Appreciation for the inner-city music festival has bloomed in the last decade, but it’s not surprising considering it provides easy access for the music fan to sample a host of fresh sounds from the latest and greatest in emerging talent, and all in comfortable intimate surroundings. A Carefully Planned Festival is the metropolitan new music festival based in Manchester that has grown through word-of-mouth and industry hype. Now entering its sixth year running, the two-day event boasts an impressive array of acts from many genres and styles, its ethos will always be the same – good music, good company, in good spaces for a reasonable fee. And on that note, we raise our proverbial glass to you, ACPF.
We spoke to one of the festival’s founders and promoters, Matthew Boycott-Garnett about what’s ahead for this year’s instalment and we look back at where it all started.
The full line-up for this year’s festival has now been revealed, which act or acts are you particularly surprised, or maybe just excited about booking?
I think it’s quite easy to look through the line-up and spot act after act who I feel really proud to have on the bill. In fact, that’s probably one of the most rewarding things about the whole experience for me. Sometimes it’s acts like Broker, or Falling Stacks, who are a bit more obscure, but other times it’s some of the bigger acts on the bill like Admiral Fallow or Soccer96, who we’ve been trying to get on-board for years.
There’s a particularly special one on the bill for me this year though. I’m so, so pleased to have Adem performing. He’s one of my favourite singer-songwriters of all-time, and he’s been really great at recommending wonderful acts when he couldn’t play in previous years, but it’s a really big pleasure that he was finally available this time and that he went out of his way to make sure it eventually happened.
Manchester has seen a recent growth spurt in new music festivals, with more and more promoters opting to introduce burgeoning all-dayer’s into an already bustling live scene. A Carefully Planned Festival is now in its sixth year, what are your thoughts on the new competition – does it ever factor into your decisions of where to go next with the festival?
I really like festivals and I always have. I often find myself having this conversation with people and I’ll hear myself talking and recognise that, ultimately, I genuinely feel like it’s a case of ‘the more, the merrier’. I won’t deny that it sometimes bothers me a bit to see new events turning up in the same places we’ve been using for years and claiming to be completely unique, but I know that we never had that attitude, and at the end of the day, the most important thing for us is to focus on doing what we do well and making sure we get that right.
I absolutely anticipate that other people want the best for their own events too, and as such, it does sometimes feel like a competition. To an extent, that’s completely healthy though, and making things more of a challenge doesn’t necessarily mean we no longer enjoy it. I think it’s really important to appreciate the competition, show support when possible, and generally treat others how you wish to be treated.
For aspiring promoters, what would be your advice to them when starting up their own live night or festival? Is it just about taking that first leap and running with your idea – persistence and hard work?
Those really are important things. Persevering through tough times and developing without losing sight of why you initially got involved are aspects of being a promoter worth mentioning and remembering too. It’s not always going to be fun and games, but the hard bits are eventually all part of fun.
There are many cool music events out there to consume and enjoy, I know I recently came across a pizza and live music event that I found really unique and refreshing. Are there any festivals or unique music events that you personally have attended and really enjoyed the concept of?
The thing that immediately comes to mind is that I’d really like some pizza right now. I also just recalled the All Tomorrow Parties event from years ago which involved voting for ten bands you wanted to play when you bought your ticket. It turned out to be one of the best weekends of my life. I’m not sure if it’s because my head is currently full of organising ACPF, but I’m struggling to think of anything else!
I think it’s worth mentioning the upcoming Off The Record event though. I doubt they’ll be serving up pizza, but there’s going to be loads of networking/conference stuff alongside a line-up that won’t be released until the morning of the festival itself, so that’s something quite different at least and ought to be commended.
In terms of growth for A Carefully Planned Festival, where do you want to take it? Can it get bigger?
This is another conversation I often find myself having. Each year, I actually start out intending to down-size, in terms of the number of acts playing and the number of spaces we use. It’s almost impossible though. The number of acts I want to put on increases exponentially, without any evidence of slowing, and naturally the event eventually ends up bigger each year. The amount of people coming to the event has also steadily increased. This is great, but it’s also something we’ve anticipated, rather than actively encouraged. We always aim to break-even rather than generate a profit.
The level that Carefully Planned generally operates at has largely stayed the same over the years. The acts performing this year, on the whole, aren’t necessarily ‘bigger’, or more famous, than those who played back in 2011/2012, etc. There are other events who will take care of those acts. For us, it’s about recognising unusual and/or particular talent, and I personally try to pay more attention to discovering, recognising and appreciating such talent than I generally focus on growth.
Obviously your focus must fall on ACPF for a big proportion of the year until the event passes and then it’s onto the next, but as a promoter you must be working hard on other projects too in between running the festival. Are there any other projects that you’ve been working on recently?
Well, I actually recently starting booking some acts to fill the calendar at The Eagle Inn in Salford, where I also work on the bar. It’s a wonderful venue and a wonderful pub, and I’m really proud to be involved. The gigs aren’t really Carefully Planned shows, but I have tried to approach putting the line-ups together in the way I’ve always done it and I’m sure long-time CP-fans will recognise and appreciate that. This is a relatively recent development that basically means any actual Carefully Planned plans beyond the festival are on hold for now. That said, I can never resist a Christmas Party and I’m pleased to reveal that we’ve got Chuman, Chrissy Barnacle, Peaness and Living Body playing for us on the 16th of December this year. It’s likely to be at The Eagle because I bloody love it, but I’ll be confirming that and announcing all the details soon.
Do you remember the day when you initially thought up ACPF – what were the deciding factors that went into your decision to start running the event?
I don’t remember a day as such, because it was more of a gradual development in terms of actually making a decision to host a festival…I do remember specific days when I was at certain festivals though, and I know on those days there was part of me that always knew I’d be involved in running my own festival one day. I first went to Glastonbury when I was 9, in 1994, and I’ve been to so many great festivals since then.
There’s something completely inimitable about the atmosphere and the community at music festivals, and although I occasionally forget about it if I’ve not managed to get to one in a while, there’s also some part of each experience that ties them all together, and stays with me. I know it makes me sound like a massive hippy, but I’d be a liar if I denied it, and I know that thread encourages a certain passion, and that passion initially led me towards organising the events that I do.
Would you ever consider taking ACPF to another city? Or is Manchester its one and only home?
I think it belongs in the Northern Quarter really. There’s only The Castle and Gullivers that have been used every year, and those two venues have always formed our central hub. It’s not so much that we ever actively wanted our festival to be ‘in the Northern Quarter’, it just grew out of that central hub and I don’t think it’d be fair or necessary to recreate it elsewhere, or uproot it. It’s not like I haven’t thought about it a lot in the past, but right now, I’m comfortable where we are.
So as ACPF is all about new music. Who are your tips currently? Which artists need to be on our radar?
Honestly, I’m not as enthusiastic about ‘new music’ as many other people are. I love discovering something that sounds fresh, and I think it’s important that popular music develops and always somehow represents the changes in how the people who make it live, but I am as attached to music by bands who’ve been doing the same thing for decades. So long as they are genuine and so long as what they set out to share or communicate remains vital in some way. The perpetual focus on ‘new music’ sometimes seems a bit elitist to me.
I could’ve just as easily responded with a list of brilliant acts playing at ACPF#6 who’ve been making music for a little over a year, but instead I’m going to be contrary and flip it on it’s head. Go watch Vibracathedral Orchestra, who’ve been doing what they do since 1998. It’s as far from new music as there is on the line-up, but it’s there for very important reasons, and that’s the kind of thing that should be on everyone’s radar.
For more information about A Carefully Planned Festival and for tickets, head to their Website.