Interview: Headstock Festival's Mick Leivers

Interview: Paul Klotschkow
Wednesday 07 September 2011
reading time: min, words

Headstock is a three-day music festival that takes place at the Newstead & Annesley Country Park, but if you think it’s another opportunity to listen to landfill indie whilst being bombarded with mobile phone adverts, think again; this event is geared towards getting an ex-mining community back on its feet and turning it back into a self-sustainable community. Headstock MD Mick Leivers tells us about this prime example of Notts folk mekkin’ their own entertainment…


How did this all start?
About 12 years ago a fellow community officer and I started Newstead Treefest. We were both interested in trying to engage people and creating a sense of community, and music is a really good way of trying to do that. We had both come from a free festival background, and we wanted to create something with a free festival atmosphere, but would bring in the wider community rather than the usual suspects. So along with the music stage and dance tents, we also had big workshop areas for local groups like the WI – so during the day it was about people getting involved and at night it was a music event. And people brought into the idea; bands and sound systems came along for nothing as they wanted to be part of it, and local people got involved as it became a source of pride. After ten years, virtually everyone in the village was going to it. Headstock came out of that.

How did you raise the money at first?
We were quite good at grant applications. Also, I did a lot of landscaping jobs with young people, and they donated the money we made. We hope next year to go back to do another Treefest; we’ll do Headstock as the bigger paying event with national attractions, and Treefest in May as a more local underground festival.

How involved in Headstock is the local community?
What we try to do is to help people learn, develop self-confidence and to move on and set up things themselves. We’ve got a committee of 35 people, and about 20 are locals. The teenagers in the village have always been involved; they’re in charge of putting up the marquees, emptying the bins, maintaining the site. There’s are a few people who have come in the past and gone; ‘There are a lot of chavvy-looking lads around.’ Well, that’s how they dress, and they put this festival on for you, so respect them.

How do you decided the music policy and book the acts?
We look at who’s been coming to the festival, and who we want to put on. We try to get a good spread of music and involve as many bands as we can. Last year we made the mistake of bringing in people who run another event professionally, and it was a clash of cultures. What we should have realised is that we have the confidence and ability to run the event ourselves. As it was a paying event, we kidded ourselves that it need to be more ‘professional’, but we actually do a pretty good job. Quite a few of us have worked at other festivals just to gain experience in doing it.

What do you do during the festival?
Mainly walk around making sure that things aren’t getting too out of hand. Behind the scenes there will be twelve of us managing the site on the day.

Do you have a festival survival kit?
Yes, the back of my Land Rover where I can have a nap. You’ve also got to make sure that you are eating well and drinking enough water throughout the weekend.

What’s the future of Headstock?
Because we have a big site, we’d like to become something like Shambala or Secret Garden Party eventually, but it’ll be a slow process, unless we sell out to a big sponsor. We’d like it to be known as much for the art, street theatre and performance as the music.

Help out us townies: is the name ‘Headstock’ a mining thing?
Yes, the headstocks were the winding wheels. It just came about because someone dropped it out at a meeting and we all agreed it was a good name. We’re actually going to dress up the BBC Introducing… stage as a Miners Welfare this year.

Headstock Festival, Newstead & Annesley Country Park, Nottinghamshire, 9-11 September



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