ideas and hard work into making it a really special year. I’m looking forward to seeing our headliners PJ Harvey, Ryan Adams, Future Islands and Ride, as well as the talented artists up and down the bill such Kate Tempest, The Shins, Michael Kiwanuka and Aled Rheon. Boy Azooga and H. Hawkline opening Green Man on Thursday in the Far Out Stage is going to be really special, and the Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog programme at the Settlement stage is looking fantastic.
The children’s area Little Folk has a Legend theme this year and it’s full of Welsh magic and adventures, and the Round the Twist dance stage has got a few surprises waiting so we now have three dedicated dance and electronic music areas. Music will always be at the heart of Green Man, but it’s also a multi arts and science festival with 12 stages and over 500 multi arts performers. But what always excites me and the many others who help create Green Man is to see people enjoy it. It’s the reason we do it.
Green Man sold out in record time where others don’t sell out at all. What sets it apart from other festivals?
There are 2000 or more festivals in the UK and many of them are really great events. Large or small, corporate or non-corporate, they all have something to offer to different people. But after an enormous increase in festivals over the last 15 years you can see that it reached a tipping point. It’s much easier to start a festival than it used to be but selling tickets in such a competitive market has never been so challenging.
Green Man has evolved rather than changed from where it started from and there’s been a choice to say no to things that would take it away from what it’s about: a place to hear great music, support emerging artists, and have a friendly fun time. Green Man is one of the few large independent festivals left in the UK and that won’t make us rich but it gives us incredible freedom to book, create and offer content just because we are passionate about it and not because it reaches the target of a controlling shareholder, investor, sponsor or funder.
Green Man has a strong unique identity because of the bespoke content and innovations that freedom brings to the festival and a reason it stands out.
What does Green Man do to support Wales
First and foremost, the people of Wales support Green Man and we never ever take that for granted and are grateful for it. Green Man is Welsh so whenever we run any event, Wales is present. It’s also an international brand that attracts visitors to Wales from across the UK and abroad. We use that to promote and support incredibly talented Welsh music artists and organisations such as National Theatre Wales, National Dance Company Wales, Citrus Arts, BAFTA Cymru, No Fit State Circus to name a few.
The Einstein’s Garden area was the first science area at a music festival, and after nine years it’s become respected by the science community as a leader in science engagement. It now tours the UK with support from Green Man and the Welcome Trust promoting the research of world leading science organisations such Cardiff University.
We chose not to sell pouring rights at Green Man so we could include smaller companies who created incredible beer. The Courtyard Welsh Beer festival came out of that and takes place right in the middle of the festival. It grows each year and now 38 artisan Welsh brewers are involved and between them they have enough produce for our thirsty audience. We recently ran the second Courtyard in central London, where we recreated the Green Man in the Brecon Beacons in Kings Cross bringing 152 tasty Welsh beverages to London and the people popping on and off the Euro Star.
What do you think it is that keeps bringing people back?
It may be an idealistic view, but I think Green Man has retained its innocence in a time when quite a lot going on at the moment has lost that. It’s not that complicated really is it.
Green Man Festival. Thurs 17 – Sun 20 Aug. Tickets: sold out, resale tickets available. Info: www.greenman.net